Family & Companions
By his own admission, actor Mark Wahlberg went from a jailed Boston street thug to a respected, legitimate actor in less than a decade, with attention-grabbing stops as a rapper and underwear model along the way. He received his first acting kudos for his starring role as ambitious porn star Dirk Diggler in "Boogie Nights" (1997), but proving he was no one-hit-wonder, went on to deliver memorable performances in "Three Kings" (1999), "Four Brothers" (2005) and "The Departed" (2006), for which he received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Wahlberg also made his mark as co-creator and executive producer of HBO's comedy series "Entourage" (2004-2011), with its loosely-based portrayal of his life as a young star suddenly flush with cash, power and women. While reaping the critical success of that show, Wahlberg moved on to more adult roles, playing a reluctant Marine sniper in "Shooter" (2007) and a father grieving the tragic murder of his daughter in "The Lovely Bones" (2009). By the time he tackled the Oscar-baiting roles of real-life underdog boxer Micky Ward in "The Fighter" (2010) and a Boston policeman hunting real-life terrorists in "Patriots Day" (2016), as well as raucous comedy with "Ted" (2012) and "Daddy's Home" (2015), Wahlberg was firmly established as one of Hollywood's more versatile performers.
The youngest of nine children, Mark Wahlberg was born on June 5, 1971, in the working class Boston neighborhood of Dorchester. His father was a Teamster truck driver and his mother was a nurse who corralled most of her kids into a three-bedroom apartment following her divorce from their father in 1982. At the time, Wahlberg and older brother Donnie had already begun efforts to become music stars; first by rapping on the streets and then as the earliest members of the one-time hot boy band, New Kids on the Block. Wahlberg joined the group when he was 12 years old, and although he liked the attention, he was not into the voice and choreography lessons the band's management demanded, nor their wholesome pop image. He had something else in mind.
Wahlberg dropped out of Copley Square High School in ninth grade and ended up a full time troublemaker. He sold drugs and was in and out of jail for theft and petty crimes. In 1986, he was arrested and charged with harassing black students. In 1988, after robbing a liquor store, he was convicted of assault and attempted murder of a middle-aged Vietnamese man who lost an eye during the attack. Wahlberg had served time at the Plymouth County House of Corrections, but being jailed as an adult at the Deer Island Correctional Facility was really a reality check for the young thug, who was surrounded by former neighborhood tough guys twice his age. He suddenly understood where he was headed and it was far away from a jail cell. Upon his release, now superstar brother Donnie took his younger sibling under his wing in an attempt to keep Wahlberg out of trouble. He introduced him around the music business, during which promoters could tell there was money to be made off this sexy bad boy with the prison weight room-physique. Donnie penned a few songs he knew his brother's limited vocal talents could handle and they put together a high-energy stage show of dancers and back-up singers who debuted in an opening slot for the New Kids. In 1991, the hip-hop popster "Marky Mark" released his first album Music for the People, which went platinum on the strength of the singles "Good Vibrations" and "Wildside."
Unwilling to rest on his "music" alone, Marky Mark gave his audience a little something extra, as he became known for dropping his pants and revealing his buff physique as well as his underwear during appearances. The marketing department at Calvin Klein could not help but take notice, signing Wahlberg to a two-year contract. The waxed rapper with the great pecs soon appeared on a Times Square billboard in the designer's signature boxer briefs - which caused nothing short of a sensation for the little it left to the imagination. Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch suffered a sophomore slump with their 1992 follow-up You Gotta Believe. In fact, Rolling Stone readers voted Wahlberg the "Worst Male Singer" of the year. He was also under fire for his "free speech" defense, following a wildly homophobic comment made by Shabba Ranks during a television appearance together. Even worse, Wahlberg's newfound fame did not appear to have cured his violent tendencies, with the singer racking up two assault charges during the year. Most did not doubt that this bad boy was quickly heading to has-been lane, populated by the likes of fellow rappers, MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice.
Trying to reinvent himself, Wahlberg had been approached with acting offers several times since his musical breakthrough, but he never thought of himself as an actor until he was invited to meet with Penny Marshall. Marshall was onto Wahlberg's game, explaining to him that he had been acting his entire life. The former rapper considered all the time he had spent proclaiming his innocence to judges, lying to his parents, creating the image of the toughest guy in the neighborhood, and putting up walls to protect himself in jail. With Marshall's encouragement he accepted a role in "Renaissance Man" (1994). With that, Wahlberg dumped the "Marky" moniker, finally feeling like he had found his niche. And while he did not show much in the way of acting skill in the film, he did comport himself with ease in front of the camera, possessing a spark and charm that proved appealing to audiences. The following year he even managed to steal scenes from Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Basketball Diaries" (1995), playing volatile Mickey, boyhood friend of DiCaprio's Jim Carroll. In 1996, he gave a remarkably chilling performance in "Fear" as a charming but mysterious young man who dates a sheltered 16-year-old (Reese Witherspoon) and shows his true colors as a maniacal and violent stalker.
If Wahlberg had been reluctant to accept himself as an actor, the viewing public was 10 times more reluctant. "Boogie Nights" (1997), however made it hard to argue with the fact that Wahlberg could carry a movie. Helmed by relative newcomer Paul Thomas Anderson, "Boogie Nights" told the story of an unusually endowed busboy-turned-porn star and his rise and fall in the adult industry during the late 1970s to early 1980s. Roundly acclaimed if a little disjointed and long-winded, "Boogie Nights" was an enjoyable and oddly old-fashioned fable. But there was no denying even to hardcore critics, that the relative newbie actor's mix of boyish innocence and brute sexuality made him a perfect Eddie Adams/Dirk Diggler. In 1998, Wahlberg cashed in on his renewed popularity in the action comedy "The Big Hit," co-starring with Antonio Sabato Jr., Lou Diamond Phillips and Bokeem Woodbine as one of a group of suave and sexy, but somewhat bumbling hit men. The following year saw him take on a role opposite Chow Yun Fat in the Asian gang urban crime drama "The Corruptor." While both efforts were solid, the roles did not ring true, as both were two-dimensional characterizations and Wahlberg's capable work failed to add much. He would generally fare better with work that utilized his winning combination of youthful charm and worldly hardness; as well as roles where his looks belied his actions.
In 1999, Wahlberg co-starred with George Clooney and Ice Cube in David O Russell's "Three Kings," a hard-hitting but comedic chronicle of the Gulf War. Here, he shone as a man both terrified and tough; a young father and soldier desperate to get back home. He reunited with his new best offscreen buddy Clooney in 2000 with "The Perfect Storm," a gripping fact-based account of a downed fishing boat off the coast of Massachusetts. A harrowing film with a grueling shoot, it was a summer hit and further established Wahlberg as a performer to be reckoned with. A low point, however was "Rock Star" (2001), with Wahlberg portraying the rags-to-riches tale of its musician protagonist, but the hair extensions and heavy metal antics were hard to take seriously for a generation not quite ready to revisit the hair bands of the late 1980s. Wahlberg in an ape suit, however did not score with critics either. Tim Burton's ambitious and highly anticipated adaptation of 1968's "Planet of the Apes" was a fun summer blockbuster and made an enormous amount of money, even if Wahlberg found it hard to fill Charlton Heston's sandals. It was even more difficult for him to step into the designer loafers of suave Hollywood legend Cary Grant for the 2002 remake of Stanley Donen's 1963 classic, "Charade" - so hard, in fact, that the studio wisely attempted to avoid comparison by calling the new version "The Truth About Charlie." Even Jonathan Demme could not mold Wahlberg into the strong, confident mysterious espionage agent that made the original story work so well. Wahlberg made yet another misstep into the remake ring with an update of "The Italian Job" (2003) this time unwisely taking on a role made famous by Michael Caine. Though the film itself was a modest success.
Wahlberg began to shake off his unfortunate run of duds in 2004, when he became executive producer and creator of the HBO series "Entourage" (HBO, 2004-2011). The instantly popular show drew upon the exploits of Wahlberg and his real-life Hollywood hangers-on, to tell the story of fictional rising star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his club-hopping crew. "Entourage" went on to earn Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for Best Comedy numerous times. Wahlberg somehow found time to shoot a film the same year he launched his TV show, playing a fireman drawn into the search for answers to deep philosophical conundrums in a retail superstore in the "existential comedy" "I [Heart] Huckabees" (2004). Most critics and fans were of the same mind that the rapper-turned-actor stole the picture from his more seasoned co-stars, including Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin and Jude Law. Wahlberg then took on a role that was close to the tough, troubled man he used to be when he played one of four troubled foster sons seeking to avenge the murder of their mother, in John Singleton's hard-edged revenge drama "Four Brothers" (2005). For the football film "Invincible" (2006) Wahlberg received strong reviews from critics, many of whom were pleased with the authenticity and heart of the real-life story, despite rampant sports film clichés. Still part street-tough, Wahlberg rejected the use of stunt doubles and took all his own hits on the field in order to portray improbable NFL player Vince Papale, a former part-time bartender-turned-special teams star on the Philadelphia Eagles.
What came next for the actor was truly special and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Wahlberg headed back to Boston and the scene of his own improbable rise to fame to shoot Martin Scorsese's "The Departed" (2006). Joining an all-star cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, fellow Bostonian Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson, he played a rough-and-tumble cop who was one of two people inside the South Boston police department that knows one of their own (DiCaprio) is deep undercover inside a crime syndicate, while the mob has its own mole (Damon) on the force. For his strong and often humorous performance - particularly his give-and-take with Alec Baldwin - Wahlberg earned both Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for Best Supporting Actor.
In 2007, Wahlberg released a pair of moderately successful action films that failed to live up to the quality of his big success the previous year. "Shooter" (2007) was an action thriller about an ex-marksman brought back to the job by his old associates to prevent an assassination, only to be double-crossed and framed for killing the President. In "We Own the Night," Wahlberg again played a cop in the implausible tale of family loyalties amongst the Russian mob, police, and a nightclub owner in 1980s Brooklyn. Wahlberg seemed poised to try a new direction in 2008 with the anticipated release of "The Happening," an M. Night Shyamalan thriller. Following a low-key co-starring turn opposite Joaquin Phoenix and Robert Duvall in the crime drama "We Own the Night" (2007), Wahlberg starred in the video game feature film adaptation, "Max Payne" (2008), playing the titular maverick cop hell-bent on avenging the brutal murders of his family and his partner, which leads him into a nightmarish journey into the dark underworld. In "The Lovely Bones" (2009), he was a father whose grief over the tragic murder of his young daughter (Saoirse Ronan) leads to an obsessive search for her killer (Stanley Tucci) that tears the rest of his family apart. He next courted critical acclaim for his performance in "The Fighter" (2010), playing "Irish" Micky Ward, a real-life junior welterweight boxer who endured a difficult life while becoming a working-class hero in his native Massachusetts. Arguably one of the better performances of his career, Wahlberg earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in December 2010.
Remaining active as a producer, Wahlberg stepped away from the spotlight briefly, resurfacing for the crime thriller "Contraband" (2012), which met with muted reception. Later in the year, however, he starred in "Ted," an irreverent comedy that found him working with fellow New England native Seth MacFarlane to offer up a tale of an amiable Bostonian man-child and his foul-mouthed talking teddy bear. The movie, co-starring Mila Kunis, took in a massive haul, with rumors of a sequel abounding. Meanwhile, Wahlberg returned to more straight-faced territory with the underperforming crime drama "Broken City" (2013), featuring Russell Crowe, and "Pain & Gain," a bodybuilder-centric action movie directed by Michael Bay, who also enlisted the star for his upcoming fourth installment in the "Transformers" franchise. Before that project got underway, however, Wahlberg teamed up with Denzel Washington for the firearms-heavy caper "2 Guns" (2013). After starring in Iraq War drama "Lone Survivor" (2013), Wahlberg reteamed with Michael Bay for "Transformers: Age of Extinction" (2014) and McFarlane for "Ted 2" (2015), as well as appearing as himself in the film version of "Entourage" (2015). Another comedy hit, "Daddy's Home" (2015), paired Wahlberg with Will Ferrell, while "Deepwater Horizon" (2016) and terrorist drama "Patriots Day" (2016) built suspense out of recent news events. Wahlberg returned to the "Transformers" universe with "Transformers: The Last Knight" (2017).
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Started breakdancing on Boston streets
He and brother Donnie became the first two members of the teen vocal group New Kids on the Block
Unwilling to take singing lessons, quit New Kids on the Block after six months
Released debut rap album <i>Music for the People</i>, recorded with his band The Funky Bunch; album went platinum
Signed a two-year contract as Calvin Klein underwear model
Made guest appearance on "The Ben Stiller Show" (Fox)
Made TV-movie acting debut, "The Substitute" (USA Network)
Made film debut with a featured acting role in "Renaissance Man"
Breakthrough role as the hot-tempered best friend of Leonardo DiCaprio's Jim Carroll in "The Basketball Diaries"
Starred in the teen thriller "Fear" as the violently obsessive boyfriend of Reese Witherspoon
Landed a starring role of an Irish con man in the little-seen independent "Traveller"
Earned positive reviews as 1970s porn star 'Dirk Diggler' in Paul Thomas Anderson's "Boogie Nights"
Played an idealistic NYPD recruit opposite Chow Yun Fat's veteran cop in the crime thriller "The Corruptor"
Teamed with George Clooney and Ice Cube in David O Russell's acclaimed Gulf War chronicle "Three Kings"
Reunited with Clooney as co-stars of Wolfgang Petersen's gripping fact-based sea thriller "The Perfect Storm"
Starred in the New York City-set crime drama feature "The Yards"
Starred in Tim Burton's remake of "Planet of the Apes"
Played a salesman who becomes a heavy metal singer in "Rock Star"; Clooney was one of the film's producers
Co-starred in Jonathan Demme's remake of "Charade" titled "The Truth About Charlie"
Co-starred with Charlize Theron in F. Gary Gray's remake of the heist film "The Italian Job"
Executive produced the HBO series "Entourage" which followed young Hollywood star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his close circle of friends; earned Emmy (2004, 2005) nominations for Best Comedy series
Starred opposite Jude Law and Naomi Watts in "I Heart Huckabees"; re-teamed with director, David O. Russell
Starred in John Singleton's "Four Brothers" as one of four brothers out to avenge his mother's murder
Cast in Martin Scorsese's mob drama "The Departed", a remake of the popular Hong Kong crime thriller "Infernal Affairs"; received Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actor
Co-starred with Joaquin Phoenix and Robert Duvall in "We Own the Night"
Co-starred in M. Night Shyamalan's "The Happening"
Played the titular role in the film version of the video game "Max Payne"
Played the father of a murdered young girl in Peter Jackson's adaptation of Alice Sebold's bestseller "The Lovely Bones"
Co-starred with Will Ferrell in the action comedy "The Other Guys," about two mismatched New York City detectives
Co-starred with Steve Carell and Tina Fey in the comedy "Date Night"
Received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Portrayed professional boxer 'Irish' Micky Ward in David O. Russell's "The Fighter"
Executive produced the HBO series "Boardwalk Empire"
Nominated for the 2011 Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama ("The Fighter")
Nominated for the 2011 Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama
Starred as a former criminal who gets forced back into a life of crime after his family is threatened in the action thriller "Contraband"; also produced film
Starred in the comedy "Ted," directed by Seth MacFarlane
Played former NYPD cop opposite Russell Crowe and Catherine Zeta-Jones in crime drama "Broken City"
Co-starred with Denzel Washington in "2 Guns"
Produced and co-starred in military drama "Lone Survivor"
Made his first foray into the Transformers universe with "Transformers: Age of Extinction"
Co-starred in the comedy "Daddy's Home"
Appeared in "Ted" sequel "Ted 2"
Starred in true life disaster dramatization "Deepwater Horizon"
Returned for the sequel "Daddy's Home 2"
Returned to Transformers in "Transformers: The Last Knight"
Re-teamed with Sean Anders and John Morris for the comedy "Instant Family"
Co-starred in Ridley Scott's "All the Money in the World"