WAHLBERG LEAVES HIS MARK ; Hollywood is awash with polished celebrities but former bad boy Mark Wahlberg isn't one of them. Nevertheless, the work keeps rolling in thick and fast, as KEELEY BOLGER discovers
THERE was a worrying moment for Mark Wahlberg recently.
On the set of his latest film, Pain & Gain, he received a phone call from an old friend - a member of his former band Marky Mark And The Funky Bunch, who came to fame in the late Eighties. The pal had apparently heard on the grapevine that Wahlberg wanted to reform the group. I had the Funky Bunches call me on set and I was like, 'I can't go and sing because I'm shooting a movie', he explains, laughing.
I can't tell the director Michael Bay, 'I've gotta go sing Good Vibrations!' Maybe if it was the right time, or for a good cause, but I don't miss singing that much.
It's little wonder that the Boston-born star isn't missing his days in the pop spotlight. Since his breakthrough roles in The Basketball Diaries and the critically-acclaimed Boogie Nights, Wahlberg has never been short of work.
Acting - and producing - may have been a career change for him, but he's done extremely well, receiving Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for his supporting role in crime thriller The Departed in 2006, and another Golden Globe nomination in 2010, this time as a producer in the Best Picture category, for The Fighter. Other credits include the crudely hilarious Ted, The Lovely Bones - in which he demonstrated his prowess for sensitive and moving performances - and I Heart Huckabees.
He's about to hit screens as gym manager Danny in Pain & Gain, a macho testosterone fest set in the Nineties and based on the real- life story of three personal trainers who get involved in a kidnapping that goes horribly wrong.
Playing a bodybuilder meant extra hours in the gym for Wahlberg, 42. Last year was crazy because I did four movies in the span of 12 months, and they were all extremely different, he says.
I got down to 165lb for [his previous film] Broken City and then I got up to 212lb for Pain & Gain.
He then had to lose weight again, to set to work on his other new movie 2 Guns, in which he stars alongside Denzel Washington.
Then there's the small matter of the fourth film in the Transformers franchise, plus Ted 2 and drama thriller Lone Survivor to be getting on with.
With work rolling in thick and fast, you could say Wahlberg, who has four children with model wife Rhea Durham, has a charmed life - but the journey's been far from smooth.
He has a famously chequered past, becoming a cocaine addict aged 13 and getting into trouble with the law, including facing attempted murder charges at 16 for an assault which left a man blind in one eye and teenage Wahlberg serving time in prison.
In 2001 he set up his charity, The Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation, to help improve the quality of life of vulnerable young people and prevent them from going down the wrong track like he did.
I grew up not having much and not being able to identify who the real role models were, the actor recalls. They were there but they weren't the cool guys, so I wasn't looking up at the guy who dedicated his life to coaching kids or the parish priest - I was looking up to the guy who had the nice car or the hot girl.
I wanted to make opportunities for inner city kids to have a chance at success in life in whatever they choose to do, he says of the charity. If I was able to accomplish what I've accomplished, then there isn't anything they can't do.
His extra-curricular work is admirable, but he's not out to gloat. I'm not like a lot of people, he says. I have a cause because it's so personal and close to me.
I appreciate celebrities using their status to draw attention to stuff, but sometimes it's just for attention for themselves, as much as for the cause. I'll always be like, 'Come on, you've got stuff going on in your own back yard and you're worrying about the environment or the ozone layer? Then you're flying round on a jet?' Wahlberg has been jetting around quite a lot recently, with a raft of new movies to shoot and promote - which is why he's currently in the UK.
This trip is running far more smoothly than Wahlberg's first visit to our shores. I was in the UK promoting a record and I got out of the car and I'm like, 'We're driving on the wrong side of the road', he laughs, recalling his trip to England in the early Nineties with his band.
Then I had no weed [cannabis] to smoke, so I cancelled every interview, went home and someone from the record company got fired.
Wahlberg stopped smoking cannabis when he became a father and, while his hellraising days are over, a shadow of the former bad boy remains and Wahlberg admits that he doesn't rub everyone up the right way.
I've said some things that people didn't take the right way, he says, chuckling. I won't say who it was or what I said, but I used a line from the TV show Entourage to this guy, who was nominated for an Academy Award, and he looked at me and was absolutely shocked and mortified.
I said, 'No, it was a line from Entourage that the character Johnny Drama said', but he was very upset. Then I saw him in the bathroom at the Golden Globes and I was like, 'Dude, it's just a joke', and he said to my friend, 'Do you know what he had the audacity to say to me?' Wahlberg may not be ticking boxes with his Hollywood etiquette, but on the flipside he's still humble enough to appreciate his good fortune.
Music promoted this attitude of being able to do whatever I wanted; show up late or don't show up at all, he says.
When I found film I really found added discipline, and that helped me in life.
. ? Pain& Gain is in cinemas now.
Reformed characters Russell Brand The former heroin addict caused outrage when he offended Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs on air, but in recent years he's cultivated a more wholesome image, crediting meditation for his new aura of calm.
Robbie Williams Following his meteoric rise to fame with Take That, Williams found himself addicted to prescription drugs and spent his 33rd birthday in rehab. His demons behind him, the married star is now focused on being a father to one-year-old Theodora.
Angelina Jolie In her early days, the actress was famed for wearing a vial of former husband Billy Bob Thornton's blood around her neck and talking candidly about sex, but nowadays the busy mum- of-six is more likely to chat about her charity work.
Britney Spears The former pop princess has come a long way since she shaved off her hair and attacked a photographer with an umbrella during her breakdown. The mum-of-two has since enjoyed a quieter comeback.
Cheryl Cole Back in 2003, the Girls Aloud singer faced assault charges, but the Geordie lass has swayed public opinion and won the nation over when she took a pew on The X Factor panel.
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