Mark Wahlberg, star of The Fighter, is probably used to a little bit of physical abuse on the set. Maybe he even enjoys it.
At least that's what we were telling ourselves as we watched him sprint, tumble, and dangle precariously above the asphalt -- taking it all in with amusement.
This week, Cultist infiltrated the not-so-secret Biscayne Blvd. set of Transformers director Michael Bay's Miami-inspired passion project, Pain and Gain, to mark the so-called "official first day" of shooting on the real-life story of down-on-their-luck bodybuilders-turned-klutzy kidnappers, hoping to score our own Miami sighting of star Mark Wahlberg. The "Good Vibrations" rapper-turned-Calvin Klein underwear model-turned-modern-day leading man who scored an Oscar nod for pumping Matt Damon full of lead in The Departed will be pumping iron on and off for the next 60 days at Sun Gym, the notorious Miami Lakes landmark which has been carefully recreated at 8000 Biscayne Boulevard.
Monday was the first official day of shooting, according to the film's on-set publicist, but Bay, Wahlberg, and the film crew have been quietly skulking around town since last week, and already filmed some pivotal scenes inside the county's stockade at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center on NW 41st Street, where Wahlberg no doubt experienced some unpleasant, pre-Marky Mark flashbacks from his petty crime early days as a street punk in Dorchester, Massachusetts.
Shoots in Little Havana and Wynwood have also wrapped, according to the Miami-Dade County Mayor's Office of Film and Entertainment. "They are shooting all over Miami-Dade," confirms film commissioner Sandy Lighterman. The production has filed for permits to film later this week in Overtown, some "pretty, beach stuff," soon on South Beach and Haulover Beach sometime next month, she added.
For now, though, the best chance for consistent celebrity sightings will be at Sun Gym on Biscayne, where you can see Wahlberg and eventually the rest of the now-confirmed cast (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson -- we know he's around here somewhere, after his recent appearance at WrestleMania -- Ed Harris, Rob Corddry, Tony Shalhoub, Anthony Mackie, Rebel Wilson, and signature Bay eye candy Bar Paly). As long as you don't act like a star-struck jackass, you, too, can infiltrate the film set. The small army of Miami-Dade County and City of Miami cops, suspicious security guards, and patrolling production assistants will let you ogle for hours on end from a safe, out-of-camera-range distance.
So that's exactly what we did, incessantly, during several hours of a ball-busting, 14-hour-plus filming day (from 5 a.m. to 7:15 p.m.). We watched Wahlberg scale the Sun Gym site roof and dangle upside down three stories above Biscayne in the shadow of the marquee (look Ma, no harness!) to perform acrobatic ab crunches on cue (see eye candy here).
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Later on, Bay, barking into his megaphone, ordered Wahlberg to repeatedly run up and down NE Fifth Court, the snaking alley behind the building, on the hottest day of the year (so far), with alternating shouts of "Oh, shit!" and "Holy shit!," feigning a chase sequence. Next, Bay summoned a Miami-Dade police cruiser, jumped on the hood and choreographed the next shot: Wahlberg runs and plows into the cruiser, vaults onto the hood, bounces ass over feet off the windshield and ends up rolling and kissing some freshly paved asphalt. (Actually, though Wahlberg performed most of the plowing and the vaulting, his stunt double did most of the bouncing--while harnessed to a crane--and the asphalt kissing).
Filming continues today on Biscayne. Recommended celebrity gazing gear: lawn chair, bottled water, umbrella, sunglasses, binoculars, digital camera, and loads of suntan lotion -- for Wahlberg, who's starting to look a little crispy.