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The Characters
When the first hints of "the happening” hit the television news, science teacher Elliot Moore is already unsettled by recent signs that nature is changing its rules – especially the unaccountable (and real) mass disappearance of bees around the world – something he struggles to get his students to talk about in class. His home life is no less unsettling, as it seems his relationship with his beloved wife Alma is disintegrating without Elliot fully understanding why. Once the spate of horrific deaths begins to spread, Elliot switches gears into a determined man on the run, forced to quickly explore who he really is, yet the threads of his past become woven into his solutions for how to survive.

To play Elliot, M. Night Shyamalan always had envisioned Mark Wahlberg, who began his career in music, then broke out with a series of unpredictable and unforgettable screen roles in such films as Three Kings, Boogie Nights and The Perfect Storm. He sealed his acting credentials by garnering Oscar® and Golden Globe® nominations for Best Supporting Actor in Martin Scorsese's The Departed and became a sought-after action hero after taking the lead roles in such hits as Invincible and Shooter. Yet Elliot was unlike any character Wahlberg, who hails from a rough background, had played before: a quiet, sensitive teacher pushed to the edge by inexplicable events in just a few short hours.

Still, Shyamalan was convinced the role was right for Wahlberg. "I know Mark and I've always seen him as this sort of guy,” says the writer/director. "I don't know the tough guy from Boston who gets in scrap fights, I know a different guy. And when I've seen glimpses of Mark playing this sort of person, for example in Three Kings in the scene when he's calling his wife from Iraq, I just love him, and I've always wanted to do a whole movie with him like that.”

He continues: "I also think Mark is one of the most likable people in Hollywood and that made him the perfect counterpoint to all this dark, taboo stuff going on around Elliot. If you had a darker lead in this movie it would be overwhelming -- but Mark brings a lightness to the dark.”

It turns out that Wahlberg had been waiting for a chance to work with Shyamalan. "He had worked with my brother and with Joaquin Phoenix and I was always jealous of them both because of that,” he confesses, "so when he said had thought of me specifically for this role, I was thrilled.”

Shyamalan took Wahlberg to a big sushi dinner to talk to him in depth about the role. "I realized then that Night knew everything inside out about this story,” Wahlberg recalls. "If I asked him any question, he had an answer, one he'd apparently already spent an entire afternoon thinking about.”

Still, as seductive as Shyamalan's storytelling was, Wahlberg knew that bringing Elliot to life was going to be one of the toughest tasks of his ever-expanding career as an actor. "I like a challenge but this was by far the most challenging role I've played to date,” he says. "Night seemed very convinced I could be this very innocent person, but I am definitely not as innocent as Elliot. I've had my brushes with the law and my scrapes with trouble, but I guess Night saw that my intentions are always good. Still, I had to do a lot studying and a lot of what I picked up about how to portray Elliot was from spending time with Night.”

Producer Sam Mercer believes Wahlberg made for a perfect match with Shyamalan's style of storytelling. "There's always an Everyman quality to Night's movies and Mark has such a relatable personality,” he says. "I think the audience will really identify with him and with what's happening in his life at the moment the disaster hits.”

The deeper he got to know Elliot, the more moving Wahlberg found him. "He's a very positive, optimistic person,” the actor comments.

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