Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg have collaborated on two previous real-life dramas — Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon — but none were more personal to the star than Patriots Day.

The movie details the events surrounding the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Wahlberg plays Boston Police Sergeant Tommy Saunders, a fictional character who’s a composite of officers who worked during the day of the bombing and subsequent manhunt.

Wahlberg, a Massachusetts native, believes he easily could have grown up become a police officer and was inspired by how people responded in the face of tragedy.

“When you’re making a movie about something like this, it really becomes about the story, the people, and not your own individual experience. These are the ones that really matter,” he tells EW. “Obviously, I’m very serious about all the movies that I make and I want them all to be successful, and I want them all to work and serve their purpose, but this is so much more important than anything I’ve ever been a part of.”

Berg accompanied Wahlberg to the city and met people affected by the bombing. He was particularly moved by the response of the citizens. “This act of real tragedy had an unintended consequence to build feelings of love and support,” he adds.

Patriots Day, also starring Michelle Monaghan, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, and J.K. Simmons, opens in New York, Boston, and Los Angeles on Dec. 21, and then nationwide on Jan. 13.

Patriots Day
  • Movie
  • 133 minutes