INT: Donnie Wahlberg

JoBlo.com/AITH interviews Donnie Wahlberg


We got to talk to Donnie Wahlberg on the DEAD SILENCE set. This is the second time that he hangs tough as a Detective in a Twisted Picture/James Wan related project (The first being SAW II). Was it the same type of role? The same type of on set experience? Donnie tells all...step by step...

So you play a detective in this picture also?

Um... [pause] Yeah. [laugh] Yeah.

Like in Saw 2, where you also play a detective, also. Is this a similar part for you?

Well, that was the first thing my agent said when she got the script for this. She said, "Well, its a detective again, in kind of a genre film," and I said, well, let me see it. Let me look at it, and its completely different its... Saw 2 is a completely different animal from the first film, and this is almost more of a period film, almost feels more like a seventies film.. Like a Rosemary's Baby. You know what I mean?

It feels like a more classic film from a different era, where Saw 2 is more like Saw, a modern day-fast paced new way of making a horror film. I think that's why it appeals to so many young people, Saw and Saw 2, I think, because of the pace of it. Which, this movie Silence, is a completely different thing. Completely different character. My character in Silence is, while he is a detective and he is investigating the case at the center of the film, its really a much more fun character than what I did in Saw 2.

I got to really sort of stretch out and try some fun things with him, and James, having watched me on the set of Saw, sort of built up a lot of confidence in the relationship and he really trusts me out there so he just said go, man, go have a great time, do whatever you want and make it fun, and his sort of role with me, it sorta is the real me and every now and then its like- It is a detective, and it'd be easy to say, "Well, he just did that in a horror movie, why is he doing it again?", but its such a fun character, and I think if you see both films you'll see it. They don't look the same, they don't talk the same, they don't walk the same, they don't act the same, they don't even think the same, they're just completely different and I've found this:

Some people might say that you've played a detective in a horror movie, that's kind of a safe choice. It's actually more of a risk, because I had to create a character, and I want to distinguish the two, so it gave me a chance to do what I've always done, to kind of disappear into a character. I think- I don't know how the outside world views my career, but I've always tried to shape my characters and surprise people, so they say "Oh, wow. I didn't know that was him" or "Wow, that's different": and this film definitely gave me a chance to do that, so that's what really pulled me into it.

What kind of fun things did you get to do?

Really, whatever I wanted within the framework of the scene. It's just - I don't want to say my character is the comic relief in the film, but he's in a different mindset than the rest of the people. The movie starts in a big city then moves to a small town.

And a small town where people sort of share certain beliefs. My character is sort of jaded, he's seen it all, he doesn't buy into it. So while the rest of the film is moving at one speed, my guy is moving at a completely different speed and while the rest of the characters in the film are on an emotional track that's to the right, my guy is to the left.

He just doesn't buy it. Something about it intrigues him, but he doesn't really buy it, he's not going to allow himself to be seduced into this emotional state that the rest of the cast is in. If he does that, he won't be able to do his job properly, so anywhere from that's left of center's mine, I own it. My character owns it, so I explore it all. Some people might handle a piece of evidence really delicately in this film, I won't. I'm not afraid of the consequences.

Is he a cynic?

Yeah, yeah. A bit of a cynic, sure. But a curious one.

Where does he come from?

I don't know where anyone in the film comes from.

The small town?

No, he's from the big city. The main character, Jamie, lives in the city but comes from a small town, and when this tragedy befalls him, he goes back to the small town and I follow him to investigate.

And do you have scary scenes in the movie, do you interact with ghosts and dummies or anything like that?

I'm not really sure, I get to interact a little bit. One of the things I also like about the film is that- The film Magic, for example, really... I was really emotionally scarred from that. I had the sense that when I read the script, I said, "I don't think its just me that feels that way. I think a lot of people don't like these dummies because of this movie." I said to him [James], "This will be like a whole new generation of people that get to be scarred the same way." I do get to do a little, though its not really in the most scary way, but it still scary to me.

Having done cheap horror movies back to back, do you notice a difference in doing horror movies with bigger budgets, closer to like Saw 2?

I don't know if there's a difference in that its a horror movie with a big budget, but I notice a difference immediately in a film with a big budget compared to a small budget. On Saw 2, it was just like bam, bam, bam all day long. You fly by the seat of your pants a lot more, and you can improvise a little more, which seems contradictory, because if you have a tight budget you have to keep it tight, but you can actually...

Those shots are less planned out, there's not really storyboards, I don't think they hire storyboard artists on a low budget film, but I think my first day on Silence having been around Saw 2 and the Saw gang, Leigh was around and James was around and Darren [Bousman], the director of Saw 2 and Gregg Hoffman and all the producers.

Having been around those guys for so long, my first day on Silence, there's this massive crane shot and they've got two cameras going at the same time and there's the smog and they're in this graveyard, this really beautiful shot and I was like "WOW!" I forgot what bigger budget film making was like, you know, you just forget, and you think its all guerrilla shooting the whole time, like "All right, let's set up the camera, let's shoot, quick!" and the lighting is kinda ragtag and all that.

There's a difference, its a lot slower obviously, on a big budget film. Its like those, I don't know if they have those up here, but the electrical meters on the side of your house. There's like one little circle that goes fast and one that goes slow and one that crawls. To me, that's like a money meter and on a small budget film it moves real fast and that's how fast your money goes away.

And on a bigger budget film it goes slow and its like they try to waste a couple hundred thousand dollars every day. It's like, "Let's take an hour to set up those lights, let's just spend another 100 grands right here." It really is. When I did Dreamcatcher, man, we must've done a quarter a page of material a day. It was insane. I remember I sat in my trailer after four hours of make up for five days in a row and never walked on set. Not once. Not once.

Then you figure, "Damn, when I go to set, its going to be nutty up there, Larry Kasdan's gonna be screaming and people are going to be fighting and you get up to set and they're all telling jokes and stuff. "Yeah, hey it's another ten million, we're going to shoot today" It's pretty funny. But they both work, they both work. It's a nice reward after Saw 2, believe me. One thing, though, I don't know if this is right, if James or anyone would agree, but I think Saw 2 is more of a horror movie and Silence is slightly different.

I don't feel like I'm making a horror movie, I feel like I'm making a period film, more of a ghost story, more of a... I don't know what the word is to really describe it, but it just- It's a little less of a horror movie. I think horror movies have a certain stigma to them. Saw 2 is a horror movie, and its a great horror movie, but Silence is much more of a traditional film, like from that era of the '70s and stuff. It's really nice, But scary.

Like a thriller?

I don't know, maybe you could call it a thriller, I don't know. I think people associate 'thriller' with anything now, Will Smith makes thrillers, you know? Die Hard was a thriller, wasn't it? They call it "high concept", those films, right?

What about the other Bruce Willis film, The Sixth Sense? More like that?

I think it is more like that. Less of a- People think horror movies nowadays, they think Freddy vs. Jason, you know what I mean? I think whatever you would call The Sixth Sense, I think Silence is more in that vein.

How would you differentiate working with Darren and James Wan?

Sort of the way I described the budget is sort of the way Darren moves, frenetic, crazy, young... but fun. Willing to take chances, but he's just a first timer. You can see it in good ways and bad ways. That's not to say he wasn't a good director, he really did a great job on the film, but you could just see his inexperience. For me it was kind of fun, cause I kind of felt like a veteran, you know. For one of the first times I was like, "Wow, I'm kind of like the wily old veteran here. I've worked with guys like Pete Postlewaite and all these great actors, and now I'm sitting around in my chair with my newspaper, and the director's kinda pulling his hair out.

 And I'm saying, "If you just do that, we'll be fine". And he's like, "Okay" and then we do it and it works and the director's like "Wow!" It's kind of like how Bruce Willis was on The Sixth Sense, here I am lost 40 pounds and ready to keel over and die, and he's just sitting there, you know, "Just hit that mark and it'll be great". [laughter] The experience is so wonderful, so great, and that's how I felt working with Darren. I recognized his greenness but I got in touch with my own experience, which is pretty cool. James is..

James is completely different, he works with a different pace, he has this way, its such a funny thing. He has some of these shots and he sees them in his head before you even get to set, and has this way of, if you throw too much of a curve ball at him, an idea, but he gives you this look like you asked him to eat a fart or something. It's such a weird look. But he has such a clear vision, he knows what he wants, and if you present an idea to him that fits within the framework of that idea then he's all for it.

But if you don't it definitely takes him a minute to grasp what the hell you're talking about. Even if it's, "I just want to wear a white shirt instead of a green one," you know? If the white shirt is too far out for him, its like an alien question to him. But that said, he's awesome, too. Every director I've worked with has been completely different than the previous directors I've worked with, but for the most part they've all been pretty cool.

They've all taught me something new. Either by design or mistake, they sometimes teach us. Sometimes you see what they're doing wrong and you learn from it, but In this case, with these two guys, for them to be working so closely with one another, they're completely different. its fun.

Do you think its what you did in Saw 2, that they sought you out for this role?

Yeah, that is what happened, but for me it was kind of a two way street. For me, working with Saw 2, I built a good relationship with the producers and James was around, we all stayed in the same hotel, James was prepping Silence when we were shooting Saw 2, and the producers gave James a lot of reports and I guess I got good reports.

James and I got to talk, we'd see each other in the hotel, and I was a fan of Saw, so getting to know him and spend time with him and then work with the guys who would go from producing Saw 2 to producing Silence, was kind of like "Let's keep the ball rolling", you know? "C'mon back... Matter of fact, don't even leave Toronto." Matter of fact, I'm in the same hotel room. Not much has changed. Except the temperature, that's all that's changed.

How much time was between Saw 2 and Silence?

Maybe two weeks? I literally got off the plane in LA and turned my attention to a project I'm writing and the phone rang and they were like, "You want to go back to Toronto?" So I was like, "Send me the script" So...

What did you think about it when you read the script?

When I read the script... I was warned about the script before I got it. That it was a detective again and the same gang of guys and kinda the same genre, but I was surprised by the script. I was surprised how quickly I got to page 70. Usually, with scripts that aren't good, it takes a long time to get to page 70 because you have to go back and re-read, and go "What are they talking about here" and you have to backtrack 10 pages, "I don't understand what they're talking about here," you have to go back and catch up. But I felt that the script was moving along really nice and I also felt that it was just creepy. And I liked that.

I didn't read it through my character's eyes. I knew that they wanted me to play a certain character, but I read it through Jamie's eyes, the main character, and taking the journey through his eyes, which ordinarily I wouldn't do if I'm reading a script with a specific character in mind, but I read it through his eyes and I felt the creepiness of all these characters. Even my character is a little creepy and annoying, you know? I liked that.

I like that this guy is sort of on his own track, and he doesn't know where to turn, he doesn't know who he can trust, there's a danger out there, a real danger because obviously he's lost his wife, but there's something out there, and he doesn't know where its coming from and he can't find it and every person he bumps into is a really offbeat character and he sort of has to be on his toes at every turn because any one of these people could be involved, he never knows who or when he's going to find out. Sorry for the long winded answers, I just woke up.

Thanks to Donnie Wahlberg for the hefty yap-yap session.



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