By Tim Nasson
Gloucester, MA — “We kissed each other,” says Mark Wahlberg, referring to a love scene between himself and co-star George Clooney, “but Wolfgang Petersen [the director] cut it out of the final version.” No way, I said, in disbelief. “Actually, I’m kidding,” laughed Wahlberg. “But it does look like there was some heavy editing going on and that we had indeed kissed, or more.”
What Wahlberg is talking about is a scene towards the end of the film, The Perfect Storm, in which he and George Clooney share a personal moment together, at what quite possibly could be their last minutes alive.
On Halloween of 1991, Boston TV meteorologist Todd Gross proclaimed to the world that he spotted on radar what one would call the perfect storm; three raging weather fronts which unexpectedly collide to produce the greatest, fiercest storm ever recorded.
While there are hundreds of storms recorded in the Atlantic each year, many greater than others, there are also hundreds of films released each year, each trying to muster up enough of a storm at the box office to become the perfect film. If one film has the chance to do so this summer, The Perfect Storm is the one to beat.
With a budget of over $100 million and a cast that will magnetically attract millions of moviegoers, along with a director who knows what the definition of box office gold is (Peterson has directed among other films, Air Force One, and In the Line of Fire), The Perfect Storm blew into theaters June 30, and not very quietly.
Nearly one year ago, I took the drive to Gloucester to see the cast prepare to shoot the opening scenes of the film. It’s hard to believe that a year has gone by and that the film is ready for public consumption. I went back to the site where The Perfect Storm was filmed recently to speak with all of the major players and to get a little behind-the-scenes look at how the Coast Guard actually tried to rescue the crew of the doomed fishing vessel, The Andrea Gail.
“I had said for a long time that I would never play a Boston-bred character,” says Mark ( y Mark ) Wahlberg, who, of course, began his career as the lead singer of the early ’90s group ‘Marky Mark & the Funky Bunch.’ “I didn’t want to play the stereotypical role, you know, the tough kid, Boston accent, blah, blah, blah.” But, obviously, something changed his mind. “Seeing that I am from Boston, I was vaguely familiar with the story when it happened. Then the book came out and damn. That’s all people were talking about. Since I was familiar with the story and realized who was attached to the film, deciding to take the part was a no brainer.” Wahlberg exclaims that if he had not been a singer and then an actor he would have been a blue-collar type of guy like his father who works for the state of Massachusetts highway department.
George Clooney, Wahlberg’s big brother, of sorts, explains how Wahlberg got the role. “Having worked with Mark in Three Kings, I sent Wolfgang a tape and explained to him that I thought that Mark was perfect for the movie. After taking a look at some scenes from Three Kings, he agreed that we worked well together and hired him on the spot.” That was after contemplating Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, among many other young actors.
Ironically, Nicolas Cage was the first choice to play the Clooney character in The Perfect Storm. “I thought he knew how to carry himself well in a dark role,” says Petersen, who began his career directing in the late 1970s with the gay foreign film The Consequence. However, Cage had another idea. “He decided he wanted to do Gone In 60 Seconds, instead of The Perfect Storm,” adds Petersen, laughing, as if, how dare he choose that popcorn film over The Perfect Storm.
Petersen’s next choice for the lead was not Clooney, rather Mel Gibson. But Gibson had a prior commitment, too, The Patriot. “Mel told me that perhaps he could work something out and do both films but after thinking about it for a day or so I decided I’d rather save millions (over 50, to be exact) of dollars and go with George who is a name, maybe not as big, but a convincing actor in the role. And it worked out perfectly because without him I never would have looked at Mark Wahlberg.”
As it happens, The Perfect Storm and The Patriot are going head to head, opening on the same weekend. “I’m not worried, at all,” says Petersen.
“I know that my film has all of the elements to attract not only a big audience the first weekend but it is the type of film that I think will remain in theaters for a long, long time.”
While working on The Perfect Storm, Clooney let it be known to me that Wahlberg was not good at keeping his insides inside. “Mark might tell you that he had food poisoning,” says Clooney, “as his excuse for puking nonstop during the shoot one week but I’m gonna tell you that it was not food poisoning and just his queasy stomach.”
“Bull****,” says Wahlberg later in the day, when I asked him about the vomiting. “I swear I had food poisoning. George is such an ass,” he says, cracking up. Clooney is known for his pranking and joking around on the set and in his personal life. One incident is so vile that it is best left to be heard on Howard Stern’s television show.
When asked whether profiting off of the story of the tragedy at sea was something that any of them considered before signing on, they all had something to say. “First of all, without Sebastian Junger’s, amazing account of the crew of The Andrea Gail, no one would have ever had the opportunity to bring this story to millions of moviegoers. Having said that,” says Petersen, “I have to say, look at Saving Private Ryan or Schindler’s List or hundreds of other films based on fact, tragical fact.”
Clooney was quick to point out that “it is tougher to make a movie based on a tragedy when it is relatively recent, but this, The Perfect Storm, does not trivialize the tragedy and perhaps will bring closure to the families who lost loved ones in the sea.”
Next up for Clooney? Another film with Wahlberg, of course. The remake of Oceans Eleven, which will also star none other than Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt and will be directed by Erin Brokovich’s Steven Soderbergh.
George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg talk to Tim Nasson about The Perfect Storm