Mark Wahlberg has played lethal hitmen, deadly snipers, intimidating cops, crusty sailors, hair-triggered soldiers and a championship boxer but in the new comedy “Ted,” he plays a pot-head who ends up on the wrong side of a brawl with his best friend, a stuffed bear.
What was your best Christmas present?
One Christmas, when I was a little boy, I got a brand new bike. I convinced my parents and my brother that I already knew how to ride a bike. It was a really cold Christmas morning in Boston. They took me outside with my new bike and I was so excited. I got on the bike and they started pushing me. So, I’m going down the hill riding the bike but I had never ridden a bike before and I didn’t know how to stop. I ended up going over the curb and crashing into the chimney of someone’s house. After that, my brother was nice enough to put training wheels on the bike and I learned to ride over the next few months.
What did you first think of the idea behind TED?
When I first heard the original concept they told me the story was about this guy and his teddy bear that comes to life and the teddy bear starts running around acting crazy. I thought it wasn’t for me. Then I read the script and completely forgot about the whole teddy bear aspect and just thought it was a great relationship and friendship story.
Do you have the same sense of humor as Seth MacFarlane (Director?
We have a similar sense of humor. His is a little more sophisticated and mine is more street.
What do you like about Seth?
Seth is the smartest and probably the funniest person I’ve ever met. He’s also a really likeable guy. Coming into the comedy world, aside from Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, I’ve met a lot of people and some of them seem to have this kind of dark side to them, even though they appear to be very funny on TV or in movies. Seth is a very sweet, likeable guy and his humor comes from a nice place even though it might be offensive at times to certain people. He‘s not trying to offend. He just doesn‘t think there are any rules or boundaries.
Growing up with such a large family, you probably never had to outsource for friends. Do you have any buddy friends from when you were a little boy?
I held on to my friends for as long as I could until my wife said, “Look, these guys can’t move into the new house with us and the baby.” I was always hanging around with my friends. We were like Ted and John. We always hung out and were a little bit of a bad influence on each other but we always loved each other and had that bond. All guys want to hang out with their friends and want to hold on to that little bit of adolescence that guys enjoy. I share that a lot now with my two sons. We go crazy!
Do men ever totally grow up? Is there always a little boy in there?
Sometime you meet kids and they already seem very adult. I think it depends on the person. I think more than less, yes, a lot of guys have that characteristic.
You’ve had a lot of ups and downs in your life. What is the one thing that you kept with you the entire time?
Despite the fact that my parents had to go out and work really hard to provide for us, I was raised right. I always knew in the back of my mind what the right thing was. It doesn’t always mean I made the right decisions though.
Was it hard working with the teddy bear?
It was at first but then I started to appreciate that I didn’t have to deal with any other actors.
How difficult was the fight sequence?
That was just me flailing around, looking ridiculous and feeling embarrassed about it but I trusted Seth. Everything I do I try to make as realistic as possible. It felt so false when I was doing it but people love that scene.
You have a house full of teddy bears because of your kids. Have you started to look at them differently now?
I had bought this big teddy bear from a furniture store for my wife and it was always in our bedroom. I also had the smaller one for my kids. We’d had the bear for a while, so when I started shooting this movie, I took the bear with me to Boston and it sat in my hotel room. We’d be sitting there reading lines and every once in a while I’d glance over at it.
What did you wish for as a kid?
I wanted to be a professional athlete. I used to play basketball in the schoolyard.
What do you say to your kids when they ask to see TED, dad’s movie with the teddy bear?
They see the posters all over town and they ask, “Oh daddy, we can see that one right?” And I say, “No.” I put my son to sleep last night telling him the story of TED, obviously the G-rated version of the story.
You grew up with very little money. Is it a different set of problems raising children now that the opposite is true?
Our children still have to work hard for things that they want. My wife likes to make Christmas, birthdays and the holidays very special but they’ve got to work hard to earn things. The most important thing that I can give them is good values.
You’re a family man now. Do you miss hanging out with your guy friends?
When I’m on the set working, I have friends working with me and we have enough time to shoot the breeze and do that whole thing while we‘re on set. But, no, I don‘t miss it. It usually led to trouble.
How did you sing so badly at the Norah Jones concert in the film?
It’s pretty easy to sing badly. Believe me. It didn’t take a lot for the audience to start booing me. Thousands of people came out.
Your character, John, is forced to grow up when he meets the right woman. Was it the same for you?
When I met my wife, I was living in an apartment with five of my friends. Then we started dating and when I was buying a new house, all my friends were walking around the house and picking out their rooms. I told them, “You guys can’t move in on this one!” I kept the other apartment for four months so that they could stay there and get their things sorted out. I did have one room in the new house where I had six sets of bunk beds, like army barracks, and I said “If we hang out and you stay overnight, you can stay in the barracks.” I didn’t want them to get too comfortable.
In TED, FLASH GORDON is John’s favorite film. What was your favorite movie growing up?
ROCKY was pretty big with me as a kid. I’ve met Sylvester Stallone a bunch of times. The first movie I ever saw in the theatre was the one that had the biggest impact on me and that was HARD TIMES, with Charles Bronson. I wasn’t even in school yet. My dad drove a truck and he’d be home early in the afternoon to take me to the movies all the time.
Ted is a fairly bad influence as a roommate. What was the worst roommate situation you’ve ever had?
They’ve all been pretty bad. I had one great roommate, the real Johnny Drama, because he could cook and clean. He did it all. The house was always spotless and he was always making breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Did you enjoy being back in your hometown of Boston shooting TED?
I love Boston but if I wanted to be in Boston, I would live there. I live in L.A. I like the weather here.
You have that great scene where you rattle off a string of girls’ names. Have you ever dated anyone with any of those names?
A couple. There were 57-names in that line! My wife did ask why I didn’t mention her name.
What drives you? Is there anything you still want to achieve?
There’s plenty that I want to achieve and accomplish. I’m still as hungry and focused as I was the day I started, maybe even more so because I’m more disciplined now. All the days of partying and drinking and smoking are well behind me, so I’m even more focused. I don’t know what it is that makes me more focused, whether it’s where I came from or the possibility of going back there.
I just finished the Michael Bay movie, PAIN AND GAIN. Then Denzel Washington and I start on 2 GUNS in New Orleans.
“TED” is released and distributed by United International Pictures through Solar Entertainment Crop.
Showing on October 4, 2012. Nationwide