When Mark Wahlberg takes on a role in a film, he becomes that character. Not in any method way of acting. Rather, he preps for the part, then infuses any relatable pieces of himself into whoever he’s playing. In the case of the darkly comic, based-on-fact “Pain & Gain,” he plays Daniel Lugo, the not-very-bright bodybuilding mastermind of an absurd plot to get a wealthy client’s money in order to start living his version of the American dream. Suffice it to say, things go very wrong. Wahlberg spoke recently in Miami, where the movie was shot, and where the actual story took place about a decade ago.
What initially attracted you to the part?
Everything about it. I mean, you know, the selfish reasons of getting to play a character like that who’s so outrageous. He was an interesting guy. He still believed until the end that he was going to get away with it, that he was right. And those are the kind of characters that I enjoy playing. Also, the world of bodybuilding to me is fascinating. It’s such a unique and interesting culture, and everything about it appealed to me.
Is it true that you were injured while training for the film?
No, I just had a lot of aches and pains. I have tears in both shoulders and a couple herniated discs, but it’s no big deal. I’ve been starting to learn how to exercise in a way that corrects those injuries as opposed to lifting really heavy, and end up making it worse.
You mentioned recently on MTV that you had a criminal mentality that your costars (Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie) didn’t have. What was that all about?
I have a checkered past, and I used that to identify with the character that I’m playing.
Daniel Lugo is a real person, and he’s still alive. Is there a special challenge to playing a role like that as opposed to a fictional character?
It depends on the level of involvement of the person. It depends on if the person’s still alive and how famous that person is. When I was doing “The Fighter,” Micky Ward was on the set with me every day, and I was trying to pick up all of his mannerisms, and the way he walked and talked and all of those things. But in this case I only had a little bit of information about Danny that I learned from newspaper articles and from a [television] re-enactment. So I was able to bring a lot of different colors and layers to the part and kind of make some stuff up.
Did you ever get to speak with Lugo?
I would have been open to the idea of talking with him, but they didn’t recommend it, so I didn’t want to push it.
The story is pretty crazy. What was your reaction when you first read the script?
Well, you get the script and it says “based on a true story,” and you start reading and you’re like, “That’s impossible; there’s no way this is a true story.” But then, lo and behold, you start reading the article about it and doing your research, and you find out that this stuff really happened. They actually had to take some of the stuff out of the script because it was too unbelievable, too far-fetched. But I just thought it was fascinating, and these are the kinds of things that I gravitate towards.
“Pain & Gain” opens on April 26.
Ed Symkus covers movies for More Content Now.
Mark Wahlberg talks about Pain & Gain’