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Wahlberg on the 'Job'

By Stephanie Snipes

Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron play thieves plotting the heist of a lifetime in
Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron play thieves plotting the heist of a lifetime in "The Italian Job."

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(CNN) -- "The Italian Job" marks Mark Wahlberg's third starring role in a classic movie remake in two years, after "Planet of the Apes" (2001) and "The Truth about Charlie" (a 2002 retooling of the classic "Charade"). Not that he's keeping track.

"I hadn't seen the original," Wahlberg says about the 1969 Michael Caine-Noel Coward film of the same name. "It was solely the opportunity to work with the director."

And working with F. Gary Gray ("The Negotiator," "A Man Apart" "Friday") was "a blast," says Wahlberg. "For me, it's really about the director first," he adds.

Wahlberg's been fortunate in that department. He worked with Paul Thomas Anderson in "Boogie Nights," the film that established Wahlberg as a star; Tim Burton in "Apes"; and Jonathan Demme in "Charlie."

With "Italian Job," Wahlberg's also working with a solid cast, including Edward Norton, Charlize Theron ("Cider House Rules"), Seth Green ("Austin Powers"), Jason Statham ("Snatch"), Mos Def ("Brown Sugar") and Donald Sutherland. That, too, was a draw, he says.

"I've gotten to work with some of the best young talent in the business," Wahlberg says.

Mini matters

Filmed on location in Italy, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, "The Italian Job" centers on Wahlberg's character, Charlie Croker, and his band of thieves as they carry out and then are double-crossed on the heist of a lifetime.

Part summer action movie, part high-tech thriller and part comedy, Walhberg says "The Italian Job" "works on every level."

"I've never seen a movie that really caters to the artistic crowd as well as people who just want to go have a good time at the movies," he says.

"For me, it's really about the director first," Wahlberg says of choosing roles.

Wahlberg credits the film's comic relief to co-stars Green, Mos Def and Statham. "[The humor] wasn't in the script. These guys just brought that to the table. They are very funny guys."

While he was happy to have his co-stars contribute to the script, Wahlberg feels the action sequences -- which included an extensive Mini Cooper car chase on sidewalks and down stairwells -- should have been left to the professional stunt men and not co-star Theron.

"She's a horrible driver," he deadpans. "I was really sick every time I had to get in the passenger seat with her."

Wahlberg may want to "play things safe" on the set, but the star of "Boogie Nights," "Three Kings" and "The Perfect Storm" admits he would take a risk on future roles.

"I would do something similar as past roles if it meant working with a great director. They have so much to offer and I have so much to learn," says Wahlberg. "In a perfect world you have the best possible director and talent around you and you get to do something different and challenging."

Next, Wahlberg will re-team with David O. Russell ("Three Kings") in the tentatively titled ensemble piece "I Love Huckabees", scheduled for release in 2004.

"Huckabees" centers around a married couple who work as detectives to help people solve existential crises in their lives. The film will also star Jude Law, Naomi Watts, Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin and Jason Schwartzman.

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