lone survivor Emmett/Furla

Mark Wahlberg, Randall Emmett, Ari Emanuel and Peter Berg collaborated to bring Navy SEALs story to the screen

Without relationships, there would be no business in Hollywood.

That truism couldn’t be better illustrated than by the genesis of Universal’s upcoming “Lone Survivor,” the fact-based story of a failed Navy SEALs mission to kill Taliban leader Ahmad Shah in 2005.

Star Mark Wahlberg, writer-director Peter Berg, producer Randall Emmett and their shared agent, WME topper Ari Emanuel, have an interconnected personal and professional history that stretches back more than three decades.

Prior to establishing himself as one of the most prolific producer-financiers in the business, Emmett worked as assistant to Wahlberg for 18 months in the mid-’90s, the period of the actor’s life that inspired HBO’s “Entourage.”

“I remember him thinking the idea of working for me was really cool until he realized how crazy things were around me,” Wahlberg says. “He crashed my car and he was petrified that I was going to kill him and he wouldn’t come back, even though (this) made me later and later for a very important press appointment. And I’m telling him, ‘Dude, just bring the car back. We’ll work it out later.’ He’s like, ‘No. I’m going to leave it here down at the gas station with the keys in it and take off.’ ”

Wahlberg can’t remember if Emmett quit or if he was fired. “Either way, he ran for the hills, whether I was chasing him or not,” Walhberg says. “But I knew that he would be successful in the right situation, it just wasn’t going to happen running with me and my crazy friends from Boston who just got out of jail.”

Today, Emmett not only produces films for Wahlberg, including the recent “2 Guns” and “Broken City”; he considers the actor to be his “best friend.”
Berg and Emanuel (the inspiration for the fictional Ari Gold played by Jeremy Piven on “Entourage”) go back even further. They roomed together as students at Macalester College in St. Paul in

the early ’80s and shared a tiny Hollywood apartment when they moved to Los Angeles to launch their respective showbiz careers in 1985.

“I was writing away with an eye toward directing and Ari was working in the mailroom at CAA and bringing home all the bagels that Mike Ovitz didn’t eat, and we’d survive on that,” recalls Berg, who rose to fame as one of the stars of the TV series “Chicago Hope” in 1995.

Emmett stayed a degree of separation away from Berg until Wahlberg and his manager Steve Levenson pitched the idea of making “Lone Survivor” when they were in New Orleans shooting “2 Guns” last year. Blown away by the script, Emmett flew back to L.A. and met face-to-face with Berg and his producing partner, Sarah Aubrey, who explained the soldiers’ backstory and how their harrowing tale would unfold visually.

It was an emotional moment. “I was beyond moved,” Emmett recalls. “I literally went back and I called my partners and said, ‘We’re making this movie.’ ”

Sure enough, “Lone Survivor” got made. Set for a December release, some expect it to fill the awards season’s patriotic hero slot that was occupied by “Argo” last year.
Berg’s relationship with Wahlberg had a more macho dynamic.

“He’s a boxer,” says Wahlberg of Berg. “He wants to know if he can beat you up. He’s trying to size you up as a man … in the end we became very, very close.

“I have a huge amount of respect for him and hopefully he feels the same way about me, because he’s a guy who like me is going to bring it.”

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more