News Column

Marky Mark fully grown [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (PA)]

August 2, 2013

YellowBrix

What is it about Mark Wahlberg that's so appealing? | It has to be more than a buff body and soft smile that has held our interest for all these years. | With the opening of his latest movie -- "2 Guns," with Denzel Washington -- we look back at his development.

Bad-boy beginnings

Wahlberg lived the bad-boy life and regrets it. The youngest of nine, he was raised as a Catholic, but by the time he was 13, his life was already problematic, including committing petty crimes and using cocaine and other drugs. He dropped out of school at 14.

When Wahlberg was 15, he harassed a group of black schoolchildren. The next year, he attacked a Vietnamese man, blinding him in one eye. After Wahlberg, 16, served 45 days of a two- year sentence, he began changing his life by quitting the gang he'd been part of.

"I did a lot of things that I regretted, and I certainly paid for my mistakes," Wahlberg told ABC News in 2006. "You have to go and ask forgiveness, and it wasn't until I really started doing good and doing right, that I really started to feel that guilt go away."

As a rapper

With his troubled past behind him, Wahlberg decided the early '90s was "about that time to bring forth the rhythm and the rhyme."

His prison stint served, Wahlberg was released to find older brother Donnie signing and shimmying his way to the top of the charts as New Kids on the Block's requisite bad boy. Young Mark had briefly been one of the group's original members before they hit it big, but soon left, opening up a spot for Joey McIntyre to take his place.

Donnie decided to take his brother under his pop-star tutelage and helped him launch a brief, albeit memorable, career as Marky Mark, a pop star-rapper known for his dance singles and penchant for dropping his pants.

Along with his backup DJ and dancers, aka the Funky Bunch, Wahlberg recorded a debut album, "Music for the People," released in 1991. "Good Vibrations" took over airways, followed by "Wildside."

Soon, the fashion industry took notice of Wahlberg and his chiseled, often exposed body and Calvin Klein came calling.

In 1992, the Bunch's second album, "You Gotta Believe," flopped, thus ending Wahlberg's foray into the world of music. Wahlberg later collaborated with the late reggae-ragga singer Prince Ital Joe on the album "Life in the Streets."

Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch had their own video game, "Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch: Make My Video," which also bombed.

Sensing his time in the music world was up, Wahlberg astutely made the switch to acting.

Model looks

Wahlberg found another kind of fame by modeling shirtless for Calvin Klein underwear ads and television advertisements. His rock- hard physique earned him a contract with the designer in the 1990s. Photos include him posing in a tight pair of white briefs.

A YouTube video of him and model Kate Moss baring most of it is a blast from the past.

In 1992, the Calvin Klein billboard in New York's Times Square featured Wahlberg exclusively.

He was showcased in Vanity Fair's annual Hall of Fame issue, shot by one of the world's most renowned photographers, Annie Leibovitz.

Wahlberg continues to be devoted to fitness at the age of 42. It played well in his role as a bodybuilder in the film "Pain & Gain."

He remains passionate about staying in shape -- and that's something we can all admire.

As a movie star

Little in Mark Wahlberg's early years seemed to indicate that he would have a long, successful career in the movies.

When the one-time teen pop idol made his debut in Penny Marshall's movie "Renaissance Man" (1994), his performance didn't look like anything special. But his supporting performance in the gritty drug drama "The Basketball Diaries" -- which overlapped a bit with scenes from his own poor, troubled upbringing in Boston -- stood out. His first major role was as a bad guy, an obsessed stalker, in "Fear" (1996).

It was Paul Thomas Anderson's acclaimed saga about the '70s porn industry, "Boogie Nights," that heralded the arrival of a major talent, as his character, Dirk Diggler, entered the popular lexicon.

The brilliant, critically acclaimed action-drama "Three Kings" (1999) seemed to confirm his new role as an unlikely critical darling.

Later, he would try his hand at just about everything, with mixed results. The roles ranged from action hero in "Planet of the Apes" (2001), to rock star in "Rock Star" (2001), to tough guy in "Four Brothers" (2005), to football player in "Invincible" (2006), to hunky Holbrooke Grant in "Date Night" (2010), to raunchy buddy comedy playing opposite a teddy-bear co-star in "Ted" (2012).

Career highs include best supporting actor nomination for "The Departed" (2006), and near-universal acclaim for "The Fighter" (2010).

Executive producer

It is a long way from being a high-school dropout to being an executive producer of films and documentaries.

But Wahlberg continues to show he can handle that role. He probably is best-known for his work as the executive producer of "Boardwalk Empire," the look at gangland in Atlantic City, or "Entourage," the tale of a New York movie star who takes on life in Hollywood with his pals from Gotham.

But he has done "Juvies," a documentary about juvenile prison inmates who were tried as adults.

His work includes 106 episodes of "In Treatment," a TV series about a psychiatrist who had begun to doubt his abilities.

He has seven projects in preproduction stage, including "Teamsters," a look at how the Boston local of that union is fighting to keep its members.

Maybe Wahlberg's wide-ranging tour through life has added some benefits and layers to his perspective.

Giving back

When you've got a past that includes involvement in street gangs, dropping out of high school in the ninth grade, drug abuse and jail time, most might be inclined to keep it well-hidden.

But rather than bury his struggles, Wahlberg embraced them. His goal? Use his experience as a way to inspire inner-city kids to reach their full potential and avoid getting trapped in the same pitfalls as he did while growing up.

The Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation was established in 2001 by its namesake and his brother, James Wahlberg. It works in tandem with other youth organizations, including the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, to provide a strong support system for children and teens through the funding of after-school programs around the country, educational scholarships and even a summer camp.

It joined forces with the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens in support of the "Graduate to Go" campaign, a long-term initiative created in part to combat the number of high-school dropouts.

"For me, being able to turn my life around and making sure there would be a similar sanctuary to go back and create an opportunity for kids was important," Wahlberg said.

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