Mark Wahlberg might’ve lost 60 pounds to play English professor and degenerate gambler Jim Bennett in his latest film, “The Gambler,” but he looked mighty fine at the premiere at AFI Fest Monday night.
Wahlberg took to the carpet at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood with helmer Rupert Wyatt and co-star John Goodman to talk about their film, an L.A.-set remake of the 1974 original starring James Caan. While the two films share some common threads, Wahlberg said his character and Caan’s are different enough that it allowed the remake to explore different themes.
“They’re similar … My character just takes it a couple of steps further where he wants to strip himself of all of (his wealth and family), and just use his gambling as a tool, whereas Jimmy’s character is a gambler for thrill, which most gamblers are,” Wahlberg said. “But Jim just finds this tool and took it as an interesting thing to strip himself of all this.”
Los Angeles provides a gritty but gorgeous backdrop to the film, and Wyatt said the ability to shoot on location in L.A. was crucial to him.
“We were able to sort of cherry pick amazing locations because, though TV shoots here still, it’s less and less film, and that’s going to change hopefully with the tax incentive changing,” Wyatt said. “We were welcomed with open arms because a lot of locations are just being underused.”
Jim Bennett debates in the film whether or not he’s really a gambler, even as he routinely loses hundreds of thousands of dollars at blackjack and roulette tables, but Wahlberg said in his own life he only gambles when he knows it’s a sure thing.
“You know when I will gamble, if I’m playing my friends in basketball or golf and I know I can win, or I’m watching a repeat of a fight that I’ve seen ten times that my friend has never seen and I already know the outcome, yet he’ll still bet $1,000, because he’s a degenerate gambler,” Wahlberg said.
After the screening, Wahlberg, Wyatt and Goodman sat down for a Q&A with Variety’s Jenelle Riley, where Wahlberg told a few stories about breaking into acting, including run-ins with Leonardo DiCaprio before the making of Scott Kalvert’s “Basketball Diaries.”
“Leonardo DiCaprio and I had a weird run in at an MTV Rock N’ Jock basketball game, and I was performing at halftime in my underwear and I think I blocked his shot. I was a punk, I was a prick. I was not nice to Leo that day,” Wahlberg said. “(Kalvert) called me in for an audition. Leonardo said, ‘No way am I making a movie with Marky Mark,’ as did a lot of other people.”
He repeatedly auditioned for the film until the producers could convince DiCaprio to read with him, a reading to which Wahlberg showed up eight hours late. It all worked out in the end, as the two made up and made the movie in 1995.
Goodman provided the audience with a clean and simple reason for why he came on board the picture.
“I lost a bet,” he said.
The AFI Fest Gala continued across the street at the Roosevelt Hotel, where guests enjoyed with food, drinks and a little live music.
“The Gambler,” from Paramount Pictures, will receive a limited release beginning Dec. 19 before opening nationwide Jan. 2, 2015.