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Wahlberg in "The Yards"
November, 2000

"The Yards" is set in New York's subway yards. My character, Leo is trying to go straight after a spell in prison, but he's led back into crime by his best friend, Willie. Originally Joaquin Phoenix was to take my role and I was cast as Willie. But whatever people say I can't do, that' what attracts me. I wanted to switch roles, and Joaquin did as well, so it worked out. I don't want to be pigeon-holed.

James Gray, the director, is obsessed with character - he wouldn't cast you if he didn't think you would be good. But when you show up on the set, he loves to test you - almost to audition you on a daily basis. A lot of people had a hard time with him. You would do a scene and he'd say, "Aaargh, that sucks! Cut!" right in the middle of the take.

Someone like Faye Dunaway, who plays my aunt, doesn't take too well to that. But it was for the right reasons. I enjoyed it because I have a lot of ideas, and a guy with a specific vision is better than one who is unsure of himself - under those circumstances I'd rather direct the film myself.

In the end James did a good job of making everybody happy without compromising. The producers liked what they saw and gave him money to make the film bigger. He was willing to wait six months while I was doing "The Perfect Storm", to get one additional shot of me. If that's not commitment, I don't know what is. I'm surprised we're not shooting tonight - that there's not just one more little piece he wanted to get.

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