Who Is Mark Wahlberg?
Born in 1971 in Massachusetts, Mark Wahlberg embarked on an early life of crime before following brother Donnie into the music business, rising to fame as rapper Marky Mark. He turned to film in the 1990s, earning acclaim for his work in The Basketball Diaries, Boogie Nights and Three Kings. Wahlberg was involved in the Academy Award-winning films The Departed and The Fighter, and has since steadily churned out starring roles in such features as Transformer: Age of Extinction, Ted and Daddy's Home.
On the Streets of Boston
Actor and former rapper Mark Robert Michael Wahlberg was born on June 5, 1971, in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. Wahlberg grew up the youngest of nine children in a working-class family. His parents divorced when he was 11, and Wahlberg's mother later 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. His 45-day stint in prison was a self-proclaimed turning point for the 16-year-old; vowing to turn his life around, he also devoted himself to bodybuilding, chiseling his body into impressive form.
Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch
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 soon decided to help his younger brother find his own niche in the music business.
What Mark Wahlberg lacked in singing ability, he made up for in charisma and good looks; he took on the name of Marky Mark, and with a DJ, backup dancers (dubbed "the Funky Bunch") and Donnie's producing help, he recorded a debut album, Music for the People (1991). Driven by the success of the hit singles "Good Vibrations" and "Wildside"—and by Marky Mark's readiness to discard his clothes onstage and in his videos—the album went platinum.
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 was involved in a much-talked-about brawl with Madonna's 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, 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.
'Boogie Nights' and Film Stardom
After appearing in a 1993 television movie, The Substitute, Wahlberg made his big screen debut in Penny Marshall's Renaissance Man (1994), playing one of a group of Army recruits taught by Danny DeVito's ex-advertising salesman. His innate 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 autobiography of his adolescent struggles with heroin addiction.
After two more attention-getting performances in Fear (1996) and Traveller (1997), Wahlberg cemented his artistic and commercial reputation with a starring role as dishwasher turned porn star Eddie Adams (a.k.a. Dirk Diggler) in Paul Thomas Anderson's buzzworthy Boogie Nights (1997). Though his next two films—The Big Hit (1998) and The Corruptor (1999)—were less than successful, Wahlberg returned with a bang in the acclaimed Three Kings (1999). The film co-starred 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.
Hits and Misses
In 2000, Wahlberg re-teamed with Clooney (and Diane Lane) in The Perfect Storm, an adaptation of Sebastian Junger's best-selling account of a boat full of fishermen caught in a killer storm in the North Atlantic. In late 2000, Wahlberg co-starred with Joaquin Phoenix and James Caan in the crime drama The Yards. The following year, he took on a headbanging role in Rock Star, alongside Jennifer Aniston, and the title role of a remake of the classic Planet of the Apes, with Tim Roth and Helena Bonham Carter.
In 2003, Wahlberg co-starred with Charlize Theron in the heist thriller The Italian Job, and followed by joining Lily Tomlin, Jude Law, Naomi Watts and Dustin Hoffman for the 2004 existential comedy I Heart Huckabees. 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 into 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.
'Wahlburgers' and Recent Films
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 fare, Wahlberg took over the lead role of the Transformers series in Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014). The following year, he rejoined MacFarlane for Ted 2 and starred opposite Will Ferrell in the comedy Daddy's Home.
Working behind the scenes, Wahlberg has also enjoyed success as a producer. He served as an executive producer on such television shows as Entourage, In Treatment and Boardwalk Empire. In 2014, Wahlberg launched another small screen project, appearing as himself, along with brothers Donnie and Paul, on Wahlburgers. Airing on A&E, the show focuses on (and takes its name from) the Wahlberg family's hamburger restaurant in Hingham, Massachusetts, as well as the brothers' quirks and interactions. The series received a warm reception from the start and continues to date.
In 2016, Wahlberg took on a role that hit close to home in Patriots Day, about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. He remained busy into 2017, battling machines from space again in Transformers: The Last Knight and sparring with Ferrell in Daddy's Home 2.
'All the Money in the World' Controversies
That year, Wahlberg also starred in All the Money in the World, a film about billionaire J. Paul Getty that sparked nearly as much background drama as the amount that transpired on screen. After co-star Kevin Spacey was fired from the project in November over sexual harassment allegations, director Ridley Scott assembled Wahlberg, Michelle Williams and the rest of the cast and crew for an 11th hour reshoot, with Christopher Plummer taking over as Getty.
Scott successfully pulled everything together, but the accomplishment was soon eclipsed by the news that while Williams received a per-diem rate for the reshoot, Wahlberg took home another $1.5 million for his participation. Although the terms of his contract allowed him to do so, the outcry was such that Wahlberg announced he was donating the $1.5 million to the newly established Times Up Legal Defense Fund, with William Morris Endeavor—the talent agency that represents both actors—contributing another $500,000.
Wahlberg married model 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.
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