Mark Wahlberg for “The Perfect Storm”

Mark Wahlberg looks a little haggard, but then after 2 days of doing interviews is enough to make anyone look a tad weary. “It’s not too bad if you’re promoting a film you’re genuinely proud of”, the actor says with a kind of faint energy.

The film he’s referring to is The Perfect Storm, in which he plays a fisherman, Bobby, torn between his love for the ocean and his bartender girlfriend. Based on the best selling book, the film chronicles Bobby’s most challenging fishing trip, under the captaincy of Billy Tyne (George Clooney) “I’ve seen the movie twice already”, the acclaimed Boogie Nights star announces with renewed boyish enthusiasm. “I can hardly wait to see it again; I think Wolfgang [Petersen] did the people in this town justice and it’s a tribute to them”, the native Bostonian says.

The town he’s referring to is Gloucester, a small fishing town about 100 miles out of Boston. We are chatting in a press tent, beautifully positioned against the calm backdrop of a ship-laden ocean. This was also the setting of the book and film The Perfect Storm. To prepare for his participation in the movie, Wahlberg insisted on staying in one of the local pubs, the Crows Nest, where his real-life character spent much of his time. “It was only $20 a night so I saved the studio a fortune in accommodation costs.”

Shooting Perfect Storm was not all fun and games. It was a physically demanding shoot, utilising the realistic bombardment of water during crucial scenes, both in and out of the ship. Asked how tough it was balancing between performance and reacting to a physically tough environment, Wahlberg recalls that “developing the character and coming here and spending a lot of time with my character’s family as well as a lot of other fishermen, helped a lot. As far as being reactive, that was made easy because Wolfgang did such a good job in truly recreating the elements of the storm, you didn’t have to pretend. I was nervous it was going to be a blue screen where I had to pretend that I’m moving. But he brought it all to life.” That of course made it a lot more dangerous and painful for Wahlberg especially, “because I ended up getting most of the beating. But it would have shown had we not done it that way”, Wahlberg concedes. The actor had to become physically fit to do the film, which wasn’t easy, ‘because I was in the worst physical shape of my life. I was smoking 2-3 packets of cigarettes a day, plus I had to lose weight, so I wasn’t eating or anything.” It was no surprise that he “just had to get through the day half the time.”

What was equally tough, Wahlberg adds laughingly, was doing “all that romantic stuff opposite Diane Lane. Gees, working with such an unattractive girl. Courtney Love wasn’t available?” More laughter resounds. Wahlberg has had his share of onscreen sizzling moments, and is now being touted as a new sex symbol, a label he doesn’t seem to unhappy with. “It’s really funny if people see me as that, why not? I just have to stay in the house a lot and get a good photographer – someone who airbrushes the pictures.” In Perfect Storm, he shows off a romantic side, so naturally that begs he question: Is he a romantic off screen? “Oh yes, definitely,’ he responds unequivocally. “I like to take my girl out to dinner, have a couple of drinks. I just don’t attack her when I first see her.” Wahlberg adds that he “has this idea in my head of getting married, having children and spending he rest of my life in a good old fashioned relationship.” not an easy ideal to realise in the industry in which he has found himself. “I think it’s POSIBLE. People have been able to do it.”

Wahlberg has been able to successfully make the transition from rap musician to movie actor, in a short period of time. It seems that the days of Marky Mark are behind him. “My music is definitely on hold for the moment” especially since just having played a heavy metal guitarist in Warner Bros’ Metal God, due out next year. “I lived and breathed heavy metal for 6 months, cramming my house full of the stuff, replacing my rap CDs with the heavy metal music, and I had EVERYTHING, man. It was torture.” It is no wonder that following the end of shooting Metal God, he threw a “get-rid-of-my-heavy-metal party and piled all the CDs in dozens of green trash bags. I think I’ll also have to get rid of the house, which still reeks of all that”, he adds laughingly.

Though it might have been physically tougher to shoot Perfect Storm, Wahlberg admits that Metal God “was harder in other ways because I had greater responsibility.” At least he got to work opposite Jennifer Anniston. “Yep, it’s a tough job but someone’s gotta do it.” Mark Wahlberg continues to find success, and no longer needs to rely on his rap music. His next acting gig is part of the ensemble cast of Steven Soderbergh’s Oceans 11, again pitting him opposite George Clooney, who jokingly commented that Wahlberg may be his ticket to retirement. “That might be true, though on Oceans 11, of course, I wasn’t asked to be in it; Clooney TOLD me I was in it.” The next Hope and Crosby perhaps? “Only cuter”, Wahlberg adds with undue modesty.