The Hollywood star talks new movie 2 Guns, Sunday brunches with Denzel Washington and what he learned from going to prison.
You and Denzel play undercover agents up against a Mexican drug cartel who don’t know each other’s true identities. Did you guys click in real life?
Absolutely! I love buddy movies going all the way back to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. This movie lives and dies on the chemistry between me and Denzel. He was on the top of our casting wish list and thankfully after Flight he wanted a film with a comedy element. But it can be a risky thing career-wise if you don’t do it right. He knew I had his back because it was the same thing I went through with Will Ferrell on The Other Guys.
Are you old friends?
We’re neighbours so we’ve known each other for a while and we’ll hang out with each other’s wives and kids for Sunday brunch. It’s no guarantee the chemistry will be there on screen but we were both game. I like to improvise a lot and throw curveballs at people but he was up for it.
Will you work together again?
We had a blast so if audiences want it maybe there could be a sequel. In 2 Guns you’re seeing two guys go at it! They make formidable opponents. Normally no one gets to say anything to Denzel and they act like a puppy dog [around him]! But I enjoy working with the best and going at the best. I remember when I was acting alongside Jack Nicholson in The Departed I said some things to him he’d never heard anybody say! People were like, ‘What are you doing?’ But I was just doing my thing so I said, ‘Jack can’t [fight me] physically so I’m not worried about it!’ But he was great about it and Denzel and I had the same attitude – if only one guy is allowed to be great in a movie it’s gonna suck! I want everyone to shine.
Do you look back on your music career and your former incarnation as Marky Mark? Would you revisit it?
I was the best! I’m kidding… It was fun but it would have to be the right time to revisit it. I was asked recently if I’d perform at a concert for the marathon victims in Boston so in that scenario if it would boost people’s spirits and raise money for a good cause then absolutely. So the news gets out and then I hear the Funky Bunch are already rehearsing! I’m like, ‘Guys I’m making Transformers 4!’
What was it like in those early days?
I remember the first time I ever went to London. I was promoting my record but I couldn’t handle it. I was only used to my mother’s cooking and they drive on the wrong side of the road! So I’m at the hotel and they don’t have like normal chicken. So I cancelled my interviews, went home and somebody from the record company got fired. Basically there was no structure with music so when I found movies I became very disciplined because there was no room for screwing around. Music promoted the attitude of being able to do whatever I wanted, but with movies there’s a lot of people involved and an added responsibility that helped me in my life.
If you met your younger self what advice would you give to him?
You couldn’t give him any advice, he wouldn’t listen! Everybody thinks they know it all at that age and it’s not until you get older that you realise it’s only through experience you grow. My little girl’s gonna end up having a boyfriend at some point and that’s gonna be a big problem for me. That’s who I was back then but I survived it and thankfully I had an opportunity to better myself.
When was a turning-point for you?
When I went to jail, that was a wake-up call for me, certainly. I got there and I knew this is not what I wanted out of my life. I thought ‘OK, let me start turning this around.’ That’s a difficult thing to do because it wasn’t like I could say ‘I grew up in this bad area, I got in trouble, but now I am just going to leave and go to a place that’s nice and safe and doesn’t have crime and violence and gangs.’ I still had to live right there and I had to now go against the grain and not be one of the guys, so that was a difficult thing to do, but I was committed to turning my life around and doing the right thing. That was quite some time ago and I’ve made some poor choices here and there, but I try to do the right thing. Certainly now that I have a beautiful family, I have all the more reason to stay focused and stay on the right path.
So it was tough for you growing up?
Sometimes when I’d go out and I took something, sometimes I would get away with it and then other times I’d get caught. I knew I had to go out there, work hard and earn it instead. That’s the thing – when you work hard and earn it, it feels so good. Even if things don’t work out, you give it your best effort. I still feel really good at the end of the day. I’m more upset that I didn’t give it my all than it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to.
So what’s your advice for people on achieving their goals?
Never give up. Things don’t always turn out the way I want but it’s never for lack of effort. While the outcome is in my hands I try to do the best job I possibly can. I really feel you can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it. I made a lot of mistakes in my own life too but thankfully I was able to learn from them and turn my life around. I know how to cut my losses and move on. I also know that in order to accomplish the American dream you gotta do it the old fashioned way – by working hard and not cutting corners. If something comes quickly and easily that is when it has a tendency to fall apart and deteriorate.
Do you do your own stunts?
Absolutely. When I was younger I was an adrenaline junky so I loved doing all that stuff. As you get older and a little banged up you still do what’s required but you’re not all Joe Cool about it. I find it irritating when actors start talking about doing all their own stunts. Most of these guys spend an hour-and-a-half in the make-up chair and another hour looking at themselves in the mirror! They’re not tough. You wanna see tough? Go to a UFC fight or go to prison!
You used to go to the infamous Gold’s Gym in Venice, California.
Yeah. I started getting into weight lifting when I was 16 so I had been to some gyms in and around Boston, but Gold’s Gym is the mecca of bodybuilding so I’d walk in the door and see Lou Ferrigno (the original Hulk on TV) and all of the top body builders in the world at that time. It was the most gigantic gym ever. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. That’s where the real die-hard body builders go, the ones that live and breathe it. Their lives revolve around it.
What’s the weirdest place you’ve ever been recognised and the strangest thing a fan has ever said or done?
Being recognised is always weird for me because I’m a pretty regular guy. I’m married. I got four kids. But if I’m in the supermarket people are cool with me because I’m always out doing everyday stuff. There was one time in Washington where I was in a lift with a guy who turned out to be a diplomat from Jordan. He’s like, ‘I know you!’ I’m like, ‘From Boston?’ So I’m playing with him saying I’ve never been to Jordan and then he gets it, ‘The movies!’
See Mark Wahlberg in 2 Guns, in UAE cinemas from August 29.