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Mark Wahlberg and David O. Russell's odd coupling

December 5, 2010 | 10:40 am

Russell
Forget Felix Unger and Oscar Madison. Mark Wahlberg and David O. Russell, the actor-director pair who will soon team up on (the apparently controversial) "Drake's Fortune," may be the oddest professional couple in show business.

Wahlberg is a former street kid, underwear model and teenybopper sensation. Russell is the quirky intellectual, the fussy auteur, the master of dark comedy. (And as Lily Tomlin could tell you, not always the smoothest handler of actors.)

Yet somehow Wahlberg and Russell have found alchemy. After teaming up on "I Heart Huckabees" and "Three Kings," they join forces for the third time in the upcoming underdog-boxer story "The Fighter," a movie that takes its cues from ring films such as "The Set-Up" and "Rocky" yet is also smart and nimble enough to know when to depart from them.

In a story in today's Los Angeles Times, we sit down with Wahlberg and Russell to talk about what it is that makes the two click. Among the reasons we observed: Wahlberg likes basking in Russell's haute-cinema glow, and the director appreciates the everyman cred that a Mark Wahlberg lends you. When the two were researching a scene in a prison, Wahlberg insisted that the two walk into the state penitentiary and talk to inmates about changing their lives even as those inmates taunted the actor and director from behind bars.

There's symbiosis in other ways: The actor, for instance, says he has helped Russell get over his self-confessed commitment issues. Wahlberg recalls that before they started shooting "Huckabees," Russell would "have four or five different ideas. And he'd call me and say, 'We're going to do this. No, wait, we're going to do that.' And I'd say to him, 'Let's go, dude. At this pace you're going to make six movies in your entire career.'"

The director says he's now getting over those commitment issues. "I feel that I see things much more clearly. I don't turn over an idea as I once would," he said, adding: "Ideas are not a problem for me. But I realize now you have to pick up one to throw down with."

Photo: David Russell, left, Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale on the set of "The Fighter." Credit: Jojo Wilden

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