'The Gambler's' Mark Wahlberg On Rooting for the Bad Guy


Mark Wahlberg says he gravitates to shady characters including for his latest role as a risk taker and irresponsible gambler Jim Bennett in THE GAMBLER. Wahlberg tells CineMovie he’s always wanted to push the envelope as long as the character is interesting enough.

Before Mark Wahlberg took on THE GAMBLER as a producer and star of the adaptation to the 1974 film by the same name, he sought out the blessing of the original star James Caan and screenwriter James Toback. The modern update written by William Monahan was part of the attraction at remaking the classic. The script for THE GAMBLER was “cool and different” enough while also paying homage to the original that it was worth taking on, says Wahlberg.  His “good experience” on The Departed with screenwriter William Monahan was another selling point. He approached director Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) to helm the remake.

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Mark Wahlberg and director Rupert Wyatt  in The Gambler movie

Wahlberg is no stranger to remakes with the money-making The Italian Job (2003) and the not-so-successful Planet of the Apes (2001) directed by Tim Burton, but he had no apprehension about updating another classic.  

“I’ve had some fairly bad experiences with remakes so I kind of stayed away from that for a little while, but then we had a good experience with The Italian Job.”

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In THE GAMBLER, Wahlberg’s Jim Bennett repeatedly throws away money at underground casinos, and borrows cash from dangerous loan sharks. While his character is likable enough, his actions are irresponsible and his motives are unclear. Does he have a death wish or is the thrill of losing it all much greater than the risks?

How do you play an empathetic character without alienating the viewers with his dangerous journey? Wahlberg tells CineMovie that the viewer doesn’t necessarily need to like the character, but be intrigued enough to see how it all will end.

“I always wanted to push the envelope as much as possible. We knew were weren’t making a character that was going to be likable, but interesting enough and compelling enough in how brash and unapologetic he was that people would at least find interesting, and see how it was going to turn out.”


Wahlberg admits he likes Jim Bennet, but don’t judge him on that, he jokes. He’s always rooted for the “bad guy” in films.

“The best part of the great movie is a villain and I usually have a tendency to root for the bad guy.”  

It must be the bad boy in him. THE GAMBLER opens in movie theaters Christmas Day. 

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