"I never said that," Hughes said.
"You did, and so I had to get skinny for you, Allen. I literally went from 185 to 165 by the time I finished this movie, then the next movie I'm in, 'Pain & Gain,' started and I had to get up to 212, I had to get as big as possible. Then I had a month to lose it and get back to 180 to do this other movie with Denzel, '2 Guns.'"
Hughes sat and said, "Look, what I said was you looked ..."
"OK, Allen! And then three weeks later, Allen, I was in Navy SEAL training for a different movie, Allen, with real Navy SEALs who — these guys don't give a (expletive) about Hollywood or nothing. You go in, say your back hurts, these guys don't care. That was the most physically demanding of (all the upcoming movies). I was down to 170. But to go back to my silent thing: The character actors I grew up liking, there was always something going on up there" — he waved his hands around his head — "you were always watching wheels turn in their heads, and I think actors, they like to hide behind big flashy personas and I just don't." He said that he approaches every new role the same way: "This is real, even when it's a talking teddy bear."
Do you make lists, we asked Wahlberg, randomly. You an organized guy?
He stopped, intrigued. "I am," he said, hesitating. "I do make lists. Makes my wife crazy."
"You ever heard of a guy who reads the entire script of a movie twice a day, every day?" Hughes asked.
"He's right, I do," Wahlberg said. "I like a routine. I have four kids. I'm up at 4:30 a.m. I have the workout, have the meal, take (the kids) to school. I'm in my office, reading my script out loud. At least twice a day. I want to be prepared. I want to know the whole entire script beginning to end before I get on the set. I don't ever want to be the guy who shows up not prepared. Two weeks before one movie is over I start thumbing through the next script. I'm being paid. It's my job. I have to be professional. But you know who outdid me?"
"Who?" Hughes asked.
"Denzel. We had this scene where I'm watching him in an apartment and I have to talk him through this thing and get him out of there. So I'm doing my lines, then they do my coverage of me watching Denzel. So I said, 'Denzel, you don't have to do this, Denzel. We're going to be here all day.' And he said, 'It's my job.'"
"No (expletive.). Denzel just stood there all day off camera."
Wahlberg is 41. Hughes is 40. Both found breakout success in the early 1990s: Wahlberg as Marky Mark, leader of the Funky Bunch, an edgeless hip-hop act that scored a No. 1 single in 1991 with "Good Vibrations"; Hughes as co-director (with his brother Albert) of the indie gangster drama "Menace II Society." They lived youths of excess: Wahlberg's is very loosely accounted in his old HBO series "Entourage," on which he was executive producer; Hughes' was spent "smoking weed and buying boats," he said.
But Hughes' career sputtered even as Wahlberg's acting steadily took on a recognizable shape.
"There was something interesting in Mark as he did the transition from music to movies," Hughes said. "You could tell as an actor this guy had experienced things, which is rare in a movie star. You could see it in his eyes. It gave him this underdog feel, this Steve McQueen thing, even though he's pretty scrappy in real life."
Wahlberg stared off into the distance as Hughes talked, then we asked: Your dad a short guy?
Wahlberg laughed: "Yeah. Short, stocky, the kind of guy who could handle himself in a fistfight. I grew up watching movies in Boston theaters with my dad. First movie, 'Hard Times' with Charles Bronson."
"My dad took me to movies," Hughes said. "He took us to the famous Fox Theatre (in Detroit) to see this Bruce Lee movie, and he was notorious for being like borderline narcoleptic, so he passes out like right away, and it turns out the movie was actually 'All That Jazz' from Bob Fosse." Wahlberg throws his hands in the air and wiggles his fingers in a show of spontaneous jazz hands. Hughes continues: "And people are trying to nudge him awake because there's these kids in the theater next to this man watching all these (naked body parts)."
"You know," Wahlberg said, "I remember seeing 'Menace II Society' with a rowdy Times Square audience."
"40s rolling down aisles ..."
"Didn't have an experience like that again until 'Borat,' which I saw with college kids, and they're screaming during the 'Apocalypto' trailer. Like (expletive) crazy (expletive), though 'Ted' in Amsterdam was epic too."
"Hey!" Hughes said.
"What?" Wahlberg asked.
"I should have been there!"
"Yeah, well," Wahlberg said, leaning back, "it was epic." His phone rang. He leaned forward and pressed "answer." "Hey," he said, "Hey. Yeah. No. I'm at work. No. I don't know. I'm doing an interview right now. I'll call you in a hour? OK? OK. Bye." He clicked off the phone and sat back. "My wife says hello," he said.