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About (Late) Last Night: Mark Wahlberg talks a big game on 'Conan'

December 17, 2010 |  6:36 am


The night after Conan O'Brien hosted Amy Adams in promotion of "The Fighter," he welcomed the film's star, Mark Wahlberg, who plays struggling real-life boxer Micky Ward. Wahlberg, who recently scored a Golden Globe nomination for the role, stayed entirely on subject, speaking only of his movie. But in the late-night world of compliments and back-patting, O'Brien's interest in the film felt surprisingly believable. 

When O'Brien asked about the realistic fight scenes -- after slighting the "Rocky" movies for laughable visuals -- Wahlberg was frank and proud. "We hired real boxers," he said. "We went in there and we beat the crap out of each other. It's the only way to do it."

"We figured out a way to hit each other 60%," he explained of the very real physical toll. "Luckily, nobody got that hurt."

O'Brien asked about Wahlberg's training for the film, and most actors' eventual urge to eat "700 pizzas" after preparing for a role. Wahlberg trained for 4-1/2 years to stay fit through the somewhat tumultuous making of the movie. "It's not like riding a bike," he said. "If you stop, you lose all that training." The way he spoke, you would think Wahlberg was a real champion. 

"I wanted to look like a boxer who can win the title, not an actor who if shot right and cut the right way could be believable to a certain extent," he said. Finally, O'Brien felt the need to counter the self-seriousness. "This is how we're different -- we're different in many ways," said O'Brien. "I would have just used my head and had them CGI a different body."

Later, O'Brien played a clip from the movie. Wahlberg's character was even more intense in a minute of film than he was talking about it. When a bar patron disrespects a woman, Wahlberg's character smacks him in the face and grabs his head. O'Brien again lightened the mood: "That's exactly how I would have handled that situation." Even Wahlberg laughed.

-- Joe Coscarelli