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'Pain & Gain': Making Comedy Out of Tragedy (Video)

In Michael Bay’s new film, based on a true story, Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson play Florida-based bodybuilders who kidnap and extort victims in an attempt to live their American Dream.

[Warning: Spoilers ahead if you are not familiar with the story of Daniel Lugo and the "Sun Gym Gang."]

Dark comedy is nothing new, but there’s a fine line to walk when recounting a horrific true story for laughs.

In Michael Bay’s action-comedy Pain & Gain, Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson play Florida-based bodybuilders who kidnap, extort and attempt to murder Victor Kershaw -- a regular at their gym and a rich businessman -- played by Tony Shalhoub. Based on a true story, as documented in a series of 1999 Miami New Times articles, Wahlberg’s character currently sits on Florida’s death row. (Johnson and Shalhoub's characters, meanwhile, are mashups of multiple players in the story.)

PHOTOS: 'Pain & Gain' Premiere Pumps Up Hollywood

“Tragic as it is, they made it a comedy when they tried to pull this stuff off as badly as they did,” co-screenwriter Christopher Markus tells The Hollywood Reporter.

Adds Bay: “It’s so absurd that it’s funny. It wasn’t funny in the circumstance, but it’s one of those bizarre stories -- it’s hard to believe it’s true.”

The film’s actors are quick to clarify that the movie draws laughs from the criminals’ harebrained schemes, not from a place of “making fun” of the victims or circumstance. Says Rob Corddry, who plays gym owner John Mese: “The reason this story’s being told is because it is so preposterous and so true, right? So a story like that, to be able to take the audience on a ride like that, you have to use comedy. Otherwise, I think it would be really tiring.”

Pain & Gain opens nationwide April 26 via Paramount.

For more from the film’s stars, watch the videos above and below.

Email: Sophie.Schillaci@THR.com; Twitter: @SophieSchillaci