Elvis did it. John Lennon did it. Even Ringo did it. But by and large, few musicians have made as successful a segue way into films as Mark Wahlberg, the singer and rapper once known as Marky Mark.
Wahlberg, born June 5, 1971, initially felt the heat of the spotlight at age 13 as a member of the ultrasuccessful boy band New Kids on the Block. Although his brother Donnie was also a member of the group, Mark quit fairly early on to start his own outfit, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. Despite their unfortunate handle, the group quickly caught on, scoring a number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 with the megaselling single "Good Vibrations" (not to be confused with the Beach Boys song of the same name). Its follow-up, "Wildside," was nearly as successful, peaking at number five.
Fortunately for Marky, he realized that being a teen sensation could carry him only so far, and in 1993, he opted to transition to other show-business outlets, gaining greater fame and fortune at the same time.
One of the first attempts he made to break out beyond music was to become a model, most notably for Calvin Klein, which hired famed photographer Annie Leibovitz to shoot him for a spectacular series of print ads. Realizing that his pumped-up physique was causing his teenybopper fans to swoon with awe and admiration, he then produced an exercise video titled The Marky Mark Workout: Form... Focus... Fitness.
Happily, his venture into film elevated from that point on. In the early '90s, he embarked on a successful acting career, beginning with the TV movie
e in 1993, followed by his film debut the following year in the movie
. However, it was his appearance in the film in
The Basketball Diaries
alongside Leonardo DiCaprio that brought him his first critical kudos and assured the fact that Mark and not Marky would be the one to move on to greater heights of glory.
In the past 15 years or so, Wahlberg has seemingly proven incapable of doing any wrong as far as critics are concerned. He often translates his street savvy and rough-and-tumble youthful experiences into a no-nonsense oncreen persona as an edgy leading man. Here are some of his more notable roles... as well as a few that didn't work out.
Playing the role of Dirk Diggler, the exceptionally well-endowed porn star in the film Boogie Nights, Wahlberg got to extend his successful streak in more ways than one. When he gives his "manhood" room to move in the film's final scene, he sets an incredibly high bar for all the guys who once believed their own assets were already ample.
My Back Feels Fine, Actually
Wahlberg was under consideration for Jake Gyllenhaal's role as one of the enamored cowboys in the film Brokeback Mountain. However, he was reportedly uncomfortable with the sex scenes. Considering the prowess he displayed in Boogie Nights, Heath Ledger was probably glad he declined.
Wahlberg starred with George Clooney, Spike Jonze, and Ice Cube in the absurdist war romp Three Kings, playing the role of Troy Barlow, a gung-ho soldier in the Persian Gulf War who finds what appears to be a treasure map in the backside of a captured Iraqi combatant. Hmmm. Considering the territory he had to navigate in that particular scene, maybe the Brokeback role wouldn't have been so awkward after all.
Wahlberg's role as fisherman Bobby Shatford (haha, Shatford) in The Perfect Storm finds him reunited with Clooney in a powerful drama about a group of New England sailors whose boat gets caught up in the convergence of nature's fury. His working-class roots served him well, producing a powerful portrayal of an ordinary man caught up in extraordinary circumstances. And no, this time we're not referring to Brokeback Mountain.
I Just Work Here
As Charlie Croker in the film The Italian Job, Wahlberg was part of a team of thieves who plan to steal gold bullion from a former associate who double-crossed them. Despite the relatively thin plot line, the film paid off and won him rave reviews. Again.
Four Brothers, a blue-collar crime drama, found Wahlberg playing Bobby, one of a group of siblings who return home to their native Detroit to uncover the cause of a convenience store crime that killed their mother. When they find out that the robbery was really a cover for a planned hit, bloodshed and vengeance ensues. Here again, Wahlberg was able to draw on his wayward youth, one that was spent instigating some violent attacks on innocent others. You wouldn't have wanted to know him way back when.
Although criminal stories and crooked tales seem to be his forte, Wahlberg was rejected for the role of Linus Caldwell in the film Oceans Eleven, and Matt Damon got the part instead. Both men had a chance to work together in Martin Scorsese's acclaimed thriller The Departed, which nabbed Wahlberg an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, and the National Society of Film Critics nod for Best Supporting Actor.
Wahlberg's portrayal of Vincent Papale in the football drama Invincible, the true story of a bartender who tries out for the Philadelphia Eagles and actually makes the team, once again had him tugging at his blue-collar roots. On the other hand, as executive producer and occasional guest star on the hugely popular HBO series Entourage -- his portrayal of the Hollywood high life -- it appeared he had long ago transitioned to a lifestyle appropriate for superstardom.