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Mark Wahlberg

'I Heart Huckabees'

THESP FILE
What actor/actress would you most like to work with? “John Garfield if he was alive. He’s so real and reminds me of my dad. So many people have borrowed from him.”
What’s your favorite film from the past five years? “City of God” “It’s heartbreaking because that world really exists. I knew everything that was going on in that story.”
Which character in a film have you watched and wished you could’ve played? “Anything with an English or Australian accent. You don’t see too many American actors getting chances to play these kinds of roles.”
Next up:“I’m playing ice hockey right now in preparation for a role in John Singleton’s ‘Four Brothers'”. Wahlberg plays one of four kids who avenges their foster mother’s death after she’s murdered.

When Mark Wahlberg signed on to “I Heart Huckabees,” he didn’t need to see the script to know that his “Three Kings” director David O. Russell would push his emotional and physical prowess to the next level.

Russell wrote the part of Tommy Corn, a tough firefighter with a heart of gold who accompanies Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman) in his quest for the meaning of life, predicated on his knowledge of Wahlberg as a passionate, socially conscious guy.

In addition, Russell conducted analytical interviews with Wahlberg over six months, not only to flesh out the part of Corn, but also to tap into the vulnerabilities beneath Wahlberg’s tough guy exterior — a side the thesp’s fans haven’t seen in actioners such as “Planet of the Apes” and “The Italian Job.”

“He picked my true feelings; asking what was going on with me, bringing up different subjects that would affect me, such as children in poor countries. He wouldn’t take a one-word answer,” reflects Wahlberg. He also, per Russell’s suggestion, prepared for “Huckabees” through meditation, therapy and reading “The Jewel Tree of Tibet” by Buddhist authoritarian Robert Thurman.

Not only is Corn Wahlberg’s most versatile role since playing naive porn star Dirk Diggler in 1997’s “Boogie Nights,” but the part also demonstrated the thesp’s penchant for comedy.

“He’s a big doorway for the audience into the movie. When Mark’s character shakes his head and says ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ he’s not being high and mighty, he represents us all,” says Russell about those who might be thrown off by the pic’s existentialist debates.

Whether Wahlberg was hitting himself with a fun hop ball or equating petroleum use with murder, the actor’s hijinks in “Huckabees” didn’t boil down to comedic timing.

“Russell said to play everything as passionate and serious as possible, letting the humor come out of the situation’s absurdity,” says the actor about his process preparing for the role.

As funny as Corn is in his direct, no-nonsense approach to life, it’s not at all forced, but all Wahlberg on the screen according to Russell.

Russell says Wahlberg’s comedic touch should give people reason to notice that the actor doesn’t have to be pigeonholed in more dramatic fare.

“People look at Mark and think they get to some total. He’s the revelation as a performer in the movie and I know there’s more dimensions to him,” says Russell, “when he performs in those action films with his eyes closed, that’s only one thing he can do.”