How Mark Wahlberg, director Peter Berg feel the responsibility of 'Patriots Day'


How Mark Wahlberg, director Peter Berg feel the responsibility of 'Patriots Day'
  1. How Mark Wahlberg, director Peter Berg feel the responsibility of 'Patriots Day'
    ocregister.com
    When two homegrown terrorists set off bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, Mark Wahlberg knew what he had to do. “It was just, get to Boston as quickly as we can,” says the movie star, who grew up with his eig…
    TV&Movies

When two homegrown terrorists set off bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, Mark Wahlberg knew what he had to do.

“It was just, get to Boston as quickly as we can,” says the movie star, who grew up with his eight older siblings in the city’s tough Dorchester neighborhood. “I got to Boston the next day, and obviously I’d never seen the city like that. It was pretty much deserted by that time and it was just such an eerie feeling.”

Wahlberg’s relatives were safe, but much of eastern Massachusetts was on lockdown as the four-day hunt for the bombers, brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, unfolded. Just about every Bostonian was impacted far beyond that by the tragedy, which killed three and injured 264 and, later, cost MIT security officer Sean Collier and Tamerlan Tsarnaev their lives.

“It’s such a small community, everybody knew somebody who was directly affected,” Wahlberg notes. “People who lived three or four streets down, neighbors of my siblings were directly affected. Then, of course, once I went back and started to talk about telling this story and talking to everybody, it was like you know him and he knows you and you went to school with this one, he worked with your sister.”

Wahlberg was reluctant to get involved with a marathon bombing movie initially, but eventually figured someone else would do it if he didn’t. So with Peter Berg, who’d directed the actor-producer in two other movies about deadly real-life events, the 2013 Afghan War film “Lone Survivor” and last September’s oil rig explosion docudrama “Deepwater Horizon,” he set out to make the most personally significant film of his career, “Patriots Day,” which opens Friday.

“We had to do it right, we couldn’t leave it up to somebody else,” Wahlberg states. “We were certainly concerned with how they would handle it, with the right level of respect and sensitivity. And then, when we thought about what the movie was about – love and hope – y’know, it’s the complete opposite of being too soon, it’s really not soon enough. We needed to get that message out there.”

One thing they didn’t do, though, was make a Mark Wahlberg movie. It’s an ensemble piece that juggles multiple storylines from at least a dozen key characters’ points of view. Almost all of them are based on real people, although Wahlberg’s role, Boston police Sgt. Tommy Saunders, is a fictionalized composite.

The vast cast includes John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, James Colby, Michael Beach and Vincent Curatola as various city, state and FBI officials who oversaw the post-bombing investigation; J.K. Simmons as Sgt. Jeffrey Pugliese from the nearby Watertown Department, who exchanged fire with and physically tackled an escaping Tamerlan; Jake Picking as Collier, who was shot in his patrol car by the Tsarnaevs; “Silicon Valley’s” Jimmy O. Yang as Dun Weng, the young Chinese tech businessman who escaped after being carjacked by the brothers and phoned in the key clue that stopped them; Rachel Brosnahan and Christopher O’Shea as Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes, newlyweds who both lost legs in the bombing; and Themo Melikidze and Alex Wolff as Tamerlan and his younger brother Dzhokhar, with TV “Supergirl” Melissa Benoist as Tamerlan’s Muslim convert wife, Katherine Russell.

Mostly shot in an unshowy handheld style and cut like a multi-pronged police procedural, “Patriots Day” brings the viewer close-in to the variously unfolding plot threads. It must have been a hell of a thing to plan, shoot and balance, but don’t expect the filmmakers to tell you what a tough time they had.

“I don’t mean this to sound like I’m evading the question, but the reality is that when I went to Boston and started meeting the real people, some of whom were blown up and have no legs, to see their spirit and grit and courage and knowing what they went through, nothing really felt like a big challenge,” Berg says. “Nothing felt rough. The biggest challenge was capturing the reality of what they went through in a way that, after they saw the film, they would nod and give you a thumbs up.”

Wahlberg took New Yorker Berg on tours of Dorchester and Greater Boston as pre-production commenced, to help his collaborator get a deeper feeling for the city and its people.

“After my experience with Pete on ‘Lone Survivor’ and ‘Deepwater,’ I couldn’t imagine making this movie with anybody else,” Wahlberg says. “The biggest reason is how much Pete cares, in that he’s always willing to go to any extent to make people feel comfortable. He walks them through the process and can really communicate to them, understands how important it is to communicate what our intentions are.”

That sensitivity extended to the physical production as well. Some of “Patriots Day” was shot on the locations where the actual events occurred, and some who had run in or were spectators of the 2013 Marathon played extras in the movie’s recreation of it. But sensitivity dictated that filming the Boylston Street bombing took place in South Weymouth, where the bloody scene was meticulously restaged.

Which isn’t to say that there wasn’t a resilient sense of Boston Strong from the movie’s start.

“Whenever I talked…

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