Think about Mark Wahlberg for a moment. You probably come up with a tough-guy image. Or you might think of dramatic roles where he plays a conflicted guy. Maybe you drift way back to his Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch days and those Calvin Klein underwear ads with his chiseled six-pack on display. One thing you probably don’t think of is Wahlberg as a comedic actor. Wahlberg, 39, gets the chance to go against type Friday in the buddy cop comedy “The Other Guys.”
Think about Mark Wahlberg for a moment. You probably come up with a tough-guy image. Or you might think of dramatic roles where he plays a conflicted guy. Maybe you drift way back to his Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch days and those Calvin Klein underwear ads with his chiseled six-pack on display.
One thing you probably don’t think of is Wahlberg as a comedic actor, though there certainly were some funny bits in “Date Night” and “I Heart Huckabees.” Wahlberg, 39, gets the chance to go against type Friday in the buddy cop comedy “The Other Guys.”
The big question was whether he could pull off a full-blown comic lead and keep up with a seasoned pro like Will Ferrell. But the question wasn’t that challenging for the folks who worked with him on “The Other Guys.” They knew that he was the right guy.
Wahlberg and Ferrell star as two bickering detective partners who have to step up to the plate when a case goes wrong and they’re thrust into the middle of it. Ferrell plays much of it laid back; Wahlberg gets to go over the top, making some inventive use of dumbfounded reactions on his face.
“Everyone knew that there were certain beats you have to hit,” said writer-director Adam McKay. “You also know there are scenes where you can just go off, like if it’s Mark saying a monologue to Will, or Will chewing out Mark. You know you’ve got room, so you identify the areas where you can get fuzzy or crazy.”
Wahlberg, who has played his share of cops – most recently in “We Own the Night” and an Oscar-nominated turn in the “The Departed” – realized he had his work cut out for him, opposite both Ferrell and Michael Keaton as their captain. But he was game.
“I certainly felt very comfortable whenever it came to anything coppish or with action,” said Wahlberg. “But with all the other stuff, I just wanted to follow their lead. I basically just did whatever they told me. I learned the lines and I showed up. I’d say the lines and if they wanted me to do it differently, I was willing to try anything.”
Ferrell admits that he didn’t always make it easy for Wahlberg.
“I feel like it’s really important to be cutthroat on a set and not look out for each other because it provides a certain tension,” he explained with a straight face. “It makes for a horrible work environment, but boy, does it pop onscreen!” He let out a big smile that translated as “only kidding.”
But Michael Keaton, whose résumé includes “Night Shift,” “Beetle Juice” and a great turn as Barbie’s boyfriend Ken in “Toy Story 3,” wasn’t fooling around when he said of Wahlberg, “We would all go, ‘Who knew this was in this guy?’ He does voices and impressions. I was knocked out. Because when you look at him sometimes, you feel, ‘Hey, this guy’s gonna kick my ass.’ And that doesn’t feel very comfortable. But he’s ridiculously funny.”
Even Ferrell finally stopped clowning around when explaining how Wahlberg got involved with the project.
“Adam and I talked for a long time about working with Mark in a comedy,” he said. “We found him not only to be such a good actor but also really funny at times in some of his roles. The three of us went to dinner, and we asked him if he’d think about doing a movie with us. He said ‘great,’ then Adam came up with the idea of this film.”
Wahlberg recalled not missing a beat.
“I didn’t even want to read the script,” he said. “I was in. I’ve always wanted to do a comedy, and to get the opportunity to do one with these guys was a dream come true.”
But will Wahlberg let any of his four kids watch the film?
“I never let my kids see anything that I do,” he said, then chuckled and added, “Well, maybe ‘Boogie Nights’ a couple of times.”