Wahlberg returns to the dark side
Nov 18 2008 By Albertina Lloyd
Mark Wahlberg revisits his dark side in his latest video-game-inspired movie. Albertina Lloyd meets up with the former friend of the funky bunch.
He might be a devoted family man these days, but former bad boy Mark Wahlberg relishes the chance to rediscover his dark side.
The Oscar-nominated actor is currently starring in Max Payne, a gritty action film - based on a video game - about a cop seeking revenge for the death of his wife and child.
“I’d just done The Happening with M Night Shayamalan where I played a science teacher, and I play an accountant in The Lovely Bones, so I was looking to go back to something with a lot of action and intensity“ he reveals.
Mark grew up in a poor neighbourhood in Boston, the youngest of nine children. It was a less than perfect childhood - at just 13 he had a serious cocaine addiction and was constantly in trouble with the police for acts of violence and vandalism.
At 15, he attacked a security guard during a robbery and was charged with attempted murder. He pleaded guilty to assault and served 45 days of a two year prison sentence.
After some success as a popstar - remember Marky Mark And The Funky Bunch? - his breakthrough acting role was in 1997’s Boogie Nights as a porn star.
Now 37, Mark is a devoted father-of-three. While he enjoys being somebody else on screen, his family are always in his thoughts.
“I read the script and I loved it. The thought of this character being driven by emotion was very appealing to me,” he says.
“I thought it would be difficult going to that dark place because obviously I would have to think about something horrible happening to my beautiful family but I was willing to go there. When I go to the dark place I want to go as extreme as possible.”
Is he a naturally angry person?
“No - well, I have that deep down inside. I was when I was younger, so I like to keep that wrapped up and tight. But being able to tap into that is certainly helpful and it can be therapeutic at times.
“I like beating people up. I don’t like getting beaten up, but that’s probably the case for most guys.”
Before filming Max Payne Mark was working on The Lovely Bones, Peter Jackson’s movie version of Alice Sebold’s hit novel about a teenage murder victim who watches her family cope with her death from heaven.
Again Mark had to get inside the mind of a father whose child has been killed and he confesses it wasn’t easy.
“I always look forward to the end, count the days and hope I can walk away with my sanity.
“But I think The Lovely Bones is going to be one of the most beautiful movies, certainly that I’ve ever been a part of. The subject matter is very dark but the movie ultimately is really about hope and love and life and that there’s a much better place for us, for all of us, after this life.”
Mark and model Rhea Durham have been together since 2001, and have three children, five-year-old Ella, two-year-old Michael and two-month-old Brendan.
He takes his responsibilities as a dad very seriously - even admitting that he is very strict about what his kids watch.
“Nothing! Nothing. Certainly none of my movies that’s for damn sure!”
While his job means a degree of fame and fortune, Mark says it makes parenting more difficult.
“I was very depressed for a while because I was thinking about my daughter,” he reveals.
“We live in Hollywood right now. We won’t stay there forever but it’s very difficult to raise normal kids in an environment like that.
“And I was thinking there’s no real role models for girls. You’ve got Britney Spears, you’ve got Paris Hilton, they’re nice enough people but I don’t want my daughter to aspire to be like that.
“Then I was watching HBO and there’s a documentary about the US women’s soccer team and all these girls following them around and going to games and having somebody that’s a really positive person to look up to. That gave me some hope, it actually brought me to tears quite a few times.
“Now my daughter is playing soccer. My son is dying to go to karate, but it’s fun.”
Mark - who says “at the core I am a good Catholic boy, but I’ve made some poor choices in my past“ - has a very strong faith.
“I don’t think God’s going to judge me based on my film work - although I hope he has a sense of humour and I hope he’s a fan of movies because I’ve done some things that are maybe questionable as an actor.”
As well as acting, Mark is executive producer of hit US TV show Entourage and admits some of the storylines are based on his own experiences.
“I will never own up to which bits are real and which bits aren’t,” he says.
“Deny until you die is my motto.
“Our stuff is always a lot more dark and edgy. I didn’t want to scare people away and I didn’t want people to think bad things about me.”
He would “definitely“ like to direct one day - “when the right time comes and the right story comes and I feel compelled to tell it“.
But despite rumours of sequels to his films The Departed and The Italian Job, Mark is yet to be convinced to sign up to them.
“I’ve never done a sequel before. They’ve tried it with a few films that I’ve done.
“I think if we can make it better than the first and people really want to see then I’d be willing to consider it. But I usually like moving on to the next thing and finding a new character to play.
“I just never wanted to do something for the sake of a pay cheque and especially if you do a film that you’re proud of.
“I think the Bourne series has just gotten better and better, but the Oceans 11 series - 12 was not good and I didn’t want to see 13 after 12.
“Madagascar 2 was pretty darn great, I see more kids’ movies than anything these days.”
That pretty much sums Mark up - his acting career is important to him, but in a way it’s a means to an end.
“I’m much more concerned with being a good dad and being there for them and teaching them and hopefully helping them avoid some of the mistakes that I’ve made,” he says.
“I just want to do the best possible job with everything that I do but I’m far more concerned with being a good father as supposed to being a good actor, because that’s what’s really important.”
* Max Payne is now showing in UK cinemas.