Mark Wahlberg Breaks Down His Career from ‘Boogie Nights’ to ‘Ted’ | Vanity Fair

published on July 2, 2020

– It's not a conscious thing

I do the things that I gravitate towards

Mostly I really get
inspired by true stories

But, if it's something that
I would want to see myself,

or I think audiences want to see me in,

but I don't limit it to that

I kind of wanna try different things

The great thing is, I have a
lot of real life experience

and I get to draw on those thing

And I think that's invaluable

when playing these parts

Because people and audiences
can really detect authenticity

So, yeah, I'm just doin' what I'm feelin'

is like, the thing to do at the time

[mellow jazzy music]

I'm Mark Wahlberg,

and this is the timeline of my career

– Laertes, Haywood

– Laertes is a fool

He ain't never stopped to think about

what type of person Hamlet was

All he does is do what
the king tells him to do

When he fights Hamlet,

all they do is end up killing each other

That's his problem

He don't stop and think before he acts

I want somebody else, Bill

[patriotic music]

– "Renaissance Man" I
could talk about all day

It's the reason why I'm here today

Penny is the reason why I'm here today

I have so much appreciation and gratitude

and love for her, and miss her dearly

I had started out in music

I was being offered a couple of roles

because of my success in music

and my stint in underwear modeling

I had gotten offered "Sister Act 2"

to be a rapper

I got offered a bad in a rollerblade movie

that I was like, no, I can't do this

Don't want to do it

Don't want to do movies at all

Thought I was gonna be Eminem

and have a crazy hip hop career

And then I got a call saying,

"Would you like to meet Penny Marshall?"

And I said, "You mean Laverne?"

And they were like, "Yes"

And I said, "Oh, yes"

I was in New York at the time

So I said, "I'll go to that meeting"

They said, "Oh, Danny
DeVito's gonna be there too"

I said, "Oh my God, this is great"

People that I grew up watching

I went into the meeting

and I was just so excited
to meet her and Danny

And then we started talking about

life and where I came from

and me being from Boston and
her being from the Bronx

We just hit it off

And then she goes,

"So how come you don't
wanna be in movies?"

I said, "No, I'm not an actor"

She goes, "Oh you are an actor

"You're acting right now"

And she goes, "Take
these pages, go outside

"and come back and let's read a scene"

So I literally auditioned, I don't know,

probly three or four roles that day

It was just a lot of fun

And it was just very different form

anybody else that I had met in music

They were interested in me the person

and thought that maybe
that I could possibly

bring something to the equation

So we then planned on if I
made it to the next level,

flying myself out to LA
to go on a screen test

I remember getting the call

I was in New Jersey at
my then manager's house

And she called me and told me

that I had gotten the part

And flew back out to LA,

rehearsed with her

Went to South Carolina

Shot, and then were in LA

And I literally spent every
single day on the set

I wanted to know what
everybody was doing and why

Both in front of and behind the camera

So I really kind of went to school on it

It was like Penny
Marshall school of acting

She would do the craziest things like

when I was shooting a closeup,

she would be doing the off camera

instead of the other actor,

but instead of playing
the other actor's role,

she would basically be doing

what she wanted me to
be doing at the time

She'd be like, "Marky, like this"

And I was very confused

But after that,

I couldn't imagine myself
doing anything else

And, you know, we lost Penny last year

And it was very, very sad

And I remember her sister calling me

And I was like, "Hey, what's going on?"

She was like, "You gotta
come get your stuff"

I'm like, "What stuff?"

And she's like,

"Penny left you all
this sports memorabilia

"All this Patriots stuff and Red Sox stuff

"and golf stuff 'cause she
knew how much you loved them"

I would definitely, definitely not be here

if it weren't for Penny

[patriotic music]

– Go ahead, take another sip

so I can blow your fuckin'
head all over the counter

Go ahead, Pedro, go ahead

– That movie was directed by Scott Kalvert

who directed all of my early music videos

When we made the video
for "Good Vibrations"

he goes, "You're gonna be an actor"

I said, "No I'm not"

He goes, "You are,

"and I've only told that
to two other people"

He told that to Will Smith and to Tupac

when he directed them
in their music videos

And then "Basketball
Diaries" was happening

Avy Kaufman was the casting director

I went for my first audition

Went for my second audition

Went for my third audition

The audition became like a thing

where people would come and watch

I remember Chris Blackwell,
who was the owner

of Island Records and Island Films,

he discovered Bob Marley,

he came to watch the audition

I mean people were just coming to watch

and I was unfortunately
being a little too aggressive

with the other actors,

but that was kind of how I
done my thing at the time

I remember one actor, I
don't wanna say his name,

but he was like, "Man
if I don't get this part

"I'm gonna be so [beep] pissed

"You keep kicking my [beep] ass"

And I'm like, "I hope you get the part

"I don't know if I'm gonna get the part"

I auditioned for seven times

and then realized that
certain people were like,

"No, Mark can't be in this movie"

And I was like,

"Well, I don't know about
certain people either"

But then finally they were able to kind of

get everybody in a room

I ended up, it was an accident,

I showed up probably about six hours late

We were supposed to audition,
I think it was on a Monday

and it was a Thursday so we were like,

"What are we gonna do all weekend?"

I was like, "I don't know,
let's go to Puerto Rico"

I had never been to Puerto Rico

So we flew to Puerto Rico

and then there was a snow storm

so we got stuck in Puerto Rico

Missed the flight

Showed up at like 10 o'clock at night

I walked in, everybody was not happy

But I was like, "Let's do this [beep]"

And we started reading

And then I looked at Leo,

and was like, damn, this
dude is pretty good

I had only played
basketball with him once

So that was the only kind
of interaction that we had

That was not pleasant
for either one of us

And then he looked at me and it was like,

I don't know, hour later
we were out at the club

tearin' it up

We hit it off after that

– The cops are comin' come on

– So that's what this
whole thing's about, Steve

Your inadequacies, your fears

– You just wait a minute

– Now listen to me

See, I'm hip to your problems

All of 'em

I know you abandoned Nicole
when she needed you most

'Cause I licked her sweet tears

I know about things comin' apart at work

Maybe you fuckin' lost
it in that department

I also know you ain't
keepin' up, so to speak,

your end of the bargain with the missus

– And then going into "Fear,"

which Leo actually was kind enough

to recommend me to Jimmy Foley

And Jimmy Foley was like,
"Who's Mark Wahlberg?"

He was like, "You know
the guy Marky Mark?"

He was like, "What, are
you out of your mind?"

Said, "You're not puttin'
Marky Mark in this movie"

He was like, "Dude, I'm
tellin' you, just see him"

So I met with Foley

We hit it off

We hung out for eight
hours at a bar in New York

By the time I got home he called me

He goes, "You know I can't
give you this part, right?"

I was like, "It's all good

"You do whatever you want

"It's your movie"

And then he goes, "Well,
I'd like to audition you

"for one of the guys in the gang"

And it was like,

but the parts were so small
they didn't have any lines

He was like, "Just read the lead,

"And then I'll see if I can give you

"one of the other parts"

And then I did the
audition and he was like,

"I'm gonna tell the studio
if they don't hire you

"to be the lead in this movie,

"then I'm not doing the movie"

I said, "Okay, you don't have to do that,

"but if you feel that
strongly about it"

'Cause they hadn't seen "Renaissance Man"

or "Basketball Diaries"

And he fought for me to
be the lead in that movie

– When I close my eyes, I see this thing

It's like this big sign

and the name is in like
bright blue neon lights

with like purple outline

And this name is just
so bright and so sharp,

that the sign, it just blows up

because the name is just so powerful

[upbeat music]

[fireworks exploding]

– "Boogie Nights" was
one of those things where

the script came my way,

I was really kind of turned
off by the subject matter

I was not interested in doing
a movie about pornography

And I was really trying
to just build my career

one role at a time

I felt like, any time
there was an opportunity

to do something that seemed to be sexual

or exploiting me physically,

it was like, I don't know

So I read 30 pages of the
script and I put it down

I was like, "This could be fantastic,

"or this could be terrible"

I mean, "Showgirls" had just come out

and we really didn't
know what to make of it

And then I met with PTA and I was like,

"Oh God, this could be great"

He was supposed to be
offering me the part,

but he said he just wanted
to do one more meeting

where John C Reilly and
Philip Seymour Hoffman

and Thomas Jane were also there,

which turned into a bit
of an impromptu audition

We kind of read and did that whole thing

And then I committed to making that movie

And, you know, it was

one of the great experiences of my career

Paul and I were both 25 at the time

and just kind of left to our own devices

and doing our own thing

It was a really cool experience

[fireworks exploding]

– Hey, freeze

– No, he's with us

– [Elgin] Don't shoot him, he's with us

– [Troy] You're the guy
with the little girl, right?

– That's right

– What are you doin' here, man?

– [Elgin] He help us find you

– I came here to help you

– All right

You're all right, man

– "Three Kings," I had gotten a call

John Lesher, who represented PTA,

David O Russell, and also James Gray

So I had already done "Boogie Nights"

I was shooting "The Yards" at the time

So I was very much in
character for "The Yards"

and I met with David O Russell

I'm just sittin' there kind
of talking as the character

Like, talkin' about Jimmy Cahn

and New York and all this stuff

and getting out of jail

And he was like, "Well that's cool,

"but do you want to do this movie?"

And he was also trying
to audition Spike Jonze,

who was a filmmaker, but he
wasn't known as an actor

So he was kind of like trying
to do two things at once,

cast me in the movie, and also cast Spike

So we finally started
reading and playing around

and we really hit it off

And then, of course, trying
to cast the other roles

was quite a bit of a challenge

It was a lot of different people

before it became Clooney and Ice Cube

Fun time

– How's your little girl?

– She's safe for now

– Do you know where these come from?

– Yeah, my closet

– Indonesia
– The store

Baby, this is the truth, okay?

Little girls like you, they
have to work in dark factories

where they go blind for $160 a month

– [Molly] Why is he tellin' her this?

– Just to make Mommy her pretty shoes

Can you even imagine that, Caitlin?

– I don't want the children
to work in factories

– Don't listen honey

Daddy is crazy
– Daddy doesn't either

– Stop this from happening

– Daddy's not crazy, baby

The world is crazy
– Save them

– [Molly] Shut up

– It's important to ask these questions

– [Caitlin] Don't let them go blind

– After "Three Kings," David
wanted to do "Huckabeess"

And I read the script

and then he started
sending me all these things

that, the jewel tree

And then we start talkin' about petroleum,

and the environment, all this stuff

And I was like, "All right,
I guess I can dig that"

I really just believed in him

and I was gonna kind of
go along for the ride

and commit to servicing his vision

And then once I got into
it I really got into it

A lot of fun

I remember Dustin Hoffman
kept looking at me like,

"[beep] is this kid doing?"

And I was just like, "Whatever,
I'm doin' my thing, bro"

And then all of a sudden,

cut to like six months later

he was kind enough to

give me some award at some event

And he told the story

He goes like, "God, I
kept lookin' at this kid

"like he didn't know what
the [beep] he was doing"

And he said, "He was the only one

"that was good in the movie"

And he said I was just
committed on a different level

But it was one of those
things where, you know,

David would love to kind
of push me and challenge me

and I was completely embracing that

I love the idea of being
challenged and pushed

and goin' for stuff

It was one of those things
where you just kind of

felt very liberating and
free to try and explore

and risk looking ridiculous

– Mommy doesn't ask,
'cause Mommy doesn't care

– [Molly] They won't go blind, honey

– You have different accents?

You did, didn't you you
little fuckin' snake

You were like different people

– You a psychiatrist?

– Well if I was I'd ask
you why you're a statie

makin' 30 grand a year,

and I think if I was Sigmund fucking Freud

I wouldn't get an answer

So tell me, what's a lace
curtain motherfucker like you

doin' in the staties?

– "Departed" was another thing

I was shooting "Four
Brothers" at the time

Originally was gonna be

cast in another role in "The Departed"

The studio was pushing back

I wasn't gonna do the movie

And then my agent, who
also worked with Marty,

told them that I would
play the other role

And then Marty called me and said

he was really excited that
I was playing the role

And I said, "I'm not playin' the role"

And he was like, "What?"

And I was like, "I'm
not playing that role"

My agent calls me and goes,
"What the [beep] are you doin'?

"Just go to New York and talk to him,

"'cause he wants to talk to you about it

"and he really thinks that
this is the role in the film"

And so I said, "All right,
if you fly me to New York"

because I'd rather be in
New York for a weekend,

I'd been shooting in Canada

And then I went and met with Marty

and I read the script on the way

and I thought about it and I was like,

if I play this role, I'm
gonna get to go at everybody

in a way where they're
probly not gonna like it,

but, it is what it is

And so I said yeah

I said, "If you let me do my thing,

"say what I want, do what
I want, then I'll do it"

I said, "But you gotta
get me in and out quick,

"because I'm shooting another movie"

Me and Marty made up and
it was all love after that

– I'm the best friend you
have on the face of this earth

and I'm gonna help you
understand something, you punk

– [Allen] You don't think
I'm a real cop, do you?

– No, I don't

I've said that directly to
your face numerous times

I was really honest about that

– I'm workin' on a huge case, all right?

Property owner with seven
buildings under construction

He hasn't applied for a
single scaffolding permit

Now according to Ask Jeeves,

this perp is at the Plaza
Hotel speaking right now

– That's your big case?

Scaffolding permits?

– Yeah

Guess what?

You're comin' with me

– [laughing] That's a wooden gun

[smacking]

Oh, that hurts, man

– So we always wanted to do comedy

and there were comedic
elements to the performances

that I had done in the past,

but we'd never done a full-blown comedy

I had met a lot of
comedians and I was like,

I don't know, life's too short

You know, not what they
appear to be on screen

You know?

I don't want to do that

I don't wanna be like, [giggling]

and then all of a sudden all weird

and nobody's talking in
between takes and shit

I did a little part in "Date Night"

with Tina Fey and Steve
Carell, which was fun,

but when I met with Will
Ferrell and Adam McKay,

walked in, sat down for five minutes,

and I was like, "I'll do this"

And they were like,

"Well we haven't even
told you what it is yet"

I was like, "I don't give a shit, I'm in"

They were like, "Okay"

And then they told me the idea

and I said, "I'm in"

Three months later we had the script

And then we were shooting

And then they just kept encouraging me

to just do my thing and go crazy

They were like "There's no rules"

I was like, "Dude,
you're gonna want rules

"If I go crazy, you're gonna want rules"

They were like, "No, there's no rules"

A couple times when I was
like choking Will or something

he was like, "Well,
there's a couple rules"

[laughing]

But I had so much fun on that movie

And it was like, we would shoot

everything that was on the page

like the first half of the day,

and then the rest of the
day we would just improvise

'Cause I can get a little
out of hand, you know

I get a little crazy

But they never told me to chill out

I mean, Adam McKay was just
giving us gems and trying stuff

And it was one of the great
experiences that I've ever had

[mellow music]

– I've always got Little
River Band loaded up here

I got six discs in here

– I made a promise to them I
wouldn't work with you again

– Huh?

– I had to

After everything that happened, I'm sorry

– You stickin' to that?

– I'm glad you're back

You look good

– Well, there were many
different versions of that movie

Darren Aronofsky was
attached to direct the movie

As were a couple of other filmmakers

It was gonna be either me and Matt Damon

or Brad Pitt were both
attached at the time

It was at Paramount

It was as big studio
movie with a big budget

Once those guys fell out
and the director fell out,

the movie was gonna kind
of be put into turn around

and I was committed to making the movie

I had made a promise to Micky and Dickie

and to the people at Lowell
that I was gonna make the movie

And that we were going
to remind people that

Lowell is a great industrial town

and not a town infested with
crack and drugs and negativity

So we kept trying to fight
to get the movie made

Hire another filmmaker

Approach Christian Bale at
our kids' elementary school

Preschool at the time

Started telling him about the movie

Saw what he had done
in a few other movies

And so I talked to him about it

and he really like the idea

Got him the script

And then we were talking
to a couple of filmmakers

And David kept throwing
his hat in the ring

He would call me every day
and we'd talk about it

One day I said to myself,
I gotta make this happen

I gotta make this happen with David

And so I wrote down a long list of notes

And the person who was
running the studio at the time

was David's former agent

And then I spilled my guts
out and pleaded my case

for two hours and he looks at me, he goes,

"I thought you wanted to
do this romantic comedy

"with Cameron Diaz"

I said, "Dude, no

"I want you to give me "The Fighter,"

"allow us to hire David O Russell,

"we'll make it for next to no money,

"we'll bring it back to you guys,

"and if you want to
distribute the film, you can

"If not, we'll figure it out

"But trust in me

"Put the faith in me to be
able to get the movie done,

"and make sure that it's
done the right way"

I was able to get that movie made

and fulfill my promise to Micky and Dickie

and to Alice and the family

– I don't know what else to say

– Well we should fuckin'
double-date or something

You me and Lori and what's her name?

– White trash name

Guess

– Mandy
– Nope

– Marilyn
– Nope

– Brittney?
– Nope

– Tiffany
– Nope

– Candace
– Nope

– Don't fuck with me on this

I know this shit

– Do you see me fuckin' with you?

– All right, speed round

I'm gonna rattle off some names

And when I hit it–
– You do it

– Fuckin' buzz it, okay?

– I will tell you

– You got me?
– Yeah

– All right, Brandy, Heather, Channing,

Brianna, Amber Sabrina,
Melody, Dakota, Sierra,

Brandy, Crystal, Samantha,
Autumn, Ruby, Taylor, Tara

– Going into "Ted," it was
one of those things where,

again, I was like, I don't know

Seems like a great idea,

but it's also a crazy idea

You can't pitch a guy and a
teddy bear who comes to life

and all the sudden
they're just smokin' weed

and sayin' stupid shit

It's not a good pitch, right?

Especially, it was right
after "The Fighter"

I was kind of doing more serious stuff

and I was like, I don't know

But then I met with Seth,

read the script and it was just like

one of the great buddy
comedies of all time

And I saw the technology and
I said, "Aw, this could work"

Just gotta be committed to it

And then of course, we made the movie

It's the biggest R-rated
comedy of all time

– Lauren, Charlene, Chantel,

Courtney, Misty, Jenny, Krista

– Wait, wait, thank you, thank you

[dramatic music]

[speaking foreign language]

– [Man] Let's go sir

We gotta go now

Let's move

– Pete and I, it's funny because

we also share the same agent,

and he had been trying to get
us together for a long time

I knew Pete from like
Gold's Gym in Hollywood

and I brought him to my
house, tried to convince him

to direct "The Fighter," he passed

I think he regretted it a
little bit after, but he passed

And then "Lone Survivor" came

I had actually helped secure
the financing for the movie

He was having a hard time getting it made

Universal wasn't committing
to making the movie,

so I had got a guy who
had financed "2 Guns"

and also "Broken City"
with me and Russell Crowe

So I said, "Okay, we can
make this movie after"

This was the fourth movie I did in a row

with no more than two weeks break between

all four movies

"Broken City," "Pain And Gain,"

"2 Guns," into "Lone Survivor"

We had an amazing time

We created this bond and this brotherhood

And now, you know, we're five movies in

Then we did "Deep Water Horizon"

– Make sure this man
gets off this rig, okay?

Everybody calm down

Slow it down

Let's move it out, all right?

– [Bloody Man] Okay, okay

– All right, let's go

– We brought Pete in to make that movie

And then we were working on "Patriots Day"

as we were shooting "Deep Water Horizon"

[oil rig exploding]

– There's a foot next to

[suspenseful music]

This boy from, I think
from Marathon Sport,

he looked like a little BU kid

Like a good kid, Carol, you know?

He had a assistant manage tag

And he helped

We moved her

We laid her down

– "Patriots Day" was one
of those things where

I wasn't really too keen on making

I thought, you know, too close to home

Too sensitive a subject

But then I realized if it wasn't us,

somebody else was gonna make the movie

And if somebody else came
in and didn't handle it

with the sensitivity and
respect that it deserved,

could've easily focused
on the violence of it all

and made it gratuitous

So we wanted to be able to

protect the story and the people

in the way it was told

And what happened in
the way the city reacted

made me really proud to be a Bostonian

Before that the only thing
I really had to be proud of

from being from Boston
was sports accomplishments

with my teams

Boston had a bad rap

And so wanted to tell that story

And not an easy thing to do

We're dealing with loss

'Cause it's one thing to deal with

Navy SEALs, who want to get
into a gunfight every day,

they wake up in the morning, they're like,

"Let's get into a gunfight today"

Or working on a movie
about oil rig workers

who know the dangers and the risks

of working on an oil rig

It's one of the most dangerous
occupations there is

There's a difference
between those two films

and somebody who's going
on to cheer on a loved one

in a road race the first day of Spring,

and some cowards take a
bomb and place it behind

innocent women and children
as they're standing there

rooting on their loved
ones in a road race

And that was a heavy thing to deal with,

certainly with me being
in Boston and from Boston

So we decided after that we just

wanted to kinda do something

a little bit more light and fun

So then we did "Mile 22"

and that's what got us to "Spencer"

– And then there was
an eight year old boy

– Wonderland is basically
like an abandoned fortress

All right?

And there's pretty much
only one way in, right here

It's the middle of the day

There's not a lot of places to hide

We're gonna have to get
Henry out of the way

And I got a plan

It's a little unconventional

You're gonna have to trust me

No, no, no, no

You don't get the cool gun

– Aw, Hawk is the name of a
motherfucker with a shotgun

Spencer does your taxes

– That was good

I'll give you that one

– Ours is based on the book

There's 48 books in the series

But there was also a TV show, which

gave me a birds eye view of neighborhoods

that I was familiar with on television

And that and the Brinks job

were the only time we had seen Boston

in movies or in television
other than the news

So it was really cool

and I loved the idea of
playing that character

There's a guy who was a
Boston police officer,

believed in the law,
doing the right thing,

and then kept witnessing all of these

terrible acts of corruption

And, you know, a homicide being kind of

swept under the rug,

so he decides to take the
law into his own hands

and ends up beating the crap
out of his superior officer

Ends up going to prison

Survives in general
population for five years

and then gets out

And he's gonna leave town

And, of course, he just can't walk away

or turn his back on somebody being wronged

or innocent people

And so he sticks his nose

back into places where it doesn't belong

It's funny

It's emotional

There are real stakes there

And it was nice to be back at home

For me, personally, talk
about coming full-circle

Having been in trouble

Been incarcerated

Turning my life around

Really working hard to put
myself on the right path

And then to be sitting
there on Peverell Street,

shooting at 24 Peverell Street,

that's Alan Arkin's character's home,

and I grew up on 25 Peverell Street

Sitting on my stoop while they
were setting up the shots

And having turned my life around now

Creating jobs, inspiring
kids in my community,

inner-city kids and at-risk youth,

that doesn't matter where you come from,

where you start, inspire
to achieve great things

If you do the work, anything is possible

I'm Mark Wahlberg,

and this has been the
timeline of my career

And just by the way,

I've worked with people
who would not be able

to remember that line alone,

nevermind learning their lines

on a movie that they're
getting well compensated for

They would need a cue card and an earwig

[laughing]

And I will name names when I retire

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