Mark Wahlberg takes risks treading into Charlton Heston’s shoes in the new version of Planet of the Apes. But Wahlberg loves a challenge, and later this year we’ll also see him in Rock Star, in which he gets to play music and make out with Jennifer Anniston. In Planet of the Apes, he just monkeys around with Helena Bonham-Carter. It was a tired but jovial Wahlberg that talked to and exchanged wisecracks with Paul Fischer in New York’s Regency Hotel.
Looking a tad tired after a hectic weekend of interviews, Mark Wahlberg, dressed in black but appearing jovial, says that he was unconcerned in starring in a film so identified with film history. “I would have been, had it been anyone else but Tim Burton; with Tim, I never really thought about it. I don’t think ANYONE had any concerns or felt under any kind of pressure. I never even thought about stepping into the Heston role.’
Tim Burton’s take on the classic story is set in 2020 and casts Wahlberg as a pilot who crash lands on a seemingly barren planet, but one inhabited by apes. Befriended by a sympathetic chimp (Helena Bonham-Carter), Wahlberg reluctantly assumes a Messianic role, and tries to free the planet’s human population from its military ape captors. Wahlberg admits not having been a huge fan of the original 1968 film. “I saw it when I was 10 with my dad and thought: This is kinda funny, talking apes on horses, but put on Shane again or a good Cagney movie. But in preparation for this role, I went back, saw it again and noticed things that I obviously didn’t see when I was 10, and in the process saw why people loved it; still it wasn’t anything that really turned me on.”
Comparing the original, more socially conscious version to this new film, Wahlberg agrees with producer Richard Zanuck that Burton’s film is more entertaining and escapist than the original, “but on the other hand, if you watch the movie very closely, it’s still pretty layered and addresses certain social and political issues, yet this one is certainly much more entertaining and more fun, as it SHOULD be.” Wahlberg adds that “the world is very different today than it was in 1968. But to REALLY answer your question, I agree with ANYTHING and EVERYTHING Richard Zanuck says, because that guy is the coolest guy that I’ve EVER met in the business. Now, after working with him, I feel I’m part of the movie business,” the actor adds laughingly.
Including pal George Clooney at whom he can’t resist taking a jibe. “Clooney is just a pretty boy, man, and that’s IT, ok? I carried him on my back long enough. I’m on my own. But seriously, I like George a lot and we were supposed to do Ocean’s 11 together but hey, a choice had to be made between Tim Burton and third wheel to Clooney again —- let me step out on my own, know what I’m sayin’?” Obviously this was something he just couldn’t pass up, “because everything I had done up to this point was reality-based and something I could connect with on some personal level. With this, it was time to get out there and try something different and trust a guy [Tim Burton] who has done something interesting every, single time out.”
Without giving too much away, much has been made of the movie’s surprise ending. Wahlberg would not be drawn on discussing the ending except to concede that, according to producer Zanuck, “the door’s left wide open” for a sequel. “You know that must be right, because I agree with EVERYTHING that Zanuck says,” he adds cheekily. “But I suggest that you see the film again, and I think you’ll get the ending. So get out there, see it twice. I just realised that the whole point of doing interviews was to promote this movie, so see it THREE times,” he adds raucously.”
For a man with an obviously cheeky sense of humour, it’s surprising that Wahlberg, already a veteran of some 13 films, haw played often intense, ultra-serious characters. By now, it’s time for a change. And it’s coming later this year in the form of Rock Star, a comedy co-starring Jennifer Anniston. Wahlberg is philosophical about its much delayed release date. “This is a movie that the studio really loves, and on which it has spent a lot of money and time, trying to figure out how to market the film properly; it’s not like selling a poster with someone just wearing sunglasses, you know? You’ve got to actually get creative. I mean I said we could still probably put Mel Gibson on the poster with sunglasses; I’m sure he wouldn’t mind, as he’s a buddy of mine.” But seriously folks, “the fact that they like it as much as they do is a good thing for me, because that movie means a lot to me.” Asked whether he preferred being kissed by a chimp or Jennifer Anniston, Wahlberg actually pauses. “Well, Helena Bonham-Carter was pretty good underneath that make up, but Jennifer is EXTREMELY sexy in this movie, not to mention talented.”
While Wahlberg has more recently starred in big studio films, the actor is looking forward to “kind of going back to where I feel most comfortable. This year alone I’ll get to work again with Paul Thomas Anderson, James Gray and David O. Russell.”
But where Wahlberg is NOT returning is to his former career if rapper. “I’m 30 years old, I love listening to music, I have a studio in my house and mess around once in a while, but to be in the music business just doesn’t make sense to me. It seems like a lifetime ago.”
Wahlberg is happy doing this ‘acting gig’ despite having to deal wiry his new found fame and celebrity status, but he has least he has learned to deal with it with a sense of humour. “I was in New York just for a week and I was in the paper every day, apparently dating girls I’ve never met. If I’m gonna get into trouble, it might as WELL be me causing it, you know what I mean?”