When Michael B. Jordan was interviewed for “Fruitvale Station,” in which he starred as the young Black man shot in the back while handcuffed on the ground, he was afraid to comment on the Trayvon Martin trial that was in session at the time. But in a film totally not at all related to the Martin trial, Washington gave his unsolicited opinion about that travesty of justice when the phrase ”American Dream” was mentioned.
Another title for “2 Guns” could be When Operatives Collide. In this action thriller, Washington and Mark Wahlberg are two operatives from competing bureaus but are forced to combine their skills to stay alive and complete their missions. Washington and Wahlberg have both been in films playing operatives or government agents so my question to them was what makes this film different?
DENZEL WASHINGTON: For me, we could have been mailmen or whatever; it was the opportunity to work with Mark. Without being cliché, we’re buddies and this is a buddy movie so it was the chance to do that and have fun.
MARK WAHLBERG: I was attached to the movie first and it was all about who was the other guy. It’s about the two guys no matter what they’re doing. You look at Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and they’re running from something we never really saw. With these guys, they take the really out there comedy guy and then the really straight guy and put them together and we didn’t want to do that. We wanted to have two really formidable opponents who earn that commodore and earn that trust in one another. That was really the movie. Once I heard Denzel was interested we had the best possible version of that movie in my mind.
Even though it was a fun, lighthearted movie, there were some strong messages about gun and immigration policies.
MW: Well there was this whole thing with Edward James Olmos’ character saying, ‘You’re gonna have to go over with the coyotes’ and I’m like, ‘Dude, give me a car or something.’ So yeah, that sequence was kind of set up for us to get an understanding of what it’s like for people to get over the border coming into America, looking for the American dream.
DW: My wife and I went to see ‘Fruitvale Station’ last night. Man, this isn’t that. There were messages in that.
Were you moved emotionally?
DW: I did tear up, at an interesting point. I think it was somewhere between the girlfriend’s reaction and the mother’s reaction at the end, Octavia Spencer. And my son, this is a shameless plug, he’s a young filmmaker and he’s working on a film now so I called him up when I heard about it because the director is an SC graduate. He went to a summer program there and is thinking about the graduate program now at SC. It was really interesting too talking to my oldest daughter about the Zimmerman trial. She said, ‘Dad this is the first time we’ve dealt with these issues in my lifetime.’ She was too young for Rodney King and she studied history and human rights but for her generation, this is one of the first events like that. Has nothing to do with 2 Guns but I’m just sayin’.
Had you both ever talked about working together and did this live up to your expectations?
MW: I’ve always admired him. We’ve known each other socially here and there and we’ve got a lot in common, we’ve both got four kids and I would constantly be asking him for advice and pick his brain about things both personally and professionally. But we’re both professionals so even if we weren’t hanging out all the time, we’d come to our job and enjoy our job and we’re both serious about our job and it just either works or it doesn’t.
DW: Mark’s a good guy. Everyone who I talked to when they heard I was go work with him said he was a good guy, a regular guy like me. It was easy. It was like, ‘let’s go, let’s hit it.’
What’s a regular guy, Denzel?
DW: What’s an irregular guy? He’s just good people. A good dude. Excited about his water and having a job. He hasn’t lost his way. He’s not tripping.
With all the movies that you’ve done, what role is most like who you are in real life?
MW: I always try and bring a little of my personality to the parts or some sort of personal connection. I think that makes it a little more of an honest portrayal and the audience can believe it a little more. I always look for something to connect with or identify with that I try and bring to the table.
DW: You can’t help but not do that. ‘Training Day’ was the real Denzel. [Laughs]
Denzel, you’re filming ‘Equalizer’ with Antoine Fuqua and Mark, you’re doing ‘Transformers 4’ with Michael Bay. What is it like re-teaming with these directors?
DW: It’s been good. Antoine is a great filmmaker and a good guy.
MW: It’s always good working with someone you’re comfortable with and familiar with. It makes it easy.
“2 Guns” also stars Paula Patton, James Marsden, Edward James Olmos, Fred Ward and Bill Paxton, who gives an amazing performance as the depraved “shadowy CIA affiliate whom everyone calls “God’s S.O.B.” Even Paxton was surprised he was cast at Earl. “When I read the script I felt like a kid on Christmas day opening up a present he’s been hoping to get for a long time,” Paxton said. And it was déja vu for Patton and Washington having starred together in the 2006 film “Deju Vu.” They turned up the heat this time when Patton volunteered to go topless.
Paula, what did ‘Blurred Lines’ hubby Robin Thicke think about that scene with Denzel?
The day before we were going to shoot the scene, I was thinking about it. These are people that have been together before, and they’re having a conversation and had just made love. It just seemed really phony to me to have a shirt on. [And so I just kind of sprung it on the director [Baltasar Kormakur]. I came to set and I’m like, ‘no, I’m not going to be wearing a top.’ I asked Robin before and I said it doesn’t’ feel natural. And he goes, ‘Go for it babe, absolutely.’ We don’t really get hung up about those kinds of things. But once I decided to take my top off, Denzel was like, ‘Well, I’m going to take my shirt off too.’
How was it working with Denzel again?
I was fairly new to acting when I first got a chance to work with Denzel and I have to tell you, it was like taking a master class. It changed everything for me. He didn’t tell me what to do but I would just watch him, and you never knew what he was going to throw at you. For the first time as an actor I really felt like I was in the moment. That’s the amazing thing about Denzel—he’s like a jazz musician. The scene might be written one way and he might come at it a totally different way on each take, and that keeps you on your toes. It changed me as an actor and so going back to work with him again, it was almost like a refresher course, because he’s one of the greatest actors of our time.
Syndicated columnist Marie Moore reports on film and TV from her New York City base. Contact her at [email protected]