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Mark Wahlberg Talks About the Football Movie, 'Invincible'

Wahlberg Plays Vince Papale in This Film Inspired by True Events


Mark Wahlberg stars as Vince Papale in Invincible

Mark Wahlberg stars as Vince Papale in Invincible.

© Walt Disney Pictures
It's taken 30 years to make its way to the big screen but finally the Cinderella story of ex-teacher/bartender Vince Papale's triumph in the world of professional football comes to life on the big screen in Invincible. Papale captured the attention of Philadelphia Eagles fans when he made it onto the team after Coach Dick Vermeil held open tryouts. The film version stars Mark Wahlberg as the lifelong football fan who just wanted his hometeam to play with heart - and maybe win a few games.

Getting Physically Prepared for Invincible: “Well, actually I did a movie before that that I finished days before where I was asked to gain a lot of weight for that one," said Wahlberg. "I came into camp a little overweight and they were a little worried, but I just started running. Mostly running…I didn’t really lift weights. I had lifted weights to put on weight for the other film. It was more about trimming down and looking like a wide receiver, and that’s what I look like.”

After spending a lot of time running, Wahlberg significantly decreased his 40 yard dash time. “I started out at a 5.3 overweight and got down to a 4.7, but I haven’t run since. He had me doing so much running and jogging that literally I just went home and sat down. I didn’t go to the gym for like five months. I had to get ready to get back to work for the next movie, the James Gray movie [We Own the Night].”

The football action in Invincible is convincing and Wahlberg says he actually took the hits. “Yeah, unfortunately. It wasn’t as bad as it looks. Everything was bruised and banged up. The bigger hits in the movie were actually the ones that didn’t hurt as much. A lot of clean hits. There were a couple of days where I wanted to kind of quit or tell them to take it easy. But I came in saying I wanted to be one of the guys trying to make the team like Vince was, so I had to earn the respect of the real football players and just tough it out.”

Hanging Out with the Real Vince Papale: “We spent a lot of time together. He likes to hang out. He likes to talk. [He’s a] great guy, really great guy. And it’s so hard because he is the best salesman for Vince Papale’s story, because he is just so enthusiastic, so energetic and passionate. He’s a great guy. He’s a heroic guy in what he accomplished on the field, but who he is away from the field is what I’m really impressed with.”

Wahlberg was surrounded by other real football players on the set of Invincible and had to earn their respect. “When a guy says, ‘Look, I’m here to make it as real as possible and once you cross into the lines it’s fair game…’ They might apologize to the coach afterwards for taking your head off, but they aren’t really going to apologize to you. But it was cool because it’s not like Vince is Rudy and goes out there and gets killed all the time. He was a very well-respected guy and feared by many coaches. He didn’t care. He would do everything he could to prevent the other team from beating the Eagles. And a guy with that much will and heart and determination, that is something to be leery of.”

The actor quickly figured out what it took to become friends with his football co-stars. “A couple of days into shooting, I started having my buddy barbeque and have beer and s**t for everyone after the practice. We all had to sit around after getting iced up. There are only so many trainers [and] everybody has to get their ice and pop a bunch of ibuprofen before you get home, so you can at least get to sleep. It’s harder getting up the next day that’s for sure, when that stuff wears off. But yeah, those guys are out there risking their career to try and make some extra cash and be part of a movie. This is what they do for a living. They have to be on the field 12 hours a day no matter what. So I just wanted to make sure I was one of the guys out there with them.”

Mark Wahlberg’s Prior Football Experience: “I told them I played in college and all this other bulls**t - I obviously never went to college or high school (laughing). But I grew up playing pretty much every sport. Football is like hockey in that it’s an expensive sport to play. You have to have the proper equipment and finding a place to practice and have games. So, if we had a football, we just played tackle on the streets, very similar to the sandlot games. But Vince was there every step of the way and one of the few times I got to have some fun with him was the first time I went to football camp. I acted like I couldn’t catch or run and he was a little freaked out.”

The Real Vince Papale vs. the Film Version: “They did a good job of capturing him in the script. He’s a guy from South Philly and he’s got all these things not going his way. He’s not gonna be so nice about it. But he just takes things as they come and, you know, certainly can’t control other people what they want to do. His wife leaving and him losing his job… The only thing he can control is how much he gave to the Eagles and that’s where he poured it all out.”

Continued on Page 2

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