NEW YORK – In “Lone Survivor” (opening Friday) Mark Wahlberg portrays Marcus Luttrell, the Navy SEAL whose book about his harrowing experiences — coming incredibly close to death — during a failed 2005 covert mission in a remote region of Afghanistan became an instant bestseller.
During a recent interview in New York, the actor talked about this film being his most challenging — both physically and emotionally — and why he was initially extremely intimidated by Luttrell himself. In additon, Wahlberg shared a story about meeting the Afghan man who literally saved Luttrell from certain death at the hands of the Taliban.
On a lighter note, the action star also reflected on his recent Chicago filming for the fourth “Transformers” movie — and why he’s glad he was here in August.
Q: It was a very different film, but how did you enjoy being in Chicago this past summer shooting part of “Transformers: Age of Extinction”?
A: What a great town! The people, the food, the right time of year to be there! It was August and perfect — as we blew up the whole city [laughs]. I had some wonderful dinners with the mayor. It’s a terrific city. But I’m glad we’re not there now. I know what it can be like on Memorial Day — when people can still be walking around with gloves and scarves.
Q: What was it like getting to know Marcus Luttrell?
A: Marcus is a very unique individual. Considering what he’s been through, you don’t want to overstep your boundaries. Even though I’m an actor and I was committed to playing him — and he had approved me — there were certain questions I wanted to ask him [about the experience], but was reluctant to do so. It took awhile, but I decided it was best to let him take his time and make the call as to when and where he would open up about it all.
Also, he’s a pretty intimidating guy. Fortunately, he has a wonderful woman in his life now and he’s a lot more easy going, but still he’s a very special individual. You have to respect his space.
Q: One thing that is true both of Luttrell’s book and this film based on it — there are clearly Afghans who hate us — and others who are clearly glad the U.S. is there. Your thoughts?
A: Most people over here just assume we’re at war with Afghanistan and all the Afghan people are bad or are our enemy — which is not the case. I’ve been fortunate enough to have gone to Afghanistan a couple of years ago. And then, later having this experience I learned even more. When I read the script and saw how Ahmad [the man who saved Luttrell] did such an amazing thing — such a purely unselfish act of kindness — I was overwhelmed. I actually got to meet the real man. I grabbed him and gave him a big hug. It probably was a little too teary-eyed for his liking, but he just gave me a big smile.
Q: You’ve made numerous films requiring major physical endurance. But was this one of the most demanding?
A: Yes, especially considering I had just made three other movies right in a row that all were very physical. At first I thought I did films like ‘Shooter’ and ‘Three Kings’ — I know what I’m doing. I don’t need that much preparation. I’ve been to boot camp before.
Of course, once we hit the ground running — doing all those weeks of preparation with the SEALS — I realized, ‘Okay. Now we’re going to a whole new level!’