Actor Mark Wahlberg let his fantasy life get the best of him when he told Men's Journal that the fate of American Airlines Flight 11 on 9/11 would have been different had he not changed his itinerary at the last moment and boarded the plane. His remarks have been met with fury and mockery on all sides, leading to an apology delivered via TMZ. Universal Pictures, the studio behind Wahlberg's new film Contraband, is going to need more personal involvement from him than a mere apology if it hopes to avoid fallout at the box office.
In a February cover story, Wahlberg told Men's Journal, “If I was on that plane with my kids, it wouldn’t have went down like it did. There would have been a lot of blood in that first-class cabin and then me saying, ‘OK, we’re going to land somewhere safely, don’t worry.’”
The comment put Wahlberg on the cover of the New York Post and the Daily News and made him pretty much the most ridiculed person on the Web on Jan. 19. This led to his apology, which first ran on TMZ: "To speculate about such a situation is ridiculous to begin with...I deeply apologize to the families of the victims that my answer came off as insensitive, it was certainly not my intention."
Wahlberg's own management as well as Universal are undoubtedly trying—or at least fantasizing about trying—to coerce Wahlberg into taking personal steps to prove that he now understands the kind of pain he caused family members and friends of those who perished on 9/11. We all say stupid, insensitive things, both in face-to-face conversations and on social networks, and even in this exaggerated case there is an opportunity to rebuild a reputation. All it takes is a true heroic gesture—to apologize with deeds instead of words.