Born on June 5, 1971, in Dorchester, Mass., Mark Wahlberg grew up the youngest of nine children. After a 45-day jail term at 16, Wahlberg turned his life around via the music world with the help of his brother Donnie, a member of New Kids on the Block. Wahlberg transformed from rapper to Hollywood actor and never looked back, starring in films such as Boogie Nights and Three Kings. His recent projects include Lone Survivor (2013), Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014) and Ted 2 (2015).
On the Streets of Boston
Actor and former rapper Mark Wahlberg was born on June 5, 1971, in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Wahlberg grew up the youngest of nine children in a working class Irish Catholic family in the Boston district of Dorchester. Wahlberg's parents divorced when he was 11; his mother has since blamed her own emotional neglect for her youngest son's descent into juvenile delinquency during the next several years.
At 14, Wahlberg dropped out of school and began making his living on the streets—hustling, stealing, and selling drugs. Two years later, he hit rock bottom when he was jailed for his role in the savage beating of a Vietnamese man. Although the crime was believed by many to be racially motivated, Wahlberg has continually denied that race played a part in the attack. His 45-day stint in prison was a self-proclaimed turning point in the 16-year-old Wahlberg's life. Vowing to give himself some direction in his life, he also began body building seriously, chiseling his body into impressive form.
Pop Star Fame
By the time Wahlberg had emerged from prison, his older brother Donnie had rocketed to stardom as one of five fresh-faced members of the pop band New Kids on the Block. Donnie decided to help his younger brother find his own niche in the music business. What Wahlberg lacked in singing ability, he made up for in charisma and good looks—with Donnie's hip-hop arrangements and producing help, Marky Mark (his rap name) and his back-up deejay and dancers (dubbed "the Funky Bunch") recorded a debut album, Music for the People (1991). Driven by the success of the hit dance singles "Good Vibrations" and "Wildside" (and by Marky Mark's readiness to discard his shirt and drop his pants onstage and in his videos), the album went platinum, selling over a million copies.
One of pop music's hottest new commodities, Wahlberg (and his rock-hard physique) became even more ubiquitous when he signed a two-year contract with the designer Calvin Klein to model underwear. His raucous public persona, he once became involved in a much-talked-about brawl with Madonna and her entourage at a Los Angeles nightclub only served to increase his popular appeal, until news began surfacing about his criminal past and his possibly racist and homophobic tendencies.
In 1993, this part of Wahlberg's personal life was seriously questioned when he was accused of condoning blatantly homophobic remarks made on a British talk show by his fellow guest, the reggae singer Shabba Ranks. Combined with the disappointing sales of the Funky Bunch's second album, You Gotta Believe (1992), the public criticism of Wahlberg's career seemed to be steering his career towards certain death. The 22-year-old's survival instincts kicked in, however, and he soon made a move into another realm of the entertainment world—acting.
After appearing in a 1993 television movie, The Substitute, Wahlberg made his big screen debut in Penny Marshall's lightweight Renaissance Man (1994), in which he played one of a group of Army recruits taught by an ex-advertising salesman, played by Danny DeVito. His innate brand of screen presence led to his casting in his breakthrough role, that of the drug-addled best friend of Leonardo DiCaprio's character in The Basketball Diaries (1995), a small-scale but acclaimed film based on poet-musician Jim Carroll's dark autobiography of his own adolescent struggles with heroin addiction.
After two more attention-getting performances in Fear (1996) and Traveller (1997), Wahlberg cemented his artistic and commercial reputation (and left "Marky Mark" far behind) with a starring role as dishwasher turned porn star Eddie Adams (aka Dirk Diggler) in writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson's buzzworthy Boogie Nights (1997), costarring Burt Reynolds. Though his next two films—The Big Hit (1998) and The Corruptor (1999), costarring Chinese action superstar Chow Yun-Fat—were less than successful, Wahlberg returned with a bang in the acclaimed Three Kings (1999). The film costarred Wahlberg, George Clooney, Ice Cube and Spike Jonze as renegade U.S. servicemen in the Persian Gulf during the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War conflict.
In 2000, Wahlberg reteamed with Clooney (and Diane Lane) in The Perfect Storm, Wolfgang Petersen's highly-touted film version of Sebastian Junger's bestselling account of a boat full of swordfishermen caught in a killer storm in the North Atlantic. In late 2000, Wahlberg costarred with Joaquin Phoenix and James Caan in the little-seen crime drama The Yards. The following year, he starred as a heavy metal rock musician in Rock Star, costarring Jennifer Aniston, and in the title role in a remake of the classic Planet of the Apes, costarring Charlton Heston and Helena Bonham Carter.
In 2003, Wahlberg costarred with Charlize Theron in the heist thriller The Italian Job. He joined Lily Tomlin, Jude Law, Naomi Watts and Dustin Hoffman for the 2004 existential comedy titled I Heart Huckabee's. In 2006, Wahlberg picked up his first Academy Award nomination for his work on the crime drama The Departed. The Martin Scorsese film also starred Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon.
Branching out in science fiction, Wahlberg starred in M. Night Shyamalan's 2008 thriller The Happening. The movie proved to be a disappointment both critically and commercially. Two years later, however, Wahlberg earned raves for his starring role in the gritty 2010 boxing film The Fighter. The movie, which he helped produce, was based on the life of boxer Micky Ward. The Fighter received an Academy Award nomination for best picture.
Wahlberg has continued to thrive as an actor. In 2012, he starred in the hit Seth MacFarlane comedy Ted. Wahlberg then returned to challenging dramatic fare with the real-life military drama Lone Survivor (2013). Still a popular choice for action films, Wahlberg starred in the latest installment of Transformers series, Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014). He rejoined Seth MacFarlane for the sequel Ted 2 in 2015. That same year, he starred opposite Will Ferrell in the comedy Daddy's Home.
Working behind the scenes, Wahlberg has also enjoyed success as a producer. He has served as an executive producer on such television shows as Entourage, In Treatment and Boardwalk Empire. In 2014, Wahlberg launched another small screen project. He began appearing as himself, along with brothers Donnie and Paul, on Wahlburgers.
Wahlburgers, which airs on A+E, focuses on (and takes its name from) the Wahlberg family's hamburger restaurant in Hingham, Massachusetts—near Boston—as well as the brothers' quirks and interactions. Paul, head chef of the eatery, is the star of the show. The series received a warm reception from the start and continues to date.
Wahlberg married Rhea Durham in 2009. The couple had three children, daughter Ella and sons Michael and Brendan, before tying the knot. In 2010, they welcomed their fourth child together, daughter, Grace Margaret.
We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!