Into Uncharted territory with Mark Wahlberg
Mark Wahlberg opens up about playing mentor to Tom Holland’s character in Uncharted; filming around the world, and what he feels about video games
When the Uncharted franchise took the gaming world by storm a decade ago, it was because perhaps for the first time, a video game felt like a film, not for a moment compromising on the ambition and scale of a big-budget adventure. The protagonist, Nate, shot adversaries from ships; clung to aeroplanes, and rose from oceans… you get the drift. Over the last decade, video game adaptations have really come into their own. We have seen everything from Tomb Raider to Mortal Kombat to Assassin’s Creed… and it’s rather astonishing that we have had to wait this long for an Uncharted adaptation, given how its material lends itself to the cinematic medium. The truth is that an adaptation has been in the making for a long time now. A release date was originally announced in 2016, and here we are in 2022, finally about to see the film come to life. Mark Wahlberg, who was to play the protagonist, Nathan Drake, has, during this period, aged into the role of his mentor figure, Victor ‘Sully’ Sullivan.
The actor, speaking in this exclusive conversation with us, laughs when I point this out. He believes, in fact, that the delay benefitted the film. “There are always going to be pros and cons. I think the delay might be perceived as a negative by fans of Uncharted who have probably gravitated away from the game over the years…” he reflects. “However, it’s crucial that in making such an adaptation, we get all the details right. And I think that this delay has helped the film become better.” To this end, characters have been made younger. “I think we have taken some creative liberty with the material, in order to make the most of the stories within the game that people are so fond of. All the changes have been done to satisfy them, but I think they are all done in a way to make the film accessible for new audiences. In fact, I don’t think it’s necessary at all to have played the game to enjoy this film.”
Mark Wahlberg is no newbie to the world of game adaptations, having previously featured in Max Payne more than a decade ago. He remembers that film as an experiment in a way. “We took a swing with that. I think the character was edgy and that really appealed to me.” He sees this adaptation as being more ‘cinematic’, and this is a word he mentions several times in the conversation. “There’s some great storytelling here, and I think audiences will enjoy the cinematic appeal of it all.” A parent of four, Mark Wahlberg also has some views on video games, which have often been at the centre of a big debate over their possible detrimental effect on children. “I think it all depends…” begins Wahlberg. “There’s a time and place for everything. During the pandemic, with my children being unable to go to school and meet friends, I think video games were a source of healthy distraction and kept them occupied.” However, once school returned and when he tried to take the habit away, he noticed that the children suffered from some withdrawal. “Yes, it was a small problem when we tried to peel them away from it,” he says. “As I said, there’s really a time and place for everything, and that includes video games as well.”
An occupational reward of featuring in adventure films like Uncharted is that actors get to travel around the world. For this film, the list of cities Wahlberg traveled to include Barcelona, Paris, Rome, Singapore, and Agra… I ask him his favorite destination and tell him not to let the pressure of speaking with an Indian journalist affect his decision. He laughs. “I’ll have to say Barcelona,” he says. However, considering that a vast part of the shooting took place amid the pandemic, the cast was not quite at liberty to explore these destinations. “For that reason, it was a rather bittersweet experience. I wasn’t really able to experience these places. In Barcelona, for instance, I remember sitting in the hotel and gazing at the boardwalk and the beach through the window. It was an enticing visual, but I’m not really sure I can say that I enjoyed the place.”
This globe-trotting action-adventure contains many action set-pieces, and Mark Wahlberg, of course, has done his fair share of stunt sequences over the years. “Thirty years of it,” he says, and goes on to admit that action scenes have taken a toll on him. “At my age, after enduring my share of bumps and bruises for over 30 years, it’s a bit of a burden now. But hey, as Sully, the mentor of Nate (played by Tom Holland), I don’t think I had to do as much physical work as him.” Sully barks orders, while Nate, as Wahlberg puts it, ‘does the heavy-lifting and the dirty work’. In fact, in the trailer of the film, a striking visual has Tom Holland standing at the edge of a helicopter, with Wahlberg behind him and seemingly egging him on. “That paints a picture, doesn’t it? He’s hanging by the side of a helicopter and I’m in the cockpit, telling him what to do.”
The chemistry with Tom Holland is “amazing”, he says. Over the years, Tom has acquired notoriety for giving away spoilers in promotional interviews, and Marvel executives have sometimes had to assign senior actors to tag along with him, with the responsibilities of making sure Holland doesn’t give away too much. Did Wahlberg have any such chaperoning duties? “I think Tom only did that (divulging sensitive information) with Spider-Man,” the actor says, laughing. “That was definitely not the case with Uncharted.” With Tom Holland being famous for playing Spider-Man and Wahlberg, a well-known friend of Tobey Maguire (who originally played Spider-Man), I ask which among the three — Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Holland — is his favourite Spider-Man. Wahlberg finds the comparison hard, as he believes that the Spider-Man franchise has changed a lot over the years. “It’s the property of all the different filmmakers who have worked on it,” he begins. However, Wahlberg is a sport and goes on to think aloud: “You know, I have known Tobey Maguire since he was young. But I would have to pick Tom Holland because he’s my co-star in this film, and more importantly, like a little brother to me. So, yes, I’ll say he is my favourite. I’ll have to support him.”
It’s similar support—psychologically and physically—that Wahlberg’s character offers Tom’s Nate in the upcoming Uncharted film that releases today.