Mark Wahlberg: The rise of the rapper turned respected actor


Over the course of the last two decades, Mark Wahlberg has transitioned from rapper to model to Oscar-nominated actor. How has one of Hollywood’s highest-paid stars risen to fame?

If you heard the name Mark Wahlberg 20 years ago you would probably have associated him with Calvin Klein underwear and his rapper moniker Marky Mark.

But since his break-out role in 1997’s Boogie Nights, he is now one of Hollywood’s most sought-after stars thanks to his Oscar-nominated turn in Martin Scorsese’s The Departed and films like Planet of the Apes, The Fighter and last summer’s hit comedy, Ted.

Last year, Forbes ranked him as the ninth highest-paid actor in the US, just behind Johnny Depp and Will Smith.

With four films due out in 2013 and about to start work on the new Transformers movie, the 41-year-old is certainly earning his keep, but he does acknowledge how fleeting success can be.

“I know what’s happened to me is not the norm,” he admits. “That’s why I’m appreciative and try to stay as humble as possible – I don’t just assume I’ll be in this position forever.”

Wahlberg’s latest film, crime thriller Broken City, sees him star opposite Russell Crowe as an ex-cop seeking justice and redemption for a past transgression.

Redemption is a theme the star is familiar with – as the youngest of nine children growing up in Boston, Wahlberg found himself in trouble with the law as a teen.

After becoming addicted to cocaine by the age of 13, he turned to petty crime. It came to a head three years later when he was charged with attempted murder after he attacked a man who was left blind in one eye.

He pleaded guilty to assault and was sentenced to two years in prison, but was released after 45 days.

It was while in prison that Wahlberg decided to turn his life around. He turned to music and his brother Donnie – famous for being in US boyband New Kids On The Block – produced his first album, with his 1991 debut single, Good Vibrations, entering charts around the world.

His muscular physique helped him become the model for a Calvin Klein’s underwear advert, but Wahlberg wanted to be taken seriously and began his pursuit of acting.

The star credits his local priest and embracing his faith for transforming his life. A committed Catholic, he regularly attends Mass and even visits churches in other countries while filming or promoting his projects.

It may not fit in with the Hollywood image of glitz, glamour and parties but the actor says those days are behind him now he is married with children: “I got all that out of my system when I was very young, thank God.

“I’ve been very blessed to meet an amazing woman and have four beautiful children – there isn’t anything that’s going to make me mess up what I have.”

Perhaps to try and make up for the wrongs of his past, Wahlberg does a lot of charity work and set up a youth foundation in 2001. It has so far raised more than $10m (£6.6m) to help improve the lives of inner-city kids in the US through mentoring and community support.

“I can’t forget about where I came from,” he says. “There are a lot of kids faced with the same things I was faced with and to overcome those obstacles are not easy.

“I just want to try and create opportunities to give them the best chance to succeed in whatever they want to do.”

But acting is not the only string to Wahlberg’s bow – he is the executive producer of TV crime show Boardwalk Empire.

He also exec produced Gabriel Byrne drama In Treatment and comedy series Entourage – which was loosely based on his experiences as an up-and-coming film star in Los Angeles.

On the big screen, he earned a second Oscar nomination as the producer of The Fighter and also produced his 2012 film Contraband and new film Broken City.

However it’s not just a token title, Wahlberg insists, saying he likes to get involved in every aspect of the production.

“When I first read the [Broken City] script and [director Allen Hughes] was talking to me about acting in the movie, I said there’s only one way to make this and that’s independently and to produce it together. If not, the studio is going to try and change everything I like about it.”

Even while the film was in post-production, the actor says he was still on call to handle “financial stuff”.

The star has also turned his attention to becoming a businessman. He has a burger restaurant – Wahlburgers – near his native Boston which he opened with Donnie, and last year launched a line of sports nutrition supplements.

Next in his sights is to start building inner-city gyms in the US.

“I’m very entrepreneurial,” he says. “I’ve always been fascinated with business, even at a very young age being in the street, making sure I was always making money.

“But I have a lot of interests outside of the entertainment industry – I want to build a business I can pass onto my kids.”

In the meantime, Wahlberg says he hopes to move from starring in movies, to directing them.

“I think it’s a matter of finding the right story to tell and carving out 16-18 months of my life to do it,” he says – adding he would want to make it independently to retain control “without the studio meddling with any creative aspects”.

In 2005, Wahlberg said in an interview he planned to retire at 40 to concentrate on his family. Obviously that plan didn’t work out.

“I was working at a feverish pace then,” he says. “I slowed down a little bit and now I’m working at an even more feverish pace – it’s more hectic and chaotic.

“I think [I’ll retire at] more like 50. I’ve found myself in a zone right now, creatively. I did four movies this year and I think each one is better than the next for different reasons.

About the author

Olivia Wilson
By Olivia Wilson


Get in touch

Content and images available on this website is supplied by contributors. As such we do not hold or accept liability for the content, views or references used. For any complaints please contact Use of this website signifies your agreement to our terms of use. We do our best to ensure that all information on the Website is accurate. If you find any inaccurate information on the Website please us know by sending an email to and we will correct it, where we agree, as soon as practicable. We do not accept liability for any user-generated or user submitted content – if there are any copyright violations please notify us at – any media used will be removed providing proof of content ownership can be provided. For any DMCA requests under the digital millennium copyright act
Please contact: with the subject DMCA Request.