“Contraband” is a crime thriller that is an American remake of the Icelandic film “Reykjavík-Rotterdam.” Baltasar Kormákur, who directed both movies, starred in “Reykjavík-Rotterdam.” In “Contraband,” Mark Walhberg is the star: He plays Chris Farraday, a former smuggler who is forced back into a life of crime when his wife’s drug-smuggling younger brother Andy (played by Caleb Landry Jones) panics and dumps a shipment of drugs during surprise inspection from U.S. customs.
To pay for the lost drug shipment, a mobster named Tim Briggs (played by Giovanni Ribisi) holds Chris’ wife Kate (played by Kate Beckinsale) and kids hostage until the drug money is repaid to Briggs. The only solution that Chris can find to get the money quickly is to go back into smuggling, so he enlists the help of his best friend/partner in crime, Sebastian Abney (played by Ben Foster). Here is what Wahlberg and Beckinsale said in separate interviews at the New York City press junket for “Contraband.”
Interview With Mark Wahlberg
Your “Contraband” character Chris Farraday gets drawn back into becoming a criminal again. Does he return to crime because he loves it or do you think it’s only to help his brother-in-law?
Wahlberg: No, he does love it, but it’s about protecting his family and if he’s got to do that to protect them and provide for them, there isn’t anything that he wouldn’t do. But there is that excitement about getting back on the boat and being it again and being around the guys. I get that. I could identify with that.
What was it liking making “Contraband” on location in New Orleans?
Wahlberg: We talked about setting the location in a number of different places. We felt like New Orleans made the sense. And, obviously, there’s a lot of tax benefits there. The port is huge. There are things that exist in that area.
It’s a great backdrop, and the culture is fantastic. I just thought it would be the most interesting place to shoot it. You get on that boat, and it’s like a whole other world. You’re like, “How can anybody find anything, the way they randomly search certain containers?” It’s so hit or miss.
What are the elements that make up a great thriller?
Wahlberg: It was there. The stakes are very high. And once you put family and wives and children in danger, people are always going to be on the edge of your seat.
Did that part of the story attract you more now that you have a family?
Wahlberg: Of course.
Do you enjoy doing your own stunts?
Wahlberg: No. I did when I was younger, but I’m not one of those guys who has to say that I did my own stunts to feel cool. If I’m required to do it, then I’ll do it. And in this [movie], there wasn’t that many stunts, aside from beating up people, which an easy stunt to do. What’s easier than being beat up? On the right side of the beating, it’s fine.
“Contraband” was directed by Baltasar Kormákur, who also directed and starred in “Reykjavík-Rotterdam,” the Icelandic version of “Contraband.” Was it strange for you to play a role that the director originally had?
Wahlberg: It was, and I was concerned that “My God, is going to continually refer back to the way he played things, or is he going to let me do my own thing?” But he really wanted me to do my own thing. But also, he’s really smart.
He’s an actor first. So all the direction he was giving me was spot-on and just covering all the bases. So you can try different things and make the performance much more layered. And, of course, I had a lot of room to improvise. So there are scenes where it’s just me and the guys just kicking around, where we would just try things. It just made things more real.
Interview with Kate Beckinsale
Why did you want to be in “Contraband”?
Beckinsale: I’ve been a big fan of Mark Wahlberg for a really long time. I was really excited to work with him. And I’d never played a character quite like that before. I’d never been to New Orleans. I’d never had any experience like that.
She’s a different character for me. I was excited about that. And I loved the original movie, the Icelandic movie. And I thought it was so interesting that the director of our movie played the lead in that one. It was a cool experience.
What was it like working with Mark Wahlberg?
Beckinsale: We met and we rehearsed a little bit with him and Giovanni [Ribisi] and Ben [Foster]. And the boys went off and did a lot of the very boys’ stuff, and I showed up. And I was like, “How do you make yourself feel that you’re very comfortably married to somebody for a long time when you haven’t really known them for very long?” So that was really a challenge.
Can you describe the life that Chris and Kate Farraday have at the beginning of “Contraband”?
Beckinsale: You don’t get to see them very much before the movie gets kicked off, but certainly, what we had discussed was that Mark’s character had been not totally, legally employed for a long time. And I think he largely got out of that life because of his wife and the fact that they had children and she just wanted him to not be taking so many risks. His father’s already in jail, and she didn’t want to be visiting her husband in jail. So I think he left that business, probably with some relief.
So there’s probably a little bit of longing for the excitement, but he has this new life and rather pedestrian job as a security guard and doing home-security systems. And I [as Kate Farraday] am very happy with that, until my brother, whom I have raised, gets into trouble with some smuggling and dumps some drugs and gets in trouble with [the character played by] Giovanni Ribisi, who’s the nicest man in the world but gives one of the scariest performances ever. And so they really put the pressure on [Chris Farraday] to get back into [a life of crime] to pay the debt.
What does Briggs do to Kate to make sure that Chris delivers the goods?
Beckinsale: Kate is at home with the boys, crossing her fingers like mad that it all goes very smoothly with Mark’s character. And, of course, it doesn’t. So he arrives at my house, and barges his way in, and applies a lot of physical and mental to make her basically tell her husband that he can’t dump anything. And she doesn’t really know what she’s talking about at that point. She’s just terrified. And her children are threatened at gunpoint, and she tears up the couch, and it’s all a nightmare.
What makes Kate Farraday an interesting character?
Beckinsale: I really liked her because she’s the best of the typical working-class woman. She’s strong, she’s raised her brother, and she obviously hasn’t had any help. She’s had a tough life, and she adores her husband. She adores him, she loves her family, and she’s fiercely protective of that.
She’s not an ass-kicking woman. She’s a very strong feminine woman, but she’s not someone who’s used to getting physically violent. So it’s very shocking for her when she gets treated so harshly by Briggs. But she’s got this wonderful spirit of this great New Orleans woman.
So what did you think of those physical challenges with you getting roughed up an dthrown around?
Beckinsale: There was a lot more of it than I had originally realized in the script. And one of the things I liked was that not having been to New Orleans before, they didn’t want to make my character with a really strong New Orleans accent, but I really wanted to have a flavor of that.
So I made a little trip out to New Orleans and met some women who were actually hairdressers, like my character is, and I interviewed with them and studied how they were talking. So I love that part of a role, where you get to really research it and live in it for a bit.
What other things did you like about “Contraband”?
Beckinsale: I think the themes of love and trust and betrayal and all of that stuff getting overturned are endlessly interesting. I like how the story goes along.
What was it like working with Ben Foster?
Beckinsale: He and I wanted to feel there was some intimacy. He and my [Chris Farraday] have been best friends for a long time and has certainly had his own share of troubles. And I’m sure you have the feeling that he’s probably crashed at our house a lot whilst in a drunken state, and now appears to have cleaned himself up. He’s going to AA meetings.
He and I are close. We would hang out. I get on great with him. At rehearsals when I met him, he was quite scary, because he had a completely shaved head and was covered in tattoos. He was filming something [“Rampart”] where he was playing a homeless person, so I thought he was going to be quite unforthcoming in rehearsals. But he was very silly and very funny. We had a good time, despite the fact that I had to keep slapping him in the face.
How do you feel about doing all these movies where most of the cast are male actors?
Beckinsale: I’m always the only girl! It’s so fun for me when I get another woman on the set. It’s usually just me. But yeah, we had a pretty good crop this time. They were lovely.
What do you hope audiences get out of watching “Contraband”?
Beckinsale: It’s very exciting. They’re good characters, strong characters. You’re invested in their lives and very interested in what happens. The movie just jams along. It’s very entertaining.
For more info: “Contraband” website