Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington Talk 2 GUNS, Teaming Up for the First Time, Improv, FRUITVALE STATION, and More

     July 31, 2013


Opening this weekend is director Baltasar Kormakur‘s (Contraband) actioner 2 Guns.  The film is based on the graphic novel of the same name and stars Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg as operatives from competing government bureaus who are disavowed and forced to go on the run together after a mission goes wrong.  The film also stars Bill Paxton, Paula Patton, James Marsden, and Edward James Olmos.  For more on 2 Guns, here’s the red band trailer and six clips.

At the recent New York City press day I got to participate in a press conference with Washington and Wahlberg.  They talked about teaming up for the first time, how the project came together, improv, the script, how physically punishing the roles were, and more.  In addition, Washington talked about his love for Fruitvale Station (which he’d seen the night before).  Hit the jump for what they had to say.

denzel-washington-mark-wahlberg-2-gunsQuestion: This the first time you two have worked together.  Could you both talk about what surprised you about each other.  Also, this is such a macho, violent movie; is there any intention here to set up the genre in a tongue-in-cheek manner?

DENZEL WASHINGTON: You were working on that question all night, huh? (laughs)  You got it all in there here.  The rest of you can go home! 

MARK WAHLBERG: That’s like a five-part question.  What was the first part? 

What was it like working together?

WAHLBERG: Well, we’ve known each other for a while, but I think what surprised me was how willing Denzel was to just try anything, because we wanted to add some humor and shake it up a bit, and combine comedic elements with the dramatic aspects of the movie.  And also, how giving he is as an actor.  He was very supportive of me, and I’ve been a big fan of his for a long time, and he kind of let me do my thing.  But really how much he was really willing to try things and put himself out there. 

And Denzel?

WASHINGTON: I would say some of the same things.  I’ve been looking to stick my toe in the water, and especially coming off of Flight, I was looking to do something more fun.  So when I read the script and when I heard Mark was involved, I was like, “Ah, okay,” because I knew I could be safe because Mark was not just funny, but has a warmth and a heart about him.  I watched Ted the other night, too.  That is a sick movie.  How did you do that fight scene?  That was crazy!

WAHLBERG:  That was embarrassing. 

2-guns-denzel-washington-mark-wahlbergWASHINGTON: But you were willing! You got spanked!  So all of that.  I wasn’t ready to get spanked yet, not out of the gate.  But he really helped free me up to go for it.  Not to worry about being too silly or whatever.

Is there anything deeper here than we see here with this set up with these really tough guys in this tough environment.

WAHLBERG:  No, we were just trying to do something fun.  I mean we were trying to do something a little bit different.  But there’s no hidden message or anything. 

WASHINGTON:  You got anything on your mind? 

WAHLBERG:  Wait for the sequel.

You guys did a wonderful job with your camaraderie, but it seems like you guys had been friends forever.  Can you guys talk about the bull scene?

WAHLBERG:  Well, I thought it was no big deal being hung upside down with all the blood rushing to your head, and then it was like not fun.   And he actually wanted to go up at the last second, and then of course I started complaining just a few minutes before he started complaining because it’s not a fun position to be in.  But I think it’s a really cool scene.  You haven’t seen this before. 

WASHINGTON: The bull enjoyed the scene. 

WAHLBERG: He kept saying, “The bull doesn’t give a shit.  He doesn’t know we’re making a movie.” 

WASHINGTON: And it was a big bull. 

What was particularly appealing about this particular script? 

2-guns-mark-wahlberg-denzel-washingtonWASHINGTON: Well could have been mailmen, or whatever it was, it was the opportunity to work with Mark.  Without being cliché, we’re buddies.  It was a buddy movie.  It was a chance to do that and to have fun.  I didn’t do months of “DEA research”.  Let’s put it that way. 

WAHLBERG:  I did. (laughs) 

WASHINGTON:  I watched “DEA Detroit” or something.  It was a series.  That was my in-depth research.

WAHLBERG: I was attached to the movie first and it was always about who is the other guy?  It’s about the two guys, no matter what they’re doing.  If you look at Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, they’re running from something that you never really saw.  Usually they’ll take the comedy guy, like the really out there comedy guy and then the very straight guy and put them together; we didn’t wanna do that.  We felt like you had to have two really formidable opponents to earn that camaraderie and to earn that trust in one another, and that was really the movie.  Once I heard Denzel was interested I was like, “Great, we’ve got a movie,” and it was the best possible version of that movie in my eyes. 

Do you ever get comfortable handling guns and what was the very first time when you learned how to shoot a gun?

WASHINGTON: I plead the fifth (laughs). 

WAHLBERG: I just, uh— 

WASHINGTON: (to Wahlberg) Plead the fifth. 

WAHLBERG: I remember him holding that giant .44 Magnum near my head, though. 

mark-wahlberg-2-gunsWASHINGTON: Oh yeah, that was a big gun.  When was the first time?  I don’t even remember. 

WAHLBERG: The first time I did was the first time I was in a movie. 

WASHINGTON: Glory?  I don’t know. 

Can you talk about how physically punishing these roles were?  You had heat, the fight scenes, the driving, all that stuff.

WASHINGTON: That bull scene was [tough], cause it was funky in there.  It was like where they sold cows, the auction room or something.  And it was hot, and we were upside down. 

WAHLBERG: I think that was the day that Edward James Olmos was intentionally forgetting his lines.

WASHINGTON: (laughing) Yeah that’s right!  When we were upside down. 

WAHLBERG: He really loved us being up in that position.  He had that big shit-eating grin on his face.  The first scene we did together we had him tied up and we were slapping him around, so then we’re tied up, we’re upside down— 

WASHINGTON: And he starts “forgetting his lines.” 

It was a very fun, light-hearted movie, but it seemed like there were some really strong messages in the film as well like anti-drug policy, the immigration policy, etc.  Were those things you wanted people to perceive?

WASHINGTON: Did you want to see perceive that? 

I did! I really enjoyed it.

WASHINGTON: I didn’t think about that.

2-guns-edward-james-olmosHow about you, Mark?

WAHLBERG: Well I did think about it because there was this whole thing with Edward James Olmos’ character saying, “You’re gonna have to go over like my people have to go over, with the coyotes.”  So yeah, that sequence was kind of set up for us to get an understanding of what it’s like for people to try to get over the border, come to America, and try to get a part of the American Dream. 

WASHINGTON: My wife and I went and saw Fruitvale Station last night, it was good.  Man, [2 Guns] ain’t that!”  It has some some messages, I mean that was—wow. 

Did you cry?

WASHINGTON: I did tear up.  At an interesting point, too.  I think it was somewhere between the girlfriend’s reaction and the mother’s reaction at the end.  Octavia [Spencer].  Shameless plug now, my son is a young filmmaker and he’s working on a film now so I called him up when I heard about it, because the director [of Fruitvale Station] is an SC graduate and Malcolm went to the summer program at SC and he’s thinking about the graduate program there now.  This has nothing to do with our movie, but I was talking to my oldest daughter and for her—I’m gonna get political now—that and the Zimmerman trial she said, “Well Dad you’ve gotta understand this is the first time we’ve dealt with these issues in my lifetime.”  She was too young for Rodney King and she studied history and civil rights, but she said “for my generation this is one of the first events.”  I was like, “Wow, I didn’t think about that.”  It’s got nothing to do with 2 Guns, but… (laughs).

How much improv went into these scenes, because it felt like there’s script and then there’s definitely some improv being thrown around?

WASHINGTON: Or vice versa (laughs).  We went for it. 

WAHLBERG: Yeah there was a lot.

2-guns-bill-paxton-denzel-washingtonWASHINGTON: Kicking the hat, stuffing the gun in the guy’s crotch. 

WAHLBERG: I worked with Baltasar before so he was comfortable with me kind of doing my thing.  Improvisation can always make the scene better as long as it pertains to the moment and the movie, just because people have a tendency—if they don’t know their lines for instance then they’re just gonna say whatever, but as long as it make sense for the story and the scene, I mean we just played. 

WASHINGTON: People have said to me for a long time, “Man you’re funny.”  I say, “Well, I’m quick,” but being funny on purpose, take after take—that’s why I said for me it was new territory, and so by improvising something might come out that might be good.  And it’s film, so they can cut it if it isn’t.

What, specifically, did you do to bond?  And also, when you had those fight scenes, did any real punches come out?

WASHINGTON:  We went to Lamaze class together. (laughs)

WAHLBERG: I mean I’ve always admired him, we’ve known each other socially a little bit here and there, we’ve got a lot in common, we both got four kids, we’re neighbors.  I was able to constantly ask him for advice and pick his brain about things both personally and professionally, and you know we’re both professionals so even if we didn’t spend time hanging out all the time, we’d just come and do our job.  We both enjoy our job and we’re both really serious about our job, and it just kind of either works or it doesn’t. 

2-guns-paula-patton-denzel-washingtonWASHINGTON: Mark’s a good guy.  Everybody I talked to when they heard I was gonna work with him—he’s a good guy, he’s a regular guy like me.  So it was easy, it was like, “Let’s go, let’s hit it.” 

How so is he a regular guy? 

WASHINGTON: Just, you know, what’s an irregular guy?  He’s just good people.  A good church-going family man.  A good dude.  Excited about his water and businesses, excited about having a job.  He hasn’t lost his way, he’s not tripping. 

This came from a comic book for its source material.  Did you guys know ahead of time that comic books could tell this sort of story, not just big superhero brawls, and if you checked it out before or after filming what did you guys think of it?

WAHLBERG: I knew it was from a graphic novel but I hadn’t looked at it beforehand.  I kind of had a copy of it just sitting around in my office, and then as we were making the movie I started flipping through it.  As with any source material, once something’s adapted you can’t fit everything into the movie—especially with a story like this.  I enjoyed it, I look for material anywhere to find and develop for myself, try to get the rights to think.  I thought it was good and we have a couple of other pieces of material from the publisher that we’re looking at. 

WASHINGTON: Yeah Mark mentioned earlier that he was attached and/or found the material before I was connected with it so I didn’t really know about the graphic novel, I just read the script and laughed and gave it to the people that I trust like my kids, my barber (laughs).  It’s true!  I always give him the script I’m like, “What do you think?” he goes, “Ah that’s funny, you haven’t done that thing!” 

2-guns-bill-paxtonHas he ever said he didn’t like it and you did it anyway?

WASHINGTON: Uh, yeah.  Yeah.  We won’t say on what (laughs).  I should’ve listened. 

You’ve done less than 15 movies where you’re not a cop or someone of authority.  Do you prefer playing those intense or hardcore roles?

WASHINGTON: No, I just think that that’s the formulas—it’s not a conscious choice.  That seems to be the movies they make.  It definitely didn’t have anything to do with, “Oh [I want to play someone of authority again].”  Like I said, even with this film the DEA part of it to me, not to say it was the least of it, but I wasn’t interested in wearing a uniform. 

What do you guys think is harder, making people laugh in a comedic role or having them be emotionally invested in your character in a drama?

WASHINGTON: I think, for me, I have less experience with this, so I won’t say it’s harder, but again I also know—that’s why I wanted to go out there with somebody who I know knows that territory better than I do.  And again it’s film, so it frees you up to try things.  Mark, some of the stuff he was doing I’m like, “Alright if he can do that, I can just go for it.” 

WAHLBERG: I approach everything the same.  I try to make it as real as possible, whether you gotta make people laugh or make people cry, it’s always the same approach for me.  But if I start doing pratfalls, somebody please pull the plug on me. 

2-guns-movie-posterWASHINGTON: And that isn’t easy.  If there’s a pressure, “Oh I’m supposed to be funny.” 

From all the movies that you’ve done, is there a particular role that was the closest to who you’re like in real life?

WAHLBERG: I always try to bring a little bit of my own personality to the part, or some sort of personal connection makes it a little bit more of an organic portrayal and the audience can kind of maybe believe it a little bit more.  But I always look for something to kind of connect with and identify with, or bring something of myself to the table. 

WASHINGTON: Yeah you can’t not do that. 

Denzel you’re filming again with Antoine Fuqua and Mark you’re working with Michael Bay again, what’s it been like reteaming with these guys?

WASHINGTON: It’s been good, it’s been good.  Antoine is a great filmmaker and a good guy, and we’re having a good time. 

WAHLBERG: Yeah it’s always great when you work with somebody that you’re comfortable with and familiar with.  It makes it easy.

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