Actor and producer Mark Wahlberg is calling on the Canadian government to lend more support to film productions, after cutting federal tax incentives that once drew Hollywood projects north.
The star of Ted, The Fighter, and Boogie Nights, and producer behind HBO's Boardwalk Empire and Entourage, said some of his best years in the film industry have been spent shooting in Canada. But a steady reduction in government tax credits for projects means many of those same movies would no longer be shot here.
"We are really trying to encourage the government to reinstate these tax incentives to bring film and cinema back to Canada," Wahlberg told The Globe and Mail in Toronto Wednesday.
"I've made four movies in Toronto and three in Vancouver. It's the best working experience, some of the best crew, the best people I've ever worked with, and there's just not enough film being made here."
Wahlberg was in Toronto for the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce's annual Miracle Day, which taps celebrities as guest stock brokers to raise money for charities. Trading commissions from the day are donated to children's causes across the country.
Wahlberg's Canadian-shot films include Fear (1996) and Shooter (2007), which were made in Vancouver, and The Big Hit (1998), The Corruptor (1999), and Max Payne (2008), shot in Toronto.
"It was some of the best work experiences that I've had. And it's just a shame that films are going to other places," he said. "We want to really bring it back to Canada."
Wahlberg said the reaction from government has been mixed, but added that allies such as the bank and others could help him push the message.
"If we've got the right people in the right places, maybe we can make that happen, because Canada loves the arts. And they have the best film festival in the world. They need to have the best film production here," he said.
Wahlberg also wants to help revitalize the Toronto film studios on Eastern Avenue, which ceased operations in 2008.
Regarding the charity work in Toronto, Wahlberg said he dislikes the idea of celebrities backing causes that don't seem genuine. But having endured a difficult upbringing in south Boston, where he was often in trouble with the law, he can relate to disadvantaged youth.
"I used to get upset when Hollywood people or entertainers would attach themselves to some charity that they really couldn't identify with," he said. "But for me, it's my life, it's where I came from. And I wouldn't be able to look at myself in the mirror if I didn't help kids who were growing up in the same situation."
Wahlberg also ramped up the trash talk with friend Tie Domi, the former NHL player whom he has challenged to a boxing match at the Air Canada Centre. He said Domi, a former enforcer with the Toronto Maple Leafs, is afraid to fight him.
"He still won't accept the challenge," Wahlberg said. "He keeps saying that he doesn't want to mess up my pretty face and this and that. But the thing is he has this mystique about him. Especially here in his home country, and he doesn't want that ruined by getting knocked out by an actor."