Mark Wahlberg on Max Payne, Living with SNL

Image from 20th Century Fox's 'Max Payne', starring Mark Wahlberg

Mark Wahlberg doesn't scare easily. That might explain his decision to jump into the world of video game adaptations.

In Max Payne , the actor takes on the role of the titular DEA agent who teams up with a Russian mob assassin (Mila Kunis) to track down the foes - both human and otherworldly - responsible for the murder of his family.

If flops like Super Mario Brothers, Doom, Silent Hill and In the Name of the King are any indication, audiences aren't exactly game for movies based on best-selling video amusements.

"When I read the script a bit of a red flag popped up only because I grew up playing Pac-Man and Asteroids and there's not much of a story there," says Wahlberg. "But Max Payne has an elaborate story that's very cinematic.

"I don't care where stories come from as long as they're interesting and there's a fresh way to tell them. There are only so many stories to tell anyway. But, obviously knowing how important this game is to a lot of diehard gamers, we wanted to satisfy them as well as hopefully introduce a bunch of other people to the videogame through the movie."

Of course, not all video-game-inspired movies have tanked. Last year's Hitman hit the $100 million mark, the Lara Croft: Tomb Raider movies have their supporters and Resident Evil was lucrative enough to merit two sequels.

Interestingly, Max Payne is just the beginning of a long line of upcoming video-game flicks. In various stages of production are Prince of Persia, Tekken, Metal Gear Solid, EverQuest and Gears Of War.

For Wahlberg, Max Payne represented a chance to get back to his first love: taking names and kicking butt.

"I just played a science teacher in The Happening. I played an accountant in [the upcoming] Lovely Bones. It was time for me to go back and do what I think best suits me, which is busting some heads and having some fun. Kicking some ass on the bad guys."

Now that he's a 37-year-old father of three, Wahlberg says action movies represent a different kind of challenge for him than they did in the past.

"The toughest part for me was keeping up the mystery and the façade that I'm actually tough and cool and that I can go and do all this action stuff and that it doesn't hurt and that I'm not scared," he says with a laugh.

"I'm not the thrill seeker that I used to be, having three children now. [Co-star] Chris ["Ludacris" Bridges] told me, 'I have to get this new motorcycle.' I said, 'Man, I gave all of my motorcycles away.'

"No more jumping out of planes or off of buildings or any of that stuff anymore. In between movies I tell everyone to wrap me up in cellophane so that nothing happens because I want to be able to play with my kids. "

While he claims not to be much of a gamer, Wahlberg doesn't hesitate a second when asked to name his favorite video diversion.”I love Sega Hockey '92/'93," he says. "That's when it still had the fighting and the guys falling down with blood spilling out of their heads."

Wahlberg sends out mixed signals when quizzed about a recent Saturday Night Live skit called “Mark Wahlberg Talks to Animals" which cast Andy Samberg as Wahlberg. In the sketch, Samberg talks somewhat nonsensically to a dog, a goat, a chicken and a donkey.

At first, Wahlberg admits, he thought, "What's going on here? I'm a father now. I've got three kids. Come on, give me a break."

But, he says, he's adjusting to the ribbing. "You know what? It's flattering. It obviously wasn't as funny as the Tiny Fey/Sarah Palin stuff. Maybe it's a little jab because I've refused to do the show so many times. It was funny. 'Say hi to your mother for me' is my new catchphrase even though I've never really said that before. I'll take it and run with it."

Wahlberg will next be seen in the Peter Jackson-directed Lovely Bones, playing the father of a murder victim whose suspicions about the killer nearly drive him insane. Weeks before filming, Ryan Gosling dropped out of the project, making way for Wahlberg.

"Being a last minute [choice] was fine with me," says Wahlberg. "The only thing that I was worried about was dealing with the subject matter and having to go to that place emotionally.

"That's why Max Payne was such a great release afterwards because the other side of me would want to go out and wreck havoc on whomever was responsible. I got to do that in Max Payne."

As for working with Jackson, Wahlberg has nothing but good news to report.

"I've always wanted to direct…but I don't think that I can do what Peter Jackson can do," he says. "I don't think that I'll ever get there but working with Peter was the most amazing experience of my career."

If Max Payne scores big at the box-office, get ready for Wahlberg to re-arm himself for the follow-up.

"We've already talked about it," he says. "My whole thing is that if we can make it better than the first, then let's do it. The other thing is that I really love when [my] character takes that little blue drug.

"So if we can have Max crazy the whole time in the sequel, that'd be another thing that would definitely appeal to me."


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