Born and raised in Boston, Ben Foster started his acting career in his late teens with roles on hit TV series Flash Forward and Freaks and Geeks. After a season portraying troubled art student Russell Corwin on HBO’s critically acclaimed series Six Feet Under, Foster went on to major roles on the big screen in Hostage, 3:10 to Yuma, & X-Men: The Last Stand.
In his latest thriller Contraband, Foster stars alongside Mark Wahlberg and Kate Beckinsale as Sebastian Abney: the lead character Chris’ (Wahlberg) longtime best friend and confidante. In the film, ex-drug smuggler Chris is drawn back into the line of fire when his wife’s (Beckinsale) brother becomes indebted to the mob after losing a shipment. Wahlberg must run contraband bills out of Panama to make amends or risk losing his family.
In what can be described as a well-acted but incredibly slimy characterization, Foster’s Sebastian brings to light the moral dilemma of loyalty vs. responsibility, and asks how far would you go to save your own skin if it came down to it? Foster sat down with Playboy.com for a quick Q&A on Sebastian, getting to know Marky Mark, and his upcoming film 360.
Playboy.com: Prior to filming did you watch the Icelandic film Contraband is based on?
Foster: I did not. If I’m being brought on to do the remake, and I haven’t seen the original I try to avoid the original material—it becomes almost impossible not to, even subconsciously, steal. You open yourself up when you’re working and have to be careful what you put in the blender. You never want to repeat or rip something off.
Playboy.com: It must have been interesting having Baltasar Kormákur, who starred in the original, direct you guys in the remake?
Foster: It was a successful first version of the film and Balt is a very ambitious director. He was excited to reinterpret his material with his new cast. It was a benefit, because you don’t want to repeat the same movie.
Playboy.com: Tell us about Sebastian in your own words?
Foster: Well Sebastian is a man who works night and day to support his presentation to the world of success. We all know people like this, who have the right car, have the right clothes, have the right apartment, charming, but their personal life behind closed doors is falling apart. I based it loosely on a producer I once worked with who had a tendency to push a little too hard to hide his weaknesses.
Playboy.com: Your and Mark’s characters are pretty close in the film. Did you guys hang out off screen as well? Did you know each other before?
Foster: We’d met a couple times; I’ve been a big fan of his for many years. We just hung out, shooting shit hanging out as boys. That was very easy; he’s such a talented man and a level headed fella. One of the most loyal people I’ve met working in Hollywood—very true to his roots and friendships. It didn’t feel hard to feel like Mark’s best friend [laughs].
Playboy.com: Your character Sebastian is explained by the director as sort of a “consummate pleaser;” a guy who tends to avoid confrontation which ends up making things worse and usually screwing up a situation on all sides.
Foster: I suppose that he doesn’t lean towards confrontation. It’s addict mentality and addict mentality in my own understanding is based on living a lie. Behaviors and actions which are not life supporting. Insanity is described as doing the same thing over and over again when you know the outcome to be negative, and you expect it.
Playboy.com: He’s a fairly complex character. Did you find it a challenge playing Sebastian?
Foster: Each role presents its own challenges. The challenge with this was, initially in the script, me and Mark’s character weren’t very good friends, we were business associates. Balt was supportive of encouraging my take which was, “If we make this a familial friendship, a deep and dear history—a past that means something—then the betrayal,” and I don’t want to give away any spoilers here,” means more.”
Playboy.com: What was your favorite scene to shoot?
Foster: I think Kate is one of the most underrated actresses working today. I think she’s just absolutely terrific and I took great pleasure in working with her. Particularly near the end of the picture where she and Sebastian are talking through a door, which was mostly improvised. She’s a doll; I really enjoyed working with Kate.
Playboy.com: Do prefer playing good guys or bad guys?
Foster: I don’t really prefer, it’s really story specific.
Playboy.com: What can you tell us about your upcoming film 360, what’s it about?
Foster: Another charmer; a sex defender (Foster) has just been released and he’s stuck in an airport during a snowstorm. It’s a huge ensemble cast, a tremendous cast: Fernando Meirelles directed; Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins, and Rachel Weisz—terrific cast. It was a joy to work with Fernando.
Playboy.com: Last thoughts, what makes Contraband worth checking out?
Foster: It’s entertaining. I hope they have fun watching it. (Contraband) could be your traditional run-of-the-mill smuggler film, but it has a bit more depth to it than people might expect.
Contraband is available in-stores and online tomorrow on BLU-Ray, DVD, Digital Copy, & Ultraviolet. Buy it on Amazon: Here.
Check out an exclusive clip from the film below: