Mark Wahlberg is known for headlining thrilling Hollywood blockbusters but his latest project, Patriots Day, is as emotional an experience for the star as it is action-packed.

Mark Wahlberg’s recent collaborations with director Peter Berg have tackled some of the major events that have shaped modern America – be it as a member of the US Special Forces in Afghanistan in 2013’s Lone Survivor or a rig engineer during the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2016’s Deepwater Horizon. The pair’s latest project, however, is one that holds special importance for Wahlberg; the star plays Detective Sergeant Tommy Saunders in Patriots Day, based on the tragic terrorist attack that took place in Wahlberg’s birthplace of Boston in 2013.

Despite his past cinematic successes, taking part in Patriots Day posed a completely new set of problems for Wahlberg.

“I knew it was going to be extremely difficult,” the 45-year-old explains. “But in the end I realised that they’re probably going to make this movie anyway and that I should do it because that way I could control the way the story was told.

“I thought there was probably no one who cared about what happened and wanted to honour the victims and their families more than I did. Even though there was a lot of pressure, it’s the kind of situation where you want to show how proud you are of the way people responded to the tragedy and how everyone united behind each other.”

Thankfully for Wahlberg, he could count on a stellar cast including John Goodman, J. K. Simmons and Kevin Bacon, as well as his past successes with Peter Berg to provide the tribute he wanted to the people of Boston.

“I knew that Peter was as committed to that as any director could possibly be and that also made me feel confident that we could do justice to the people of Boston and also to the victims of the attack, their families, and everyone who was affected by this event,” he agrees. “Just talking about the movie is hard because it feels so close.”

Set on the day of the Boston Marathon attack – in which Chechen brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev used homemade explosive devices to kill three and injure over 250 other crowd-members watching the marathon’s finale – Patriots Day follows the immediate aftermath of the explosion and the subsequent manhunt.

“I flew to Boston the next day and after landing at the airport and driving into the city, everything felt different,” Wahlberg recalls. “The streets were virtually deserted and I don’t think I’ve ever had a more eerie feeling than I did on that day.”

This intense connection to the story has made the film Wahlberg’s most emotional to date, and he hopes the project is a success not just for himself, but for all the “people who are going to stand up to these kinds of attacks in the same way that the people of Boston faced up to the tragedy”.

“I felt a personal responsibility not only to the people who went through this ordeal but also to the entire Boston community, which is very close-knit,” he concludes. “And I wanted to still be able to show my face in the city after making this movie, which meant making sure that we told this story with the right kind of respect and sensitivity.”

Patriots Day is in cinemas on February 2.