LOS ANGELES — When Mark Wahlberg was making “Patriots Day,” about the Boston Marathon bombing, there was tremendous pressure on him and everyone involved to “get it right,” as the actor noted in a recent interview.
“Obviously, the people in that community know me, and I would be held accountable,” said the Boston native. “But also we wanted to capture the pride — how my city reacted to the tragedy. It was good [Bostonians] had the confidence to go out and tell the story, to show the world who the people of Boston are, and what ‘Boston Strong’ means. That in itself made us get up earlier and work harder every day.”
His passion forced him to “stay up late every night thinking about this project and working on it. We would drag Pete [Berg, the director] to Boston neighborhoods that I thought would help him understand who these people are, what Boston is as a city and how much pride there is in their city.”
For Berg, who joined Wahlberg for the interview, “it was critical to have the confidence of the Boston populace to make ‘Patriots Day.’ The pressure of making a movie like this creates for me a sense of inspiration.”
The filmmaker shared his memories of first preparing for the project. “Mark just took me, without a whole movie company or entourage, and the two of us went into the community to meet the police, the families of the victims, and many of the survivors. We had very casual, lengthy conversations, getting a sense of who these people were and what it was like in Boston, both prior to the bombing and now after the bombing. … Yes, there was pressure to get it right, but that also inspired me to work harder and be accurate in our portrayal of those events.”
“Patriots Day” marks the third film based on real-life events that Wahlberg and Berg have made together, after “Lone Survivor” and “Deepwater Horizon.”
“We bring out the best in each other,” Wahlberg said. “The first thing I latched on to was Pete’s talent, but also he was an actor first before he became a director. He creates a great environment for his actors — but also for people behind the camera — to be at their best. He’s also very collaborative. With these stories that we have told in the films we’ve made, I think it works because of our mutual commitment to getting it right.”
Berg smiled as he chimed in, “We also simply just get along. Sometimes you can’t explain chemistry with another person. You simply like hanging out with somebody; you like working with somebody.”
Having made this film, Wahlberg finds “Boston Strong” has taken on new meaning for him. “It’s so amazing because I’ve been fortunate as a kid to have had a lot of heroes to look up to in the sports world. But seeing how these men and women from all walks of life responded in this tragedy has redefined the word ‘hero’ for me, and I take so much pride and am so honored to be from Boston, having seen what they did. It’s really, really inspiring.”
Two of the people Wahlberg was referring to were Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky, married bombing victims who both lost limbs on that horrific day. They’re portrayed by Christopher O’Shea and Rachel Brosnahan in the movie.
When Kensky first heard that Peter Berg was going to make the film, “I thought, ‘Surely this isn’t something we want to be a part of.’ It wasn’t like anything we had done in the past. It wasn’t part of our nature or style. We were relatively private people, after we were hurt [in the bombing].
“But when they called us, we initially thought, ‘Gee! This will be a fun lunch meeting [with Berg and Wahlberg] and will be a fun thing to tell friends and family about.”
That meeting impressed Kensky and Downes with the amount of dedication the filmmakers had for the project. “It was very different from my preconceived notion of what Hollywood producers and directors would be like,” added Kensky, who realized the victims were interested in helping the moviemakers create a film that would be as “honest and accurate as possible. We were happy to represent the survivor community and share our story and allow the use of our names for this.”
The fact Wahlberg was a real Bostonian who had always maintained a connection to the city also was important to Downes. “Yet, I also thought the whole team had a commitment to telling this story as accurately and sensitively as possible. It was clear why all these guys teamed up for this, because no one person can take on that responsibility. There are so many personal stories here, whether or not someone is connected to the film at all. This story is going to permeate our society. That’s going to affect people in very real ways. … I loved that they consulted with us to tell this story in the most sensitive way possible.”