Mark talked with the Calgary Herald about his role in Boogie Nights, his relationship with Leonardo DiCaprio, movies his father would enjoy and more. Here is the article:
Mark Wahlberg learned to love movies at his father’s side when he was a toddler.
The youngest of nine children living in Boston’s Dorchester neighbourhood, the young Wahlberg found solace in the dark theatre, where Donald Wahlberg — a teamster — would take him to share his enthusiasm for gritty, urban films.
“My dad took me to the movies all the time,” Wahlberg said. “The first movie I saw in the theatre was Hard Times with Charlie Bronson. The kind of movies I would watch with my dad were ones starring Jimmy Cagney and Steve McQueen.”
The 41-year-old actor now says he’s been searching for a movie to make his dad proud ever since.
It’s a search that, with a notable musical and modelling detour, eventually led Wahlberg to his Oscar-nominated performance in Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, and it’s one that drove him to produce his latest passion project, Broken City.
Opening in wide release on Jan. 18, Broken City is a twisted morality tale disguised as a noir detective drama. Wahlberg plays Billy Taggart, a disgraced police officer turned private investigator whose own secret threatens to be revealed when Mayor Nicholas Hostetler (an impressively agile Russell Crowe) hires him to find out if his wife is having an affair.
More importantly to Wahlberg, though, “It was just so nice to find a piece of material that reminded me of all the great movies I watched with my dad.”
Like Vincent Chase — the happy-go-lucky movie star at the centre of the Wahlberg-produced HBO series Entourage — Mark Wahlberg’s path to internationally recognized celebrity and media mogul is fraught with happy coincidences.
After spending his teen years as a hoodlum, Wahlberg began public life as the rapper Marky Mark. Known as much for his muscular physique as his natural flow, he got his first acting break in Penny Marshall’s 1994 comedy, Renaissance Man.
“I knew from the first time I walked on set that this is what I wanted to do,” he said. “It was a real process coming from the Marky Mark thing and the underwear thing to be taken seriously as an actor.”
That process came to a head when he met fellow fledgling actor Leonardo DiCaprio.
Ironically, Wahlberg and DiCaprio’s first meeting was less than cordial.
“We had a run-in in an MTV basketball game and I was a bit of p---k,” Wahlberg confessed. But bygones being what they are, the two put aside their differences long enough to appear together in the controversial drug drama, The Basketball Dairies.
Wahlberg’s acting chops led the rising DiCaprio to vouch for the former rapper. And, not long after, Wahlberg said, the two would find their fates intertwined in a manner that would shape their respective careers.
“When Boogie Nights came to me, (director P.T. Anderson and I) had the same agent and it’s funny because he was talking to Leonardo DiCaprio about playing that part and I was making (Titanic director) Jim Cameron let me drive his Humvee while we were talking about the Titanic,” Wahlberg said. “So we would drive around Hollywood in his Hummer and I would make him tell me Arnold stories.”
The resulting leading man switch would send each actor on their own, more rounded trajectory. With Titanic, DiCaprio, who had already made a name for himself, became one of the most bankable stars in the world. But Wahlberg, playing doomed porn star Eddie Adams, ensured he could not only play more than a buff baddie, he could also carry a movie.
Of course, in classic Wahlberg fashion, it nearly didn’t happen.
“I got the script from my agent and I was like, ‘Not interested’ — just because of the subject matter. And my agent was like, ‘Just. Read. Some of it.’” Wahlberg said. “And 35 pages in I had to put it down. I was like, ‘Oh my God, this could be the most brilliant thing ever, this could be Showgirls — which had just come out — it could be some weird guy who finally just wants Marky Mark to take his underwear off in a movie.’ And my agent was like, ‘Just meet the guy.’ And I met Paul and within five minutes I was like, ‘I would love to do this.’”
“That was the first time I was going out of my comfort zone,” Wahlberg explained. “I’d played the tough guy role, the bad guy role, that was cool. I could go back to the neighbourhood and guys would say, ‘Yeah, you f — ked up guys in that movie. That was really cool.’ But playing the vulnerable, innocent guy whose f — king exposed and naked. But I felt like, y’know what? This is what I’m doing. I’m going to be an actor and I can’t worry about what guys think of me anymore. I’m moving on with my life.”
Nearly 10 years later, Wahlberg and DiCaprio reunited on screen in The Departed. Wahlberg — the son who sat in a dark theatre with his father all those years ago — earned his first Academy Award nomination.
“When I got nominated for the Academy Award I called my dad and he said, ‘Now you can consider yourself an actor,’” Wahlberg said.
Unfortunately, Donald Wahlberg died before his son could show him Broken City.
“I was just thinking that it’s such a shame that I couldn’t have shown him that kind of movie,” he sighed. “There wasn’t too many movies that I made that my dad really enjoyed. He was such a film buff.”