Mark Wahlberg Biography: Inside the Life of an American Actor and Former Rapper



Mark Wahlberg began his criminal career before following his brother Donnie into the music industry, where he rose to stardom as rapper Marky Mark. In the 1990s, he moved into film, where he received praise for his roles in The Basketball Diaries, Boogie Nights, and Three Kings. Wahlberg appeared in the Academy Award-winning films The Departed and The Fighter, and has since starred in films such as Transformer: Age of Extinction, Ted, and Daddy’s Home.

Early Life

Mark Robert Michael Wahlberg was born on June 5, 1971, in Boston’s Dorchester area. Wahlberg grew up in a working-class home as the youngest of nine children. His parents split when he was 11, and Wahlberg’s mother later blamed her own emotional neglect for her youngest son’s subsequent spiral into juvenile criminality.

At the age of 14, Wahlberg dropped out of school and began hustling, stealing, and selling drugs on the streets. He hit rock bottom two years later when he was imprisoned for his role in the brutal beating of a Vietnamese man. His 45-day prison sentence, he claims, was a watershed moment in his life; promising to change his life, he also devoted himself to bodybuilding, chiseling his body into outstanding shape.

Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch

Donnie Wahlberg, one of the five fresh-faced members of the pop band New Kids on the Block, had risen to success by the time Wahlberg was released from prison. Donnie quickly resolved to assist his younger brother in finding his own niche in the music industry.

What Mark Wahlberg lacked in singing skill, he made up for in charisma and good looks; he took the stage name Marky Mark and recorded a first album, Music for the People, with a DJ, backup dancers (called “the Funky Bunch”), and Donnie’s producing assistance (1991). The album went platinum due to the success of the smash singles “Good Vibrations” and “Wildside,” as well as Marky Mark’s willingness to strip naked onstage and in his videos.

Wahlberg (and his rock-hard physique), one of pop music’s hottest new commodities, became even more ubiquitous when he inked a two-year contract with Calvin Klein to model underwear. His rowdy public persona — he was once involved in a much-publicized confrontation with Madonna’s entourage at a Los Angeles nightclub — only helped to strengthen his widespread appeal, until reports of his criminal history and perhaps racist and homophobic proclivities emerged.

This aspect of Wahlberg’s personal life was called into question in 1993 when he was accused of supporting overtly homophobic remarks made by his fellow guest, reggae singer Shabba Ranks, on a British chat show. When combined with the Funky Bunch’s second album’s dismal sales, You Must Believe (1992), public criticism of Wahlberg’s career appeared to be guiding his career towards inevitable death. Yet, the 22-year-survival old’s instincts kicked in, and he immediately moved into another arena of entertainment – acting.

Movies and TV

‘Basketball Diaries’

After appearing in The Substitute, a 1993 television film, Wahlberg made his feature film debut in Penny Marshall’s Renaissance Man (1994), playing one of a group of Army recruits instructed by Danny DeVito’s ex-advertising salesman. His natural screen presence led to his casting as the drug-addled best friend of Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in The Basketball Diaries (1995), a small-scale but critically praised film based on poet-musician Jim Carroll’s memoirs of his childhood heroin addiction.

‘Boogie Nights’

Following two more notable performances in Fear (1996) and Traveller (1997), Wahlberg solidified his artistic and commercial fame as dishwasher turned porn star Eddie Adams (a.k.a. Dirk Diggler) in Paul Thomas Anderson’s buzzworthy Boogie Nights (1997). Despite his following two films, The Big Hit (1998) and The Corruptor (1999), were also commercial flops, Wahlberg returned with a bang in the critically acclaimed Three Kings (1999). The film co-starred George Clooney, Ice Cube, and Spike Jonze as renegade US servicemen in the Persian Gulf during the Gulf War combat in 1991.

‘Perfect Storm,’ ‘Planet of the Apes’

In The Perfect Storm, a dramatization of Sebastian Junger’s best-selling account of a boat full of fishermen caught in a fatal storm in the North Atlantic, Wahlberg re-teamed with Clooney (and Diane Lane) in 2000. Wahlberg co-starred in the murder drama The Yards with Joaquin Phoenix and James Caan in late 2000. The next year, he co-starred in Rock Star with Jennifer Aniston, and he played the title character in a remake of the original Planet of the Apes with Tim Roth and Helena Bonham Carter.

‘The Italian Job,’ ‘The Departed’

Wahlberg co-starred in the heist thriller The Italian Job alongside Charlize Theron in 2003, and then joined Lily Tomlin, Jude Law, Naomi Watts, and Dustin Hoffman in the 2004 existential comedy I Heart Huckabees. Wahlberg received his first Academy Award nomination in 2006 for his efforts on the crime movie The Departed. The picture, directed by Martin Scorsese, also starred Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Matt Damon.

‘The Fighter’

Wahlberg made his science fiction debut in M. Night Shyamalan’s 2008 movie The Happening. Both critically and commercially, the film was a disappointment. But, two years later, Wahlberg received critical acclaim for his performance in the gritty 2010 boxing thriller The Fighter. The film, which he assisted in producing, was based on the life of boxer Micky Ward. The Fighter was nominated for an Oscar Award for Best Film.

‘Ted’ and ‘Transformers’ Franchises

Wahlberg’s career as an actor has flourished. He appeared in Seth MacFarlane’s successful comedy Ted in 2012. Wahlberg then returned to more difficult dramatic material with the true-life military film Lone Survivor (2013). Wahlberg, who is still a popular choice for action films, took over the lead role in Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014). The following year, he re-joined MacFarlane for Ted 2 and co-starred in the comedy Daddy’s Home with Will Ferrell.

‘Wahlburgers’ Reality Show

Wahlberg has also had success as a producer behind the scenes. He was an executive producer on television shows such as Entourage, In Treatment, and Boardwalk Empire. In 2014, Wahlberg debuted another small-screen effort, Wahlburgers, in which he co-starred alongside siblings Donnie and Paul. The show, which airs on A&E, centers on (and gets its name from) the Wahlberg brothers’ hamburger shop in Hingham, Massachusetts, as well as their eccentricities and relationships. The series has earned positive feedback since its inception and continues to do so.

‘Patriots Day’

In 2016, Wahlberg starred in Patriots Day, a film about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. He was busy in 2017, battling space machines in Transformers: The Last Knight and dueling with Ferrell in Daddy’s Home 2.

‘All the Money in the World’

That same year, Wahlberg featured in All the Money in the World, a film about millionaire J. Paul Getty that generated nearly as much backstage turmoil as the film itself. After co-star Kevin Spacey was removed from the production in November due to sexual harassment charges, director Ridley Scott gathered Wahlberg, Michelle Williams, and the rest of the cast and crew for an 11th-hour reshoot, with Christopher Plummer filling in for Getty.

Scott successfully pulled everything together, but his achievement was quickly overshadowed by the fact that, while Williams paid a per-diem pay for the reshoot, Wahlberg received an additional $1.5 million for his participation. Despite the fact that his contract permitted him to do so, Wahlberg said that he will donate the $1.5 million to the newly founded Times Up Legal Defense Fund, with William Morris Endeavor — the talent agency that represents both actors — contributing another $500,000.

In the summer of 2018, Wahlberg starred in Mile 22, an American-Chinese action thriller about an elite CIA squad entrusted with protecting a crucial intelligence source from a bunch of terrorists.

In 2018, he also appeared in the comedy Instant Family.

Personal Life

In 2009, Wahlberg married model Rhea Durham. Before getting married, the couple had three children: Ella, Michael, and Brendan. Grace Margaret, their fourth child together, was born in 2010.

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