Hero, villain lines blurred in ‘Broken City’

Irish-American actor Mark Wahlberg said he is cautious when adopting dialects for film roles since he has witnessed some excruciating imitations of the colorful Boston accent over the years.

The Dorchester, Mass., native plays a disgraced New York City cop-turned-private detective in the film “Broken City,” in theaters now.

Asked at a recent Manhattan press conference to detail the nuances between a Brooklyn accent and one from Bah-stan, Wahlberg told the inquiring reporter who’d attempted the latter: “That was a bad Boston accent. We’ll let it slide because it wasn’t as bad as half of the people on ‘The Departed.’ We’ll give you that.”

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He wondered aloud if that film’s two Massachusetts stars weren’t misleading the others. “What was crazy was Matt Damon and I were sitting there like, ‘We must sound so bad because everybody else either sounded like they were from somewhere else or like they’d been watching JFK videos.”

Noting how New York and Boston accents are “very different,” he explained, with a reference to his 2012 comedy hit: “I try to always do things very subtly. With the Boston accent, for instance, if you’re in ‘Ted,’ you can, obviously, push it a little bit. But I just try to do it very subtly. I think people can go over the top with many different things. And accents being the biggest one that, to me, kind of takes you out of the movie, so I didn’t want to push it too much.”

Directed by Allen Hughes and written by Brian Tucker, “Broken City” is a political thriller set against the backdrop of a contemporary New York City mayoral race. In the film, Wahlberg plays a police detective who loses his badge after killing a man acquitted of murder and rape. Jeffrey Wright plays the police commissioner who wants him fired, but not necessarily put behind bars, while Russell Crowe plays the mayor who hires him as a private investigator seven years later because he suspects his wife, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, is cheating on him in the midst of his re-election campaign. However, the Big Apple’s first couple isn’t what she and he seem to be and as the mystery unfolds, the lines between good and bad, hero and villain are blurred. The movie co-stars Barry Pepper as the mayor’s opponent and Kyle Chandler as his rival’s campaign manager.

“I’ve played New York City police officers on a number of occasions, so I have had time to spend with a lot of cops both in New York and Boston, but the script was so well-written and the characters were so juicy, it was like the writer really did most of the work,” Wahlberg told the Irish Echo at the press conference. “And being a producer on the film, as well, I was spending a lot more time with Allen and [casting director] Sheila Jaffe casting and getting everything else prepared. … You want to be particular about details. …

“Allen and I were talking about it a lot that we were making kind of a gangster movie with these characters -- whether politics or the police department was the backdrop,” Wahlberg added.

“I’ve played New York City police officers on a number of occasions, so I have had time to spend with a lot of cops both in New York and Boston, but the script was so well-written and the characters were so juicy, it was like the writer really did most of the work.”

The actor-producer – whose big-screen credits include “The Fighter,” “The Other Guys,” “The Perfect Storm” and “Boogie Nights” – said he enjoyed the freedom that came with making a film such as “Broken City,” which was financed outside the Hollywood studio system.

“Halfway through making the movie [Allen and I] were like: ‘There’s no studio telling us what we can and can’t do. We are literally here making our own movie. Doing what we want to do, how we want to do it.’ And that in itself is a miracle. And, obviously, doesn’t happen very often,” the Roman Catholic celebrity said of the movie, which is now being distributed by Twentieth Century Fox.

The 41-year-old married father of four children said he has gone through several physical transformations for his career in the past couple of years as he shot “Broken City,” “Pain & Gain,” “Two Guns” and “Lone Survivor” back-to-back.

Wahlberg then recalled how Hughes shamed him into working on his physique before the cameras started rolling in late 2011 on “Broken City.”

“I came into the production meetings and he was like, ‘What happened to you?” Wahlberg remembered. “I was like: ‘What do you mean? Nothing happened to me.’

“He was like: ‘Oh man. You gotta get your sexy on.’ I was like, ‘What?’ He said: ‘You know that slim, sexy look. What happened to that?’

“But I knew I was going to do the Michael Bay movie where I was playing a bodybuilder,” he said, referring to “Pain & Gain.” “So, I just wanted to kind of teeter somewhere in the middle at about 190 before I tried to get up to 210 or 215 pounds.”

“I call it the… sexy man look. His arms, he looked like Mike Tyson at the time,” Hughes, sitting beside Wahlberg, clarified.

“So, what’s wrong with that?” Wahlberg joked back. “So, I trimmed down to 165 just playing basketball, doing cardio high-impact workouts -- stuff like that and then, within the next 10 weeks or so, put on almost 50 pounds. Then I had to lose 35 pounds of it within 30 days of finishing the bodybuilding movie to do ‘Two Guns.’ Then I went to SEAL training after that. … Marcus Luttrell, who I play in the movie, was actually there. So, you couldn’t just say: ‘I’m tired. We can do some tomorrow.’ You had to basically just suck it up and get it done because we were really committed to making those guys proud and telling their story in the right way.”

Since Wahlberg was recently spotted by the media chatting up hip-hop mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs, he was asked if he is working on a revival of his own music career.

“No music in my future,” the performer formerly known as Marky Mark emphasized. “We do have a bunch of other things that we are working on and [Combs] is actively pursuing an acting career in film and television and we have some other business interests together. But we’ve been friends for a long time. We started out around the same time. … We’ve known each other forever, but, no, you won’t see me doing a record any time soon.”

“Broken City” is in theaters now.