What will a man do to protect his family? Contraband explores just how far Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) will go to keep his family out of the crosshairs of a sadistic drug dealer (Giovanni Ribisi). A remake of the 2009 Icelandic movie, Reykjavík-Rotterdam, the film is directed by one of its original stars, Baltasar Kormákur. Contraband's killer stars -- Mark Wahlberg, Giovanni Ribisi, and Ben Foster -- sat down with Buzzine's Emmanuel Itier to discuss their intense fight scenes, shooting in New Orleans, and what perils they would face to save their own loved ones.
Emmanuel Itier: Tell me about being part of this great picture, directed by a man from the cold – Iceland (Baltasar Kormakur). What did he bring to the movie? What was his touch, do you think?
Ben Foster: The script that he was the lead in… This is a remake – he was the lead -- the role that Mark Wahlberg plays. So he believes in this project deeply, and he brought a tremendous amount of energy and interest in making this a new film, rather than doing the same thing over again.
EI: Speaking of energy, the movie is full of energy, from A to Z. Tell me about any war stories, any fight scenes. Did anything interesting happen?
BF: Mark is a strong fella, and we did a little tangling, and that guy is…yeah, that guy is tough. I thought I could hold my own, but that guy is tough.
EI: What about New Orleans? Is that a tough city to play in?
BF: No, it’s great. It’s only tough because you have to get up and work the next day. It’s a great city. You can get into a lot of good trouble there.
EI: On Bourbon Street?
BF: Yeah, try to avoid that circus, but there are great pockets in and around – food, music…if you like ladies, they’re there as well.
EI: What do you think this movie is about for you? Is it indeed about what you would do for your family? What are the messages that you enjoy?
BF: The themes of family – that’s what makes a good film. We all love seeing: What would someone do if… We’ve been playing that game since the beginning of storytelling. What interested me in my participation of this is seeing: What is it like to let down the people you love? We all do it, it’s all been done to us, and how much that hurts.
EI: Have you been in a similar situation where you had to do something extraordinary to protect your family in real life?
BF: Yeah. Not to this degree, but there are a lot of gangs in Los Angeles, and they were harassing somebody very close to me, and I had to get them out. And they had a lot of guns – the gangs had a lot of guns, and this person had a lot of guns, and I had to go in while they were surrounding the house… It’s still the wild west, my friend.
EI: 2012 – a brand new world?
BF: It’s coming, baby. [Laughs] Something’s coming.
EI: What has been your favorite scene from all the movies you’ve ever seen in your life. Is there a scene that somewhat moves you every time you see it? And why?
BF: All That Jazz, Roy Scheider is sitting on the couch. His girlfriend and his daughter are singing to him. I just saw it again. Brings me to tears every time.
EI: Why? Because of the emotion, the dynamic, the relationship?
BF: Just so much love.
Emmanuel Itier: How was the challenge of becoming a bad motherf*cker?
Giovanni Ribisi: I don’t know – it was terrifying. It was all of the above. It was a stretch for me, and it was definitely something that was far-fetched. Not the morality, but just the type of guy – the ex-con or the guy that had just gotten out of prison. So it was about mainly watching just a sundry of documentaries and pacing a lot back and forth in the hotel room.
EI: Also being in New Orleans in that city that is a little bit of a decayed environment…
GR: Oh yeah, New Orleans was definitely a big part of this movie, and really kind of its own character. And there’s a different side to New Orleans in this film that you wouldn’t expect – the blue collar aspect of it, the working man, and I think that was pretty cool. A lot of people think of New Orleans – and it is – as a colorful city and the culture there and the parades that they have, and the festivals, but this was like the natives’ version of it, I guess.
EI: How was it to work with this man coming from the cold – Iceland – Baltasar, the director? I understand it is a remake of a movie he played in. What did he bring to the movie?
GR: That was the thing – I guess there is that thing... I haven’t seen the first version of this, and I think we almost forgot that he did that because he just never talked about it, but it was really a pleasure. Earlier on, I hadn’t really heard of him or his work, but I got educated before we met – I watched a bunch of his movies. And I immediately became a fan of his. And it’s definitely refreshing to work with somebody like that, who has a different outlook culturally: 1. On life, and 2. On the way films should be made, and cinema. So he’s the best. I wish I could do every film with him.
EI: Maybe being a foreigner brought a certain objectivity about blue collar America?
GR: Absolutely, definitely. The cinematography, for instance, the look was phenomenal. There was something that was really personal and human about it. I would do anything with him.
EI: Tell me about the intense shooting with Mark Wahlberg. There are some intense scenes. Any war stories? Any little crispy things to tell us?
GR: Honestly, yeah, it was terrifying because Mark is the real deal. He’s very comfortable in physicality and he’s very confident. I had no idea what to expect, but ultimately, we’re making movies and he’s very much so in control. The physical scenes that I was most uncomfortable with and had the biggest problem with really was with Kate (Beckinsale) because there was just something so uncomfortable about those scenes.
EI: The movie is about what you would do to protect your family. What have you done, in real life, the ultimate thing you did to protect your family?
GR: I grew up in Los Angeles, kind of in that bubble, so I don’t know if there’s been anything that’s been that extreme or could compare. [Laughs] There’s something I do have to say, and this also speaks to who Mark Wahlberg is and his own sentiments, I think, is the value and the importance of family. It’s everything. So yes, of course I would do anything for my family and my daughter.
Emmanuel Itier: This movie is all pumped up! It’s fun! It’s a fun ride. I like the way that it’s a deeper visual movie, and in one way, you’re there for the ride. And it’s still good.
Mark Wahlberg: You’ve got to mix it up. I don’t want to be just trying to do the movies that are all awards contenders. You want to entertain people, you want to make people laugh.
EI: Was the attraction also Baltasar? It seems to me he had a very different approach. Tell me about that.
MW: Baltasar is great. We just got a DVD saying, “You should check out this movie,” and we watched it, and I thought, “Wow, this is great.” And then we were like, “Let’s meet the brains behind the operation,” and the guy who starred in the movie walked in. He didn’t direct that particular version, but he directed other movies, and we saw his other work, and we thought, “We should do this movie, and we should do it with him.” And it was the best decision we could have made because not only did he bring something to it and I think he has a different point of view, but also just from an efficiency standpoint as a producer, the guy is a machine. He’s not used to all the Hollywood bells and whistles. This guy comes in, in less than 40 days we shot the movie, he shot the crap out of it, and that’s why we signed him up for our next movie.
EI: Any war stories? I mean, the movie is so intense, I thought, “Wow!” And there are a lot of fights… Tell me about maybe some interesting occurrences.
MW: I thoroughly enjoyed beating up Giovanni. And he’s such a nice guy, but it is the job and it’s in the script, so between takes I was asking if he was okay, and as soon as they yelled “Action” again, I’d rip him out of the window and stomp on his head.
EI: What about playing in New Orleans? What does it bring, to play in cities that are so visceral?
MW: I love New Orleans. It was great. That was the best thing about shooting in those particular cities and shooting in Panama. We shot, actually, in Panama. It’s like the wild wild west. You get to do whatever you want; nobody is regulating what you’re doing or not doing, and we just went wild. And New Orleans is such a great place to work. The people are fantastic; they work really hard. They’re involved and they care; they have a vested interest in the movie. They want to make sure that it’s good and they want to put their stamp on it, so we were very lucky when it came to all that.
EI: The movie is about protecting your family, whatever it takes. Have you been in a situation yourself in real life, where you had to do something extraordinary to protect them?
MW: Yes. Especially early on in our childhood, when my brother would walk down the street with his f*cking Michael Jackson jacket on, and everybody would start making fun of him. And he wasn’t a punk either, so he was getting into a fight with one of my friends and I had to hit my friend over the head with a hockey stick, and next thing you know I’m fighting with my own friends because he wants to wear his f*ckin’ “Beat It” jacket.
EI: What has been, so far, from all the movies you have seen in your life, a favorite scene? Maybe a scene, every time you see it in that movie, you are very moved or touched…
MW: Oh gosh, there are so many. That’s a tough question.
EI: Think of one.
MW: I’m gonna give you an answer and then I’m gonna think of something else right after.
EI: And the other question is what do you listen to on your iPad or iPod right now? So maybe divert it and you can come back…
MW: I don’t really listen to music that much. Brian (Nguyen) will play music when we work out, and he just plays random stuff, but I haven’t really been listening to anything. And as far as this thing that gets me every time – one of my favorite scenes in a movie ever? [Sigh] That’s tough. That’s too tough for me. I can’t think of one.
EI: [Laughs] Blanking.
MW: Yeah, because there are so many. Now I’ll spend half the night thinking about it.
EI: What can we expect with Entourage? Everybody is saying, “We want the movie.” Is that going to happen?
MW: Yeah. It’s happening. I could tell you one part in one movie that gets me every time. And that is the scene in Rocky when, after the fight, all he wants to do is see Adrian. And when you see her face and that tear rolls down her cheek, I get choked up every time.
EI: Because it means meaning of what’s really important in life to you?
MW: Yeah. He didn’t care about anything, and his life just completely changed and all he wanted was that woman that means the world to him. I feel like a sucker when I see it because it’s like, come on. You’ve got to cut to her again? It gets me every time.
Universal Pictures' 'Contraband' is released on January 13, 2012.