Mark Wahlberg, Peter Berg Talk Making a "Character-Driven Action Movie" With 'Mile 22'

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Peter Berg (left) and Mark Wahlberg

"We wanted to make a really smart, cool, character-driven action movie that everyone can enjoy,” Wahlberg told The Hollywood Reporter at the L.A. premiere on Thursday evening.

In making a movie about the Central Intelligence Agency in 2018, is it possible to portray intelligence work without political side-taking? Mark Wahlberg, star and producer of Mile 22, an action flick about a top-secret unit of the CIA who must transport an asset 22 miles to safety under deadly circumstances, says the intent of his latest work is not to hold up a mirror to a real-life news cycle.

“There are things that people will see [in the movie] and think, ‘Oh, you saw this coming.’ No, we just had a really smart writer and she’s really connected to real people in the CIA, ground branch and overwatch,” Wahlberg told The Hollywood Reporter at the Los Angeles premiere on Thursday night. “But what we wanted to do was make a really smart, cool, character-driven action movie that everyone can enjoy.”

Mile 22 was produced by STX Entertainment, whose mission statement is to serve the two biggest entertainment markets, the U.S. and China. THR asked director/producer Peter Berg what makes a film travel well internationally.

“It’s got to be a good movie,” he said. “Everyone’s like, ‘Just throw action at an international audience and they’ll go see it.’ It’s really not true. It’s not like people are just like, ‘Put a bomb in front of us and we’ll go.’ You’ve got to make good movies. Hopefully this film is intense and pulse-pounding and emotional and has all of the things a good action movie used to have. If it does, it will do well internationally.”

Inside the Westwood Village Theatre, the audience certainly seemed to enjoy the visceral twists and turns of the agents’ explosive journey, applauding and cheering every fight scene.

Co-star Lauren Cohan thinks the pic’s appeal will be that it sweeps you along from the very first scene. "It is sometimes hard for me to sit down and for something to really grab my attention and even knowing what was coming, the movie grabbed my attention right from the beginning," said the Walking Dead actress. "When I got to the end, I was digesting everything that was in there for so long. I think it really speaks to [current] issues without spoon-feeding them [to the audience]."

Adding to its novelty factor is the fact that Mile 22 is one of the first action films of this scale to be shot in Bogota, Colombia. “Pulling together a city that had never worked at that level was challenging. It went great but it was challenging,” said Berg. And why put everyone through the hassle? “The appeal was that it was almost like a virgin city; there hadn’t been a lot of filming there. The architecture, the paint, the colors, the color of skin of the people, it’s all very untouched. It’s like powdered snow,” said the director.

The experience was new and exciting territory for some of its stars as well. WWE wrestler Ronda Rousey took a break from physical fighting to do gun training for scenes that were largely improvised. "I was really excited to test my knowledge," she said. "We didn’t have choreographed gun fights, so it didn’t feel like acting. It was like, ‘Here are the skills you learned, you go in this building and that’s what you’re doing.’ I was really in the zone, trying to do it right."

The difference between her day job and onscreen fighting is a significant one, Rousey said. “You have to do it a million times and mean it as much every time,” she said with a laugh.