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Oscar-Nominated 'Taxi' a Grim Wartime Ride

Film critic David Edelstein reviews the new documentary Taxi to the Dark Side, which sounds like a horror film — and in some ways, Edelstein says, actually is. It's been nominated for an Academy Award.

06:37

Other segments from the episode on February 8, 2008

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, February 8, 2008: Interview with Mark Wahlberg; Interview with Colin Firth; Review of the film "Taxi to the dark side."

Transcript

DATE February 8, 2008 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Interview: Mark Wahlberg discusses his movie "The Departed" and
also his life and career
DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli of tvworthwatching.com sitting in for
Terry Gross.

Today's guest, Mark Wahlberg, has quite an eclectic resume: pop star, hip-hop
recording artist, TV producer and movie star. Lately on the big screen, he's
established a new specialty: playing tough guy cops from Boston. He was
nominated last year for his supporting role as a corrupt cop in Martin
Scorsese's the "The Departed"; and in "We Own the Night, which has just come
out on DVD, he plays another hard bitten cop from the Northeast.

Here's a scene from "We Own the Night," which features Wahlberg's character
going into his brother's nightclub. He's confronting some Russia mobsters who
have begun hanging out there. Without raising his voice, without doing
anything more overtly threatening than ripping up a stack of bills, Wahlberg
makes it clear they're not wanted.

(Soundbite of "We Own the Night")

Mr. MARK WAHLBERG: (As Captain Joe Grusinsky) What is this?

(Soundbite of rustling paper)

Unidentified Actor #1: (In character) Stay down. Stay down.

Mr. WAHLBERG: (As Captain Joe Grusinsky) Tough guy, huh? Do you want to
double your money, huh?

(Soundbite of rustling paper)

Actor #1: (In character) Stay down.

Mr. WAHLBERG: (As Captain Joe Grusinsky) There it is, it's doubled. How's
that?

(Soundbite of siren)

Mr. WAHLBERG: (As Captain Joe Grusinsky) Come here. You got anything in
here? Got a cross and a Jewish star on you. What's the matter, you confused?

Unidentified Actor #2: (In character) Not me.

Mr. WAHLBERG: (As Captain Joe Grusinsky) What we got?

Unidentified Actor #3: (In character) This one's holding. Couple dimes of
cocaine, some PCP.

Mr. WAHLBERG: (As Captain Joe Grusinsky) Good.

Actor #1: (In character) Turn around.

Mr. WAHLBERG: (As Captain Joe Grusinsky) Your boy is going to open up on
you. And when he does, I'm coming back. All right, let's go.

(End of soundbite)

BIANCULLI: Before he started his acting career, Wahlberg was briefly in an
early version of the boy band New Kids on the Block with his older brother
Donnie. Terry spoke with Mark Wahlberg last year, after his Academy Award
nomination for "The Departed." In that movie, Wahlberg plays a sergeant in the
Massachusetts State Police Department. He's trying to bring down an Irish mob
boss named Frank Costello in South Boston. Leonardo DiCaprio is the
undercover cop on the case infiltrating Costello's gang. In this scene,
DiCaprio believes that the case and his life are in jeopardy because there's a
rat in the police department. He's on the phone with Wahlberg, who speaks
first.

TERRY GROSS, host:

Mark Wahlberg, welcome to FRESH AIR.

Mr. WAHLBERG: Thank you very much.

GROSS: In some of your roles, you're really not very talkative, but you're
quite verbal in your role in "The Departed" and speak in a really stylish way.
Was it a different kind of role for you verbally?

Mr. WAHLBERG: Yeah, it was verbally, but it was--I grew up in Boston, so
basically I just had to revert back to my old accent and my mom and dad's
speech pattern, and a lot of those cuss words are actually straight from my
mother's mouth.

GROSS: So but finding like a really like stylish way of speaking, too.

Mr. WAHLBERG: Well, there's just a rhythm to it. You know, Marty, when we
read the script and decided that--well, they were able to work out the
schedule, he basically said to me, you know, `Say what you want and, you know,
take out what you don't feel is real and authentic, and, you know, as long as
you don't lose any plot points, just do what you want to do.' So, you know,
I've had a lot of experience with the Boston police, and, like I said, my mom
speaks like that as well as my dad, so it was basically just kind of going
back to the accent that I worked so hard to lose.

GROSS: Did he talk with you about your character and like back story for your
character, any of that? Or is it just, you know...

Mr. WAHLBERG: We did. We'd have a lot of conversations about back story,
and he wanted me to pull from some of my real-life experience, and you
know--but we'd start talking about the character and, I don't know if you've
ever talked to Marty, but we'd start talking about the character and then we'd
be in the middle of a conversation about 17th century Irish immigrants...

GROSS: Right.

Mr. WAHLBERG: I mean, it would be a history lesson. And you know, the guy
is just an endless source of information, so...

GROSS: Now you say he told you to pull from your real life. What did you
pull from? Like what...

Mr. WAHLBERG: Well, I had, you know, spent 15, 16 years of my life torturing
my parents, and, you know, being arrested and having to call them and tell
them to come bail me out of various jails for various petty crimes. And, you
know, there is a very fine line between cops and crooks in Boston. A lot of
my friends that I got into trouble with at an early age went on to become
cops. So all of that real-life experience, all of that torture that I caused
my parents, I was able to use in playing this part.

GROSS: So you see, I mean, was it really different to try to get into the
mind-set of a sergeant?

Mr. WAHLBERG: No, because you really have to, in order to be able to
understand criminals, you have to think like them anyway, so I really--I had
that part covered.

GROSS: Right. What surprised you...

Mr. WAHLBERG: It's crazy..

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. WAHLBERG: ...but you know, it really was. It really brought a lot of
closure to a lot of, you know, things that had kind of haunted me in the past.
You know, redemption, it's a big deal for me to have been able to turn my life
around and to really be on the right side of the law and to be able to learn
to appreciate them and what they do.

GROSS: Well, you actually spent, I think, like, 45 days or so in a
penitentiary?

Mr. WAHLBERG: Yeah. Yeah. And I was 17 at the time, so it was certainly a
frightening experience, but if that's what I needed to experience to turn my
life around and to start living a positive life, then it was the best thing
that's ever happened to me.

GROSS: Is that what happened to you that you turn your life around inside?

Mr. WAHLBERG: Oh, definitely. Definitely. I like to be able to come and go
as I please. I like to eat my mom's cooking, so losing my freedom was
obviously a horrific experience.

GROSS: So if you were about 17 and you were in like an adult penitentiary...

Mr. WAHLBERG: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: ...did you have to draw on acting skills you didn't know you had yet
in order to kind of look tough and confident and be relatively safe inside?

Mr. WAHLBERG: Definitely. I mean, you don't want to walk around and draw
too much attention to yourself either. But, you know, I was in an altercation
the first day I was there, and, you know, they tried to take my property and,
you know, basically punk me, and, when I was able to stand up for myself in a
large holding cell, people kind of knew that I was prepared to do what I had
to to protect myself, I think.

GROSS: Is being young and attractive definitely like a liability when you're
in prison?

Mr. WAHLBERG: Yeah. It's the worst thing possible. I mean, I never look at
myself as being attractive but certainly, you know, I had all of my teeth and
I was young and I probably weighed about 110 pounds. I was probably about
five-two at the time. I didn't really start growing until I was in my 20s.
So, yeah, it was pretty frightening. I probably looked like a little young
girl with no breasts. So, yeah, I used to...

GROSS: Not what you want to look like in prison.

Mr. WAHLBERG: No. No. I...

GROSS: That's when you started working out, right?

Mr. WAHLBERG: Working out, yeah.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Mr. WAHLBERG: Yeah.

GROSS: So I guess you really did that with a lot of urgency.

Mr. WAHLBERG: Yes. I started before I went. I figured, based on the
horrible things that I had done and the pain that I had caused people that
didn't deserve, that I was going to have to pay for my mistakes. I certainly
had to just try to prepare myself as best as possible. And getting sober and
doing all the right things was, I mean, that was all part of it.

GROSS: I want to ask you a little bit about "Entourage," which is the HBO
series about a young actor who goes to Hollywood with his whole entourage, and
they're all kind of crazy, and he's very shallow and so on. And so you're an
executive producer and creator of the series, and the series, I believe, is
supposed to be loosely based on your early experiences in Hollywood?

Mr. WAHLBERG: Yeah. Very loosely.

GROSS: Very loosely based. OK.

Mr. WAHLBERG: Yeah. I mean, certainly the cool stuff I'll take credit for,
and anything that's embarrassing, I want nothing to do with, but, you know,
the part that's really based on my life and experiences, the guys that are
with me and the guys that worked with me, all of those characters are based on
people that are a really important parts in my life.

GROSS: So who was in your entourage?

Mr. WAHLBERG: Well, the real E. The real Johnny Drama. Unfortunately, the
inspiration for the Turtle character, one of my best friends, Donny Carroll,
passed away last year.

GROSS: Oh, I'm sorry.

Mr. WAHLBERG: And, you know, a couple of the guys, you know, have been with
me and gone, like the Dom character's based on a friend who got out of prison,
and we try to help him out and, of course, he didn't know that Hollywood is
very different from prison, and he started trying to do some of his prison
antics in the business and got the guys into a lot of trouble. So there's
stuff that's based on me and obviously there's stuff that's happened to other
people in the business that I'm friendly with. And, of course, the writers
are extremely talented, and they make up a lot of stuff. But I'm so proud of
those guys and what they've done with the show.

GROSS: Tell us who Johnny Drama is based on.

Mr. WAHLBERG: Johnny Drama is based on a guy named Johnny Als. I met Johnny
Als in California with my brother when I was on the road with my brother who
was in The New Kids on the Block. I had gotten out of jail, and being a guy
who was trying to stay out of trouble in Boston is a really difficult thing to
do, so when I got out I wouldn't hang with my friends, and then they--then all
of a sudden I wasn't cool anymore. So I'd gotten into a couple of fights just
trying to defend myself, and I was arrested a few times while I was on
probation and parole. So my brother hired Johnny Als to come and work with me
basically to keep me out of trouble. And we went back home to Boston so I
could make my court appearances, and he asked me one day to take him to
Plymouth to visit his mom, because he's originally from Massachusetts as well.
We went to Plymouth, and I walked in his kitchen, and I saw his mom walk by
the hallway. And I said, `Oh my--I know your mom.' And he said, `Yeah, shut
up.' He thinks I'm joking around. And I said, `Your mother works at the
Plymouth House of Corrections, the prison, right?' and he said, `Yeah, why?'
And I said, `Well, I was there for a month, and she used to come and pray with
me all the time,' because she had never seen somebody so young and little in
there before. And as soon as she came out she recognized me, and we've been,
you know, like family ever since.

GROSS: Now, Vince, the character who's kind of like your loosely based
surrogate...

Mr. WAHLBERG: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: ...in the series spends money really extravagantly and is often egged
on to do it by his friends in his entourage.

Mr. WAHLBERG: Yeah.

GROSS: Did you do that, too? And, if so, like, can you tell us about some of
the, in retrospect, most foolishly...

Mr. WAHLBERG: Yeah.

GROSS: ...extravagant purchases you made?

Mr. WAHLBERG: Well, the first check I got for $100,000 for my recording
career, I went to a Mercedes dealer and bought a car for $100,000, and I
didn't have money left over for insurance or registration or any of that or
gas.

GROSS: That fits the bill.

Mr. WAHLBERG: Yeah, exactly. And then we, you know, we're in town
somewhere. I remember doing "Boogie Nights" and I--Paul came over to my house
with Phil Hoffman and John C. Reilly, and they were lighting fireworks off my
balcony in California, and I'm from Massachusetts, so I don't know the laws,
and, of course, the next day I get evicted from my apartment, so I ended up
renting a house that cost like, I don't know, like $6,000 a month and I only
had like $10,000 in the bank. Just stuff like that. Or taking my friends on
a trip. You know, we were going to go to New York, for instance, and we
missed the plane, so we decided to get a jet with money that we didn't have.
But I just always felt like, you know, if we just focused on doing the work
and had fun and don't stress out, then the money would come, and, you know, I
was able to go and do concerts and stuff in Europe because I never wanted to
take a movie for money. I always wanted to just grow as an actor and learn as
much as I possibly could. So I would do spot dates in Europe and stuff like
that to kind of pay the bills while I was, you know, pursuing my acting
career.

GROSS: Before you started acting, when you were younger, did you care much
about movies?

Mr. WAHLBERG: I loved movies. I loved watching movies with my dad. You
know, my dad worked so hard. He worked two jobs. He was the youngest of nine
kids. And my mom and dad always worked just to put food on the table, so
whatever time I had with my dad was usually in front of the TV or we would go
once a week to the movies. He took me to see "Hard Times" with Charles
Bronson. It was my first film that I ever saw. And you know, I grew up
watching McQueen and Cagney and Robert Ryan and John Garfield and Edward G.
Robinson. You know, it's--that's what's so amazing about being nominated for
an Oscar. I called my dad, and he said, `Mark, do you know how many times I
used to stay up at night and watch the Oscars as a kid?' It was a huge deal
for him, so to hear him crying tears of joy because I was going to be on the
Oscars and I was nominated, he was blown away by that.

BIANCULLI: Mark Wahlberg speaking to Terry Gross last year. More after a
break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

BIANCULLI: Let's get back to Terry's conversation with Mark Wahlberg. His
movie "We Own the Night" is now out on DVD. When Terry spoke to Mark Wahlberg
last year, they talked about his starring role in "Boogie Nights." He played a
porn actor who rose to the top of his field, being invited to an adult film
award banquet and winning. Terry asked him about the acceptance speech he
made after winning that award.

GROSS: I thought we could hear that speech, and this is in "Boogie Nights"
where you play, like, a young porn star rising in the field and wanting to
make more serious films with, like, action plots and everything. So here you
are accepting...

Mr. WAHLBERG: Yeah, he definitely felt like he was accepting the Academy
Award.

GROSS: Exactly.

Mr. WAHLBERG: Yeah.

GROSS: And he's accepting like one adult film award after another. This is
his night, and here's one of his speeches.

(Soundbite of "Boogie Nights")

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. WAHLBERG: Wow. I don't know what to say.

Unidentified Actor #4: Come on, say it!

Mr. WAHLBERG: I guess--wow--I guess the only thing I can say is I'll promise
to keep rockin' and rollin' and making better films.

(Soundbite of applause and cheers)

Mr. WAHLBERG: You know, it seems we make these movies, and sometimes they're
considered, you know, filthy or something by some people. But I don't think
that's true.

Unidentified Actor #5: Uh-huh.

Mr. WAHLBERG: These movies we make, they can be better. They can help.
They really can. I mean that.

Unidentified Actor #6: Right.

Mr. WAHLBERG: We can always do better. I'm going to keep trying if you guys
keep trying. Let's keep rockin' and rollin', man.

(Soundbite of music)

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's Mark Wahlberg in a scene from

Mr. WAHLBERG: I think...

GROSS: ..."Boogie Nights."

Mr. WAHLBERG: I think the award he was receiving was Best Penis.

GROSS: Yes. But it's put slightly differently in the film.

Mr. WAHLBERG: Yeah.

GROSS: I love that film. You played an actor whose gift, whose greatest
asset is basically in his pants.

Mr. WAHLBERG: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: And you're not great at like the line reading parts of acting, but
this performance really helped establish you as a terrific actor. When you
first got the script for it, did you--could you tell from the script what a
really great film it was going to be?

Mr. WAHLBERG: Well, I read the first 30 pages, and I had to put it down
because I was really terrified. I thought, A, either this guy thinks I can
really pull this off or he just wants to kind of exploit me and finally see
Marky Mark pull off the Calvin Klein underwear. So I had to put the script
down, and it was something that I avoided reading for a long time. My agents
were trying to get me to read the script. They were telling me how great it
was, how many people were attached to it in the business and how excited
people were about it. But I was freaked out, and I had to go and sit down
with Paul Thomas Anderson and, within two minutes of sitting with him, I knew
exactly what he wanted and why he thought I could pull it off. And I still
was pretty frightened going into it just because, you know, I mean,
"Showgirls" had just come out and you didn't really know--you never know how
things are going to turn out. You know, you think you're going to make
something great, but it doesn't always turn out that way and--but what an
experience, you know, working with those actors, and, you know, just day in
and day out being able to kind of work off of them and as generous as they
were with me. They really kind of walked me through the process, and I, you
know, I felt like after that I would be willing to try anything as an actor.
And it was also...

GROSS: Tell us about--go ahead.

Mr. WAHLBERG: It was such a pivotal point for me because I was still kind of
trying to be that guy from the neighborhood. I was still trying to be the guy
who people considered to be tough and cool, and this character wasn't that.
He was vulnerable and insecure in a lot of ways, and weak in some ways. But,
you know, I felt...

GROSS: And naive. And naive.

Mr. WAHLBERG: Yes. Very naive. And I just felt like, you know, if I want
to be an actor, this is what acting's all about. You know, what am I going to
play, the tough guy, you know, from Boston all the time who gets the girl? I
mean, let's step up and really go for it.

GROSS: So after learning how to really act confident in prison, now you had
to like take that off and...

Mr. WAHLBERG: Yes.

GROSS: ...act vulnerable.

Mr. WAHLBERG: Yeah. But I was--yeah. And I was concerned what people in
the neighborhood were going to think. And then I'm thinking to myself, why am
I concerned with that? That's why I'm so adamant about trying to encourage
kids to go into the arts and to try to be creative because, you know, you want
to be either a tough guy or an athlete? I mean, there's more to life than
that.

GROSS: To make this film, did you watch pornography in a different way, like
not, not to be graphic, but...

Mr. WAHLBERG: Yeah, I'm not a big...

GROSS: ...just to see what the acting's like?

Mr. WAHLBERG: I'm not a big fan of porn but...

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. WAHLBERG: ...there were certain things--there was a documentary about
John Holmes that Paul wanted us to watch.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. WAHLBERG: Some of the older films that we referenced we watched. And we
visited a porn set, which was pretty bizarre.

GROSS: What was bizarre about it? Just how matter of fact...

Mr. WAHLBERG: Yeah, how matter of fact everybody is and the fact that, well,
this guy's got to perform in front of all of us, and we're all kind of
standing around, you know, with coffees in our hand waiting for it to go down,
and it was just weird.

GROSS: One of my...

Mr. WAHLBERG: It was a bit uncomfortable.

GROSS: One of my favorite scenes in the film is where you and John C.
Reilly, and a third actor, whose name I forget, are at a drug dealer's house
and...

Mr. WAHLBERG: Yeah, Thomas Jane.

GROSS: Yeah. Yeah.

Mr. WAHLBERG: And Alfred Molino plays the drug dealer.

GROSS: Alfred Molino plays the dealer, and he's like in his like underwear
briefs...

Mr. WAHLBERG: Speedos. Yeah.

GROSS: ...and a like silk robe, and he's playing his favorite mix tape, and
firecrackers are going off in the background...

Mr. WAHLBERG: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: ...and he's also got a gun, and he's obviously really crazy, and
you've been dragged there by somebody who's also crazy, and you just want to
get out.

Mr. WAHLBERG: Mm-mmm.

GROSS: Can...

Mr. WAHLBERG: And I very much--you know, we had been shooting the scene, the
movie for such a long time, that was one of the last scenes we shot...

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. WAHLBERG: ...and those guys hadn't worked a lot. Me and John C. Reilly
especially were working all the time. So it--and it took like four days to
shoot and they were really enjoying themselves. They were really getting into
it, and, like my character, I just wanted to get out of there. I mean, I was
dying. We'd been working, you know, long hours for a such a long time. You
know, I'm wearing high heels and tight pants and wigs and prosthetic penis and
the whole thing. It was just, you know. You know, I cannot wait to work, but
when I work, I want to finish, you know. I want to get it all done, and I'm
just weird like that. But, no, it was an awesome experience. It's my
favorite scene in the movie, too. There's one--that one take where I just
kind of blank out for a few minutes, and he just kind of holds on me there, I
really kind of blanked out at that moment.

GROSS: Why?

Mr. WAHLBERG: I don't know. I had been hyperventilating to get, you know,
to where the character was. They were all kind of high, and I just, I don't
know, I just kind of blanked out for a minute, and they just kind of left the
camera rolling on me, and I finally snapped out of it and remembered that it
was my line, and Paul used that whole bit in the movie.

BIANCULLI: Mark Wahlberg speaking to Terry Gross in 2007. Mark Wahlberg
stars in "We Own the Night," which has just come out on DVD. We'll hear more
of their conversation in the second half of the show.

Here's Wahlberg in a scene from "Boogie Nights." His character, porn star Dirk
Diggler, is recording a demo trying to become a rock star. I'm David
Bianculli and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite from "Boogie Nights")

Unidentified Actor #7: (as Nick) OK, Dirk. You ready?

Mr. WAHLBERG: (as Dirk Diggler) Yeah. I was born ready, Nick. let's go,
man.

Actor #7: Dirk Diggler demo.

Mr. WAHLBERG: Keep the vocals up.

Actor #7: "You Got the Touch." Take seven. Excuse me, Reed.

Actor #8: Oops.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. WAHLBERG: (singing)
You got the touch
You got the power
Yeah
After all is said and done
You never walk
You never run
You're a winner
You got to move
You know the streets
Break the rules
Take the heat
You're nobody's fool

(Announcements)

BIANCULLI: This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, sitting in for Terry
Gross. Let's rejoin Terry's 2007 interview with actor Mark Wahlberg, whose
movie "We Own the Night" has just come out on DVD. He's also one of the
executive producers of "Entourage," the HBO series loosely based on his own
early years in Hollywood. And in some even earlier years, right around
puberty, Mark Wahlberg was a pop star.

GROSS: So you were around 12 when you joined New Kids on the Block. Was it
fun? Did you like it?

Mr. WAHLBERG: It was fun being in the studio and rapping and stuff, but you
know, going to vocal lessons and then doing the choreography and stuff, it
just wasn't my thing. I was much happier being at the Boys Club playing
sports or running around at night with my friends. But, of course, then going
to jail and sitting--I remember sitting in a rec room in Plymouth House of
Correction, and my brother and the rest of the New Kids came on TV, and they
were performing. And I told this guy, `Hey, that's my brother.' And he was
like, `That's not your brother. Shut up.' I said, `No, that's my brother, and
I was in that group. I quit.' And he goes, `And now you're here.' He goes,
`You got to be the dumbest guy I've ever met.' And then, of course, I had to
wait until my brother was home because he was constantly on the road promoting
to come and visit me at Plymouth House of Correction, which he did, and then I
showed him off to everybody, and I was the cool guy in the unit for a week.

GROSS: Well, it must have been really strange to watch him become such a big
star after you quit and then end up in prison yourself.

Mr. WAHLBERG: Yeah, it was, but, you know, he wanted it, and he was willing
to make all the sacrifices. And I wanted to be the cool guy in the
neighborhood. I wanted to be what I thought was a bad ass, and I got what I
wanted and he got what he wanted. Obviously, it wasn't what I had expected.

GROSS: So how did you handle stardom early on, once you got it?

Mr. WAHLBERG: I handled it OK, I mean, aside from the fact that I was, I
don't know--my whole thing was I couldn't get girls to pay attention to me,
really, until I was famous, so I acted like a bit of a jerk early on, but I
realized quite quickly that I had no right to do that.

GROSS: Well, you wanted...

Mr. WAHLBERG: And of course...

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. WAHLBERG: ...my mom, my mom is one of the toughest people you'll ever
meet, and anytime I acted out of line she was so quick to put me back in my
place.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. WAHLBERG: And she still does to this day.

GROSS: Is that a good thing?

Mr. WAHLBERG: It's a very good thing.

GROSS: So you wanted girls to pay attention to you...

Mr. WAHLBERG: It's not good when she's yelling and screaming at me at the
time saying, `You're nothing. You're not a movie star. You're nothing!' You
know, that's how she does it, but a short time after I certainly realized that
she couldn't be more right.

GROSS: Well, after you were in the Calvin Klein underwear ads where you posed
in your underwear, I think you became a pinup, not just for girls but for boys
too, and...

Mr. WAHLBERG: Yes.

GROSS: What was your reaction to knowing that in some ways you were becoming
something of a gay icon?

Mr. WAHLBERG: It was pretty weird at first, you know, because when you would
go to a concert of mine, you would look in the crowd and there'd be a bunch of
young girls and then there'd be a bunch of grownup guys. And at first I'm
thinking, `Well,they're probably dads or something.' But, you know, they'd be
coming up asking, you know, for me to sign pictures of me in my underwear, and
I'm saying, `OK, what's your daughter's name?' and they're like, `No, it's for
me,' to Mike or Bob or whatever it is. But you know, I got over feeling
uncomfortable about it pretty quickly, and I just felt like, well, if I had an
opportunity to speak to whoever and people wanted to listen or look, then that
had to be good enough for me.

GROSS: You know, when you were in music, you became best known for your
hip-hop group. But in the movie "Rock Star," you played, you know, you played
someone in a heavy metal band that's basically a cover band or a tribute
band...

Mr. WAHLBERG: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: ...that does its best to copy in every way this famous heavy metal
band that they love.

Mr. WAHLBERG: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: And then when the lead singer is forced out of that band, they find
out about your cover band, and you replace that lead singer.

Mr. WAHLBERG: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: And so suddenly, like for this role, you had like, those long, like
heavy metal curly locks...

Mr. WAHLBERG: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: I guess I'm wondering what it was like to put yourself in a musical
persona that was so different from the ones that you had actually had.

Mr. WAHLBERG: It was crazy. I mean, I would show up at metal concerts and
stuff, and people would recognize me and be thinking what the heck am I doing
there, but I wanted to really just dive into that world and become that guy
until the movie was over. It took some getting used to that's for sure. But
I went out. I went shopping. I got, you know--I grew my hair. I bought all
the clothes. I rented a house and put all kinds of musical equipment in there
and just started hanging with the guys that were playing in the band and
started drinking too much beer and, you know, acting like a jerk and doing the
whole thing.

GROSS: I want to play a scene from early in "Rock Star," where, this is
before--you're just in a local band here...

Mr. WAHLBERG: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: ... and you've just heard the concert by the band that you cover in
your own band. And you're in the arena parking lot afterwards and another
fan-slash-musician is taunting you about how you got the costume wrong, and
you're kind of bickering with each other about who's copying this band better.
So let's hear the scene.

(Soundbite from "Rock Star")

Unidentified Actor #9: Look who's here.

Unidentified Actor #10: Well, if it isn't Yoko Ono and the Fag Five.

Unidentified Actress: What do you think you're doing?

Unidentified Actor #11: Making sure nobody gets scammed into seeing some
cut-rate copy band.

Unidentified Actor #12: Cut-rate copy band. This dude can't even tune his
own guitar.

Unidentified Actor #13: Yeah, and you could always use a little work on your
lip sync.

Unidentified Actor #14: I don't lip sync...(censored by station)...hole.

Actor #13: You'd be doing everyone a favor if you did...(censored by
station)...burn.

Unidentified Actor #15: You know you could at least get the outfit right. I
mean your boots are from the Wasted tour and this is just like a cheap
imitation of the Twisted jacket.

Mr. WAHLBERG: You are so fully wrong ...(censored by station)...smoker.
This is official issue, the actual vest Bobby wore on the Twisted tour. My
dad bought it from someone who knows someone who knows Dragon's drummer.

Actor #14: I hate to break it to you but your dad got ripped. First of all,
the lapels are supposed to be blue. There's no green in the embroidery.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Actor #14: As a matter of fact, can anybody here honestly say that they've
ever seen Bobby Beard with a jacket with red lapels?

Actor #15: No, Curtis, I can't.

Actor #14: I don't think so.

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: Mark Wahlberg in a scene from "Rock Star." You know, I was just
watching the DVD of "Rock Star," and I was looking at one of the other guys in
the heavy metal band, and I'm thinking, `I know him,' and I realized, `Oh,
it's McNolte from "The Wire." And it must be so much fun for you to have...

Mr. WAHLBERG: Yeah. Dominic West.

GROSS: Dominic West. Yeah, it must be...

Mr. WAHLBERG: Yeah. He's a great actor.

GROSS: ...so much fun for you to have been in movies at the, you know,
earlier in your career with people for whom it was also early in their
career...

Mr. WAHLBERG: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: ...and you can watch each other and how you've changed and what you've
become known for subsequently.

Mr. WAHLBERG: Yep. Yeah. Even like, you know, working with guys like John
C. Reilly and Philip Seymour Hoffman...

GROSS: Oh, yeah, yeah.

Mr. WAHLBERG: I mean, those guys are so talented. When I was working with
them, I was like, `These guys are amazing. How come they haven't done, you
know, bigger and better things,' and now, they've all, you know, Phil's won an
Oscar and John was nominated for an Oscar and, you know, to just--you know,
Julian was nominated for "Boogie Nights," and Burt, you know, it was his first
nomination. It's been amazing. I--you know, I went to the Golden Globes, and
it was like--it was--it was wild. I saw all these amazing people that I had
worked with early on, Bill Paxton and, you know, just to be there with all of
them and sharing that with them was pretty amazing.

GROSS: Well, listen, I want to thank you a lot for talking with us.

Mr. WAHLBERG: Terry, it was a pleasure. Thank you very much.

BIANCULLI: Mark Wahlberg speaking to Terry Gross last year. His movie "We
Own the Night" has just come out on DVD.

Coming up, actor Colin Firth. This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Actor Colin Firth on his career
DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

The PBS anthology series "Masterpiece" is about halfway through its complete
Jane Austen package. This weekend, it repeats a popular British miniseries
from 1995, shown here when the PBS series was still known as "Masterpiece
Theater." Jennifer Ehle stars as Elizabeth Bennet, and Colin Firth co-stars as
Fitzwilliam Darcy, establishing his leading man credentials years before he
starred Renee Zellweger in "Bridget Jones's Diary," playing another Mr.
Darcy.

Terry Gross spoke with Colin Firth in 2001, when the first "Bridget Jones"
movie was released. Let's start with a scene from "Bridget Jones's Diary."
Bridget has overheard Mark Darcy making sarcastic comments about her and it's
played on her insecurities and made her angry.

(Soundbite from "Bridget Jones's Diary")

Ms. RENEE ZELLWEGER: (As Bridget Jones) I mean, you seem to go out of your
way to try to make me feel like a complete idiot every time I see you. And
you really needn't bother. I already feel like an idiot most of the time
anyway, with or without a fireman's pole.

Mr. COLIN FIRTH: (As Mark Darcy) Look, I'm sorry. If I've been...

Ms. ZELLWEGER: (As Jones) What?

Mr. FIRTH: (As Darcy) I don't think you're an idiot at all. I know there
are elements of the ridiculous about you. Your mother's pretty interesting.
And you really are an appallingly bad public speaker, and you tend to let
whatever's in your head come out of your mouth without much consideration of
the consequences. I realized that when I met you at the turkey curry buffet
that I was unforgivably rude and wearing a reindeer jumper that my mother had
given me the day before. But the thing is--what I'm trying to say very
inarticulately is that, in fact, perhaps, despite appearances, I like you very
much.

Ms. ZELLWEGER: (As Jones) Ah, apart from the smoking and the drinking and
the vulgar mother and the verbal diarrhea.

Mr. FIRTH: (As Darcy) No. I like you very much just as you are.

(End of soundbite)

TERRY GROSS, host:

Colin Firth, welcome to FRESH AIR. In a lot of your earlier interviews, you
talk about how you really wanted to put Mr. Darcy in "Pride and Prejudice"
behind you. So what was your reaction when Helen Fielding asked you to play a
part that was an homage to your portrayal of Darcy in "Pride and Prejudice,"
thus continuing the whole thing?

Mr. FIRTH: I suppose I did it in the spirit of `if you can't beat them, join
them.' I wasn't strenuously trying to put it behind me. I think this
creates--the impression has been created to some extent. And, you know, I
found that the Darcy tag didn't really touch me unless I was speaking to a
journalist. So it really wasn't something that was disturbing me.

GROSS: Now "Pride and Prejudice" is set in an earlier century. Your language
and attire are more formal. I'm going to ask you to compare your acting style
in each film; you know, like a literary adaptation vs. a contemporary comedy.
But first, let's hear a scene from "Pride and Prejudice." And in this scene
you first confess your love to the character of Elizabeth Bennet, played by
Jennifer Ehle.

(Soundbite from "Pride and Prejudice")

Mr. FIRTH (As Fitzwilliam Darcy): In vain, I have struggled. It will not
do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how
ardently I admire and love you. In declaring myself thus, I am fully aware
that I will be going expressly against the wishes of my family, my friends
and, I hardly need add, my own better judgment. The relative situation of our
families is such that any alliance between us must be regarded as a highly
reprehensible connection. Indeed, as a rational man, I cannot but regard it
as such myself, but it cannot be helped. Almost from the earliest moments of
our acquaintance, I have come to feel for you a passionate admiration and
regard, which, despite all my struggles, has overcome every rational
objection. And, I beg you most fervently to relieve my suffering and consent
to be my wife.

Ms. JENNIFER EHLE (As Elizabeth Bennet): In such cases as these, I believe
the established mode is to express a sense of obligation, but I cannot. I
have never desired your good opinion, and you have certainly bestowed it most
unwillingly. I'm sorry to cause pain to anyone, but it was most unconsciously
done and, I hope, will be of short duration.

Mr. FIRTH: (As Darcy) And this all the reply I am to expect? I might wonder
why with so little effort and civility that I am rejected.

Ms. EHLE: (As Bennet) And I might wonder why, with so evident a desire to
offend and insult me, you chose to tell me you like me against your will,
against your reason and even against your character. Is this not some excuse
for incivility, if I was uncivil.

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: Let me ask you to compare your approach to contemporary romantic
comedy, "Bridget Jones," and dramatic, literary adaptation, "Pride and
Prejudice." I mean, the speech is so much more formal in "Pride and
Prejudice."

Mr. FIRTH: It is. I think one just somehow instinctively adapts to the
requirements. You can't say, you know, `Can I have a light?' in a formal
Victorian way. You can't say, `Let me--allow me to tell you how ardently I
admire and love you' very easily in--you know, in a kind of Bronx accent or a
cockney accent of the year 2001. So I think--and this is--the "Bridget
Jones"--"Pride and Prejudice" case is quite a singular one, I think, because
Mark Darcy, is, in fact, very much a fugitive, I think, from another century.
I mean, he's--I think this is part of his problem. Mr. Darcy is very much a
man of his time. He's isolated by other factors, but Mark Darcy, I think, is
not typical; is not, certainly, typical of the Englishman of his age that I
know. And I think that he comes from a rather archaic family, and I think
that he's someone whose personality is crippling him, in some way.

GROSS: Just a question about your most famous scene from "Pride and
Prejudice." It's the famous pond scene. At the end of the story, you take off
your jacket and, with your shirt and pants on, you dive into a pond. And
although it sounds pretty inhibited to dive in with shirt and pants, for your
character, it's a sign of feeling more liberated and expressive. When you
walk out of the pond with your wet clothes clinging to you, you became a
heartthrob. Did you understand that?

Mr. FIRTH: Not really. It was so--that happened as a series of haphazard
decisions. I mean, it was almost an accident, really, that led to the whole
wet-shirt business. And I think probably if anyone had connived at a
phenomenon like that, they would have failed miserably. There was--if I
remember the original script, it was--had it down that Darcy dives in
completely naked. And, you know, I suppose he might well have done that. And
he's on his own property and it's a hot day. And--but the BBC didn't consider
that acceptable. And then there was some talk of underwear. And then the--we
heard that nobody wore underwear in those days. And then I think there was an
attempt to create underwear; the kind of--if they had worn underwear, would
they have looked like this? And I went to be fitted with those and there was
no way on Earth--and I can tell you now, had I worn those, there would have
been no heartthrob, you know, effect.

GROSS: What was this underwear looking like?

Mr. FIRTH: They were kind of knee britches. They--I think they were cotton
or silk. They looked like sailor's pants or something from, you know, pirate.
I can't remember very well, but they came down just below the knee and they...

GROSS: Little pantaloon-y kind of things.

Mr. FIRTH: Yeah. Yeah; not flattering.

GROSS: Uh-huh.

Mr. FIRTH: And so, in the end, I thought, `Well, what's second-most
spontaneous to taking all your clothes off and diving into a pond? I suppose,
really, not taking any of them off, really; you know, maybe just jump in
and--which is, basically, how I tried to play it. The jacket comes off and
the vest comes off, while he just sort of sits there and, you know, thinks for
a minute. And then in he goes. And in no way does anybody think that that is
going to start to--you know, that that's going to become a famously remembered
image.

GROSS: Did it affect your career in a positive way?

Mr. FIRTH: I don't know. I really don't know. It's so hard to quantify
these things. I think it must have done--I think that everything you do, I
suppose, takes you in one direction or another. And I can't see that it would
have been negative.

I do--I suppose I have a inclination--I've always, as an actor, had an
inclination towards playing unhappy people; people who might be considered
society's losers and people who are unattractive. I tend to find that work,
as an actor, far more interesting. And playing Mr. Darcy kind of took me a
little bit further away from that. And I think there was a slight misreading
of what kind of actor I was, as a result of that. I think there was a feeling
that this meant that perhaps I really was a romantic leading man, when I'm
not, actually. I'm a character actor. And I think that's been confused
because I--of this fairly neutral appearance that I have. But it was
interpreted as a leading-man performance, and it wasn't. Mr. Darcy was
absolutely a piece of character work.

BIANCULLI: Colin Firth speaking to Terry Gross in 2001. Coming up, film
critic David Edelstein reviews a new documentary, "Taxi to the Dark Side."
This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: Film critic David Edelstein on "Taxi to the Dark Side"
DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

Torture is back in the news thanks to congressional hearings into the practice
of waterboarding. Torture also is the subject of the Oscar-nominated
documentary "Taxi to the Dark Side," which centers on the death of an Afghan
cab driver in US custody. Director Alex Gibney's previous documentaries
include "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room." Film critic David Edelstein
has this review.

Mr. DAVID EDELSTEIN: "Taxi to the Dark Side." The title is portentous. It
sounds like a horror movie. But in the first few minutes, we learn that in
2002 an apparently apolitical young Afghan cab driver named Dilawar got into
his taxi and never came home. He died in Bagram Airbase after US
interrogators trussed him up and beat him repeatedly. Then we watch Dick
Cheney tell an interviewer that to win the war on terror the US must be
prepared to go to, quote, "the dark side." Which means the title is literal
and, yes, this is a horror movie.

Alex Gibney's documentary is about as good as Charles Ferguson's "No End in
Sight," which is to say so lucid it's mind bending. Ferguson's film, in
competition with Gibney's for this year's documentary Academy Award, set out
to demonstrate how arrogance and incompetence in the first days of the US
occupation of Iraq created the best climate imaginable for the insurgency.
Gibney takes the same nuts-and-bolts approach, but he gives the policy wonk
stuff a human face.

Poor Dilawar is our way into the subject of extreme torture, and the movie
gives you the context in which to read the congressional testimony last
Tuesday of CIA director Michael Hayden, who admitted for the first that the
agency had used the technique of waterboarding.

Aside from Dilawar, the first casualty of "Taxi to the Dark Side" is the
theory that the abuse came from, in Donald Rumsfeld's words, "a few bad
apples." No one who's investigated the Dilawar case cites bad apples,
especially not Tim Golden of The New York Times, who broke the story two years
after it happened. He's in this clip after the defense attorneys for the
soldiers prosecuted for Dilawar's death, among them Thomas Curtis, Anthony
Morden, and the bald behemoth Damien Corsetti.

(Soundbite from "Taxi to the Dark Side")

Unidentified Man #1: It seemed like the military now, after they got a black
eye from Abu Ghraib, wanted to get a public opinion that they were policing
their soldiers. And so they--we had this incident that happened a couple
years ago, we could still prosecute some of them.

Unidentified Man #2: I'd had nothing to do with the military for two years
and all of a sudden I'm getting a call saying that I'm being court martialed.
I mean, it was a huge surprise for me.

Unidentified Man #3: From the defense perspective, I immediately said this is
a political show trial. Willie Brand is a good soldier. Good soldiers tend
to obey orders. Good soldiers tend to be people who do what they're trained
to do.

Unidentified Man #4: The interrogators on the ground, for the most part,
didn't know what the rules were. They'd never been interrogators before.

Unidentified Man #5: My interrogation training consisted of, basically they
taught us some approaches, you know? How to get people to talk, and then,
`Here, go. Go watch these guys interrogate,' which were the people that we
were replacing. For about--about five or six hours before I did my first
interrogation.

Unidentified Man #6: Damien was picked for this job because he's big, he's
loud and he's scary. That was his qualification.

Man #5: Soldiers are dying; get the information. That's all you're told:
Get the information.

(End of soundbite)

Mr. EDELSTEIN: Slowly, judiciously, Gibney picks his way up the chain of
command to the men who called the shots, Cheney and Rumsfeld, whose policy was
to combine what analysts call a fog of ambiguity with relentless pressure for
results. But do torture techniques work? CIA director Hayden told Congress
they did. But here Professor Alfred McCoy lays out the history of sensory
deprivation and waterboarding and says they can make a person psychotic in 72
hours or less and render much of the intelligence questionable.

Waterboarding helped illicit the bogus confession of Iban al Shakh al Libby
that Saddam Hussein trained al-Qaeda operatives, one of the linchpins in Colin
Powell's deeply flawed case for invasion to Congress. McCoy also ridicules
the ticking time bomb scenario: a nuclear weapon in Times Square, a guy in
custody, no time for lawyers. That's the approach of TV's "24," and Gibney
includes a snippet of the TV show in his film. In this context it's a laugh
riot.

My favorite speaker in "Taxi to the Dark Side" is former FBI agent Jack
Cloonan, who gives us a sample of a friendly interrogation. `Something I can
do for your kids?' he says. `You want them educated? I can get them
educated. Help me find a strategy to get you back home.' I was ready to
confess to every lie I've ever told.

"Taxi to the Dark Side" winds back to Dilawar, turned in for a bounty after a
rocket attack. And not only wasn't he involved, but the attack never
happened. What's almost as bizarre is that the interrogators, who whacked his
thighs to the point where a post-mortem called the "pulpified," concluded he
wasn't guilty. But they hated him for screaming, and the thing developed its
own momentum, and no one was overseeing them, and, and...

This great documentary transcends the gory details and leaves you brooding on
the human capacity for cruelty.

BIANCULLI: David Edelstein is film critic for New York Magazine.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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