Five Things We Learned from the Patriots Day Press Conference

Mark Wahlberg, Peter Berg, and more attended Thursday's event.

Kevin Bacon, Mark Wahlberg, and John Goodman in 'Patriots Day'

Photo by Karen Ballard

Less than a day after the film’s star-studded red carpet, a press conference for Mark Wahlberg’s Patriots Day was held at the Intercontinental Boston on Thursday morning.

The 40-minute event featured a discussion about the Marathon bombing movie with Wahlberg, along with director Peter Berg and several of the project’s producers. Many of the survivors and law enforcement members who are portrayed in Patriots Day also spoke at the press conference, including Police Commissioner William Evans, former Police Commissioner Ed Davis, former FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard DesLauriers, carjacking survivor Dun “Danny” Meng, as well as Marathon survivors Patrick and Jessica Downes.

Ahead, here are five things we learned about the making of Patriots Day from Thursday’s event.

1. The filmmakers struggled with how to portray the Tsarnaev brothers.

“The amount of screen time that we gave the Tsarnaev brothers is something we talked about quite a bit,” Berg said.

The director revealed that he felt it was necessary to include the Tsarnaev brothers due to their unique story. Rather than being terrorists who were foreign nationals like the 9/11 attackers, these were immigrants who assimilated in American culture. Although their inclusion was integral to the film, Berg and the rest of the crew made sure not to portray them in a positive or sympathetic light.

“We were very conscious of not wanting to portray them in any way to be righteous men,” Berg said. “We don’t consider their behavior to be righteous. We don’t consider them to be good Muslims. We don’t really actually consider them to be Muslims at all.We found their behavior to be cowardly, hypocritical.”

He added, “These were hypocritical, confused, narcissistic, psychopaths, as far as we were concerned.”

2. Why Wahlberg played a composite character created for the film.

The filmmakers tried to be as accurate as the could with the movie, but one aspect that was a bit fictionalized is Wahlberg’s Tommy Saunders, a composite character based on Boston police officers. Berg explained that they didn’t want to assign any character “stolen valor,” or rather, giving a person credit for an heroic act in a story when they weren’t really involved in real life.

Instead, Patriots Day tried to honor the different officers who responded by creating a character to represent all of them. Wahlberg did admit, though, that one of the real life law enforcement members who inspired his character was Danny Keller.

3. One Marathon survivor said that the film ‘is never going to feel right.’

Wahlberg, Berg, and the rest of the team behind Patriots Day have made a point to express their commitment to getting it right with the film. While it was a noble goal, Jessica Downes explained why she feels the movie will never really feel right to the survivors, despite all of the respect that the filmmakers showed.

“Hearing everyone today, the theme is did they get it right? I think that’s an impossible question for a survivor,” Downes said. “I think that’s what I realized last night, that this movie is never going to feel right to them. It can feel OK, and it can feel respected, and you can feel proud and be happy that it was done, but right is so hard, because what happened to us was just anything but right.”

“I don’t think it was anyone’s error or mistake. I just think it’s the nature of this,” she added. “This was really traumatic. This permanently changed lives. This permanently ended lives. And so ‘right’ isn’t something you can achieve with survivors, but ‘respect’ is. And I do think that the gentlemen sitting behind us ensured that that happened.”

4. Katherine Russell refused to participate in the project.

The Patriots Day team sought the counsel of many people who were involved in the incident, including Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s wife Katherine Russell. Despite their best attempts, she refused to participate in the film or answer any of the director’s questions.

“I asked to meet with her. She wouldn’t meet with me,” Berg said. “Her attorney asked if I would submit questions to her in writing, which I did. Those questions went unanswered.”

Berg went to say how there are many “unresolved” issues regarding her involvement in the attack and its aftermath.

5. Will there ever be an autobiographical Mark Wahlberg movie?

Due to the themes of hope and reconciliation that Patriots Day champions, one reporter asked Wahlberg if he’d consider making a movie with similar themes, but centered around his own life trajectory. Alluding to Wahlberg’s violent past when he assaulted two Asian men as a teen, the reporter wanted to know if he would make and star in an “autobiographical” film about “racial healing in Boston.”

“I’d have to figure out who was going to play me in the movie first. That would be the toughest task,” Wahlberg said. “Growing up in Boston in the ’70s and ’80s, there was a huge racial divide. It was pretty much all we knew growing up.”

The actor went on to talk about the pride he feels in seeing how far the city has come in terms of breaking down racial barriers. He also praised the everyday citizens who helped out during the Marathon attack, saying that they inspire him to continue bettering himself as a person.

“”One of the things that I continue to go back to is again now seeing how far our city’s come, how much people have grown, and how people from all walks of life ran towards the problem, went to help people, because it was the right thing to do,” Wahlberg said. “I found that to be the biggest inspiration and what made me the most proud to be a Bostonian. As far as telling my own story, I work hard every day to become a better person, a better father, a better husband, and a better Bostonian. The last act of my story has yet to be written, so we’ll figure that out.”

Patriots Day opens in Boston on December 21.