‘Lone Survivor’ Director Says They ‘Almost Lost’ Mark Wahlberg While Filming

Taylor Kitsch and Emile Hirsch also on hand for Variety Screening Series Q&A

Taylor Kitsch, Peter Berg, Mark Wahlberg and Emile Hirsch at the Variety Screening Series showing of "Lone Survivor"
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Those who were expecting the same, cursing Mark Wahlberg from the now infamous Nov. 12 rant would have been surprised by the Variety Screening Series showing and Q&A of “Lone Survivor,” but the star still had plenty to say.

“First of all, if I don’t appear to be my normal self, it’s only because I’ve been instructed by the great director Peter Berg not to curse,” Wahlberg joked. “We’re still hoping that the MPAA gives us a G rating.”

Wahlberg, Berg, stars Taylor Kitsch and Emile Hirsch and second unit director Kevin Scott gathered Nov. 26 at the ArcLight Cinema in L.A. to discuss the film, based on a true story of Marcus Luttrell and the failed 2005 SEAL 10 Operations Red Wings mission, which led to the deaths of 19 men.

Berg said the responsibility of doing a satisfactory job for Luttrell, the families of those who died and soldiers today was top priority, and they found it important to have SEALs on set (handpicked by Luttrell) to see that they got everything right.

“We constantly had reminders of the fact that this really happened,” he said. “People are dead. They’ve been buried. Their families are carrying this grief, and it became a lesson in everybody being humble and something that felt a little bit bigger than all of us.”

Hirsch, who plays deceased soldier Danny Dietz, had an especially heartbreaking experience in his research of the character. He explained that Dietz’s father sat him down and told him that he wanted to read him something.

“He takes out a piece of paper and it was Danny’s autopsy report,” Hirsch said. “And he says, ‘Left: Hit,’ you know, in his leg. ‘Right shoulder: Hit. Neck: Hit.’ And he goes through, and there’s 17 wounds that Danny had. And he’s crying at this point and goes, ‘That’s who my son was.’”

The actual filming of the movie was tough as well. When asked by moderator Steven Gaydos of Variety how “Lone Survivor” stacked up to the other big-budget action pics that Wahlberg has starred in, he called them “cream puffs” in comparison.

They shot much of the film in the mountains, and he was surprised at the lack of special effects.

“I remember the first time I walked up on the rocks, I’m like, ‘Dude, where’s the wires? Where’s the greenscreen?’” he laughed.

There were no smoke and mirrors behind some of the injuries those on set sustained. Berg said his job was often telling Wahlberg not to hurt himself, as they needed him for the rest of the movie, but he couldn’t stop one of the stuntmen. He recalled that early in shooting, he looked up and saw one of the stuntman on the top of a cliff.

“I went up, I’m like, ‘What are you going to do?’” he recalled. “And he said, ‘Well, I’m going to run off this cliff, I’m going to leap off it, I’m going to hit that tree, I’m going to bounce off the tree, I’m going to hit a rock, and I’m going to bounce out.’”

It didn’t go so well—Berg said that in that take, the stuntman broke three ribs and punctured his lung. Despite Berg’s best efforts, Wahlberg wasn’t free from danger either.

“I did blow him up, by accident,” Berg said of Wahlberg, though he didn’t go into details. “That was close. We almost lost Mark, for real.”

Still, their efforts were worth it. Scott said he had never “seen that level of commitment” in all his career from any other group of actors. Kitsch even went the extra mile and undertook a heavy-duty workout plan that was the brainchild of the soldier he portrays, Mike Murphy.

The routine, dubbed the “Murph,” consists of a mile run, followed by 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 sit-ups (although the real Murph has 300 squats) and then a mile run with a 30-50 pound weighted vest.

“The first time I did it was in Austin, Texas, in the heat with a 50 pound vest,” Kitsch remembered. “I threw up twice, and barely got that last mile out.”

“Lone Survivor” is set for wide release on Jan. 10.