Following Daddy's Home and its sequel, the latest collaboration between director Sean Anders and star Mark Wahlberg is Instant Family. Inspired by Anders' own life experiences, the film follows a couple (Wahlberg and Rose Byrne) who decide to adopt children and get more than they bargained for when they wind up with a teenage girl (Isabela Moner) and her two younger siblings (Julianna Gamiz and Gustavo Quiroz).
A heartwarming family comedy which balances exaggerated comic antics with genuinely sincere drama, Instant Family is shaping up to be a big hit for the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, and we recently sat down with Mark Wahlberg to talk about the film, his friendly relationships with many different directors, and how his own family influences his on-set demeanor. We also talked about his long-gestating adaptation, The Six Billion Dollar Man, as well as, as he called it, his steadily ticking "biological clock."
Instant Family is your third collaboration with director Sean Anders. What keeps you coming back?
I love working with him. We had a blast on Daddy's Home and Daddy's Home 2. To be a part of Instant Family... Ya know, it's not solely based on his life and experience, but it's pretty close. And it's based on other people that he's met, in and around the foster care system and adoption. But I just love working with the guy. He continues to grow and evolve as a filmmaker. And he's doing something different. I just made an action movie, so to be able to go and do a movie that's really funny and emotional, and about something like this, was a nice change of pace.
You have a versatility we maybe don't see in so many leading men these days, where you can do a very serious dramatic role, and a big action movie, but you're also unafraid to be a lovable goofball.
Yeah! Look, I'm 47 years old. I'm very serious about what I do, but I don't mind having fun and taking the piss, so... (laughs)
You strike me as the kind of actor that directors really like to work with. I've been looking at how many directors you've worked with multiple times. Michael Bay, Sean Anders, Peter Berg. What is your relationship to directors?
I'm there to service their vision. They know I'm gonna show up, I'm gonna be prepared, and I'm gonna deliver. That's my job, and I'm proud of the fact that I'm gonna show up and deliver. Ya know, if they go and hire you again, it's a pretty good sign that you're doing your job.
This movie has a great supporting cast behind you and Rose Byrne. Some of my favorite actors, like Margo Martindale and Julie Hagerty, which is funny after Ted and you had that homage to Airplane!
The great thing about it is that the script is really good, so it attracted the caliber of talent that's in the movie. Sheila Jaffe, who is the go-to casting director for us, she's been our close collaborator for quite some time, for film and television... She and Sean had never worked together, and when we started working on Instant Family, I was like, "Sean, I know you've got your go-to casting people, but I really think you should meet with Sheila. If you don't want to hire her, that's fine, but just meet with her. Sheila had also been adopted and she does a lot in that world, and they hit it off right away. Anytime I get to hang out around and work with talented people, I always try to take advantage of that.
Let's talk about Rose Byrne! Can you tell us a little about working with her?
Rose is a firecracker, man! She's super talented, super funny. Just genuinely funny, even off-camera. But there's something about her, she just likes to give me a hard time! I don't know if that's an Aussie thing, I don't know if it's a way to say "I like you," or maybe "I think you're an a**hole and I'm just gonna give you sh*t every day." (laughs) But either way, I like her quite a bit, so it's all good.
When you're working on a comedy versus working on something like The Fighter, do you feel the behind-the-scenes intensity changes depending on what you're shooting? Or does it not change?
I think it depends on what's going on in the world and in your world in real life. I remember, at times, doing this movie was difficult because there was a lot going on at home. I was in Atlanta, and I'd only had two weeks between movies. That was difficult for me. I was like, God... I wouldn't normally want to rush through the process so much to get it finished. I like making it last as long as possible, to really enjoy every moment. But having been away, and with so much going on... Real life can have an impact on how you feel, day to day. Just, like, ya know, what's going on in your life might affect your mood. Even though you're gonna talk to somebody you may be excited to talk to, you have other sh*t going on, so it's just like, you don't wanna deal with it, ya know?
If that was the case, it doesn't show in the movie. You look so jolly, like you're having a really good time.
It was all around a great experience, but I went home the second it was over. It's just hard being away, ya know? I've got a 15, 12, 10, and 8-year-old at home. And I have a wife, so...
I've been reading Burt Reynolds' memoirs, But Enough About Me, and he talks about you and shooting Boogie Nights. Going back, do you have anything you want to say about working with him on that movie?
He said I reminded him a lot of his son, which was really nice, and he certainly was a father figure to my character. It was like this cool dysfunctional family that was created. God, Burt was a legend! It's no secret that he had a hard time with the movie. I think it was probably hard for him, having been the biggest box office star in the world for such a long time, I think it was hard for him to say some of the lines. I think maybe it was him just really being method. Ya know, when Dirk and Jack were no longer working together, and he had to make these straight-to-video movies that had no story... It seemed painful for him to go through that process. But he was fantastic in the movie. He was always very good to me. I remember being at the New York Film Festival, and people were loving his performance. I just wish that he had loved the movie as much as everybody else did. He was certainly surprised at the attention and accolades that he got. I just wish he loved it more, ya know? I know how important it was for him to be recognized for his work. But with politics and everything else, I think, had he kind of embraced the movie from the outset, he would have won the Academy Award.
Do you have any updates on The Six Billion Dollar Man? It's been in development for a really long time.
Yeah! ...Oh God, oh sh*t, I gotta make a phone call! I haven't spoken to anybody since Friday and there was just a big meeting... Anyway, it's just a matter of finding the right director. We've been close many times... It's very reminiscent of The Fighter. It's one of those things where you have to keep pushing, you have to keep plugging away, and eventually, it'll come together, and hopefully, we'll be in a situation where I find myself making the best possible version of the movie. But, again, like The Fighter, I think the biological clock is ticking. It's gotta be, ya know, (shooting) by the summer of 2019, I think.
Speaking of your biological clock, I have a magazine at home - it's you and Reese Witherspoon promoting Fear on the cover of Sassy magazine. It's been what, 25 years? Can you tell me about your evolution, of being a young 20-something actor, looking up at the A-List, versus now, where it feels like you're king of the world?
I wouldn't say I'm king of the world... I'm just trying to be the king of my own little castle. And the kids will beat you down and try to take your crown every chance they get! But for me, it's remarkable that I've been able to, if you look back... But I've never been one to sit there and kind of dwell on the hits and misses, the highs and lows. I just kind of keep moving forward and thinking about what's next. I'm more committed, determined, focused, I think also capable of greater things now. That's just the work ethic I have. I was asked earlier about the first time I was at Sundance, we were there for The Basketball Diaries, and Leo and I were just, like, jumping on this table, and they couldn't even get an answer out of us, they were trying to interview us. I was very blessed and fortunate to have, ya know, found myself going from one job to another. I never felt like, "Okay, if I can just get this one thing, I can get to where I want to be," because I feel like there's still a lot more for me to do. So it's just one job at a time, which will hopefully put me in the position to then maybe get the next movie that I want to make, and then the next movie. It's always about what's next.
Official Instant Family Plot Synopsis
When Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) decide to start a family, they stumble into the world of foster care adoption. They hope to take in one small child but when they meet three siblings, including a rebellious 15 year old girl (Isabela Moner), they find themselves speeding from zero to three kids overnight. Now, Pete and Ellie must hilariously try to learn the ropes of instant parenthood in the hopes of becoming a family. INSTANT FAMILY is inspired by the real events from the life of writer/director Sean Anders and also stars Octavia Spencer, Tig Notaro and Margo Martindale.