Mark Wahlberg’s Unlikely Success Story: How Did He Become So Famous?

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To say Mark Wahlberg came from rough beginnings would be an understatement. A native of Dorchester, Massachusetts, Wahlberg became involved in petty crime, drugs, and gang activity in Boston as a kid.

At the age of 16, the star was charged with assault. It was an incident that he hit a Vietnamese man with a large stick and called him racial slurs. The actor spent 45 days of the two-year sentence in prison after being convicted of a felony.

In a 2014 petition to be pardoned he said he was “deeply sorry” for the attack. He dropped the petition but said he had since worked hard to become a better man. The actor has said that the jail time gave him the motivation to leave his violent days behind him.

Despite messing up early and often, Wahlberg really did manage to turn his life around. Read on to learn how he went from hoodlum to Hollywood, and delinquent to caring (if somewhat overprotective) dad.

Mark Wahlberg: The Early Years

Right around the time Wahlberg was released from prison, his older brother Donnie Wahlberg was rising to stardom. Obviously he was a founding member of the boy band New Kids on the Block. Mark actually had been an original member of the band but left because he didn’t vibe with their boy-next-door image. Wahlberg was able to land a record contract for his rap group, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. As a rapper with the group, Mark became famous for stripping down to his boxers on stage. Sure, it was to the delight of his adoring fans.

His antics caught the eye of the higher-ups at Calvin Klein; landed him a gig as the company’s main underwear model. Soon, he was appearing in boxers on billboards around the country.

But fame wasn’t enough to quell Mark’s rowdy ways. He was frequently in the tabloids for fights, court appearances, and other scandals. After being accused of brutality, homophobia, and racial hatred, his second album fell from the charts.

Mark Goes to Hollywood

Humbled and shamed by his music downfall, Wahlberg decided it was time to say goodbye to “Marky Mark”. Now known simply as Mark Wahlberg, he began auditioning for acting roles.

After appearing in a 1993 television movie, The Substitute, Mark surprised everyone by delivering a thoroughly charming performance for his big-screen debut in Renaissance Man in 1994. He continued to turn critics around with impressive performances in subsequent movies like The Basketball Diaries and Fear.

Things really took off when Mark played Dirk Diggler, a troubled adult movie actor, in Boogie Nights, in 1997. From there, he continued on to impress with diverse roles in movies like Three Kings, The Yards, The Perfect Storm, Planet of the Apes, The Truth About Charlie, The Italian Job, and I Heart Huckabees. 

Mark won best-supporting actor Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for The Departed, which featured co-stars Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Matt Damon. He’d win awards and critical acclaim for subsequent performances as boxer Micky Ward in The Fighter, a policeman Tommy Saunders in Peter Berg’s Patriots Day, a cop in Max Payne, a father in Transformers: Age of Extinction, a Navy SEAL in Lone Survivor, an electronic technician in Deepwater Horizon, and literature professor Jim Bennett in The Gambler. He even demonstrated his prowess as a comedy actor in movies like Ted, The Other Guys, and Daddy’s Home. 

“Wildside” by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch

In 2018, Mark co-starred with Michelle Williams in All the Money in the World. His salary of $1.5 million for doing reshoots for the film sparked controversy since Michelle had received less than $1,000 — less than one percent of Mark’s pay — for the same reshoot. In response, Wahlberg announced he would donate all the money he received from reshoot to a Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund in Michelle’s name, saying in a statement that he “100% support[s] the fight for fair pay.

Most recently, Mark has appeared in Netflix’s Spenser Confidential and lends his voice to the animated movie, Scoob. His latest movie, Uncharted released in 2022.

Outside of acting, the Blue Falcon star has served as executive producer for TV shows like Boardwalk Empire,  HBO comedy series Entourage, In Treatment,  McMillions, and Ballers, as well as producer for the movie We Own the Night. In his 2014 television project Wahlburgers, Wahlberg plays himself alongside his brothers Donnie and Paul.

Mark is currently married to model Rhea Durham. They are proud parents to four kids — Ella, Michael, Brendan and Grace. And we can’t forget Mark’s hit songs “Good Vibrations” and “Wildside” with Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch.

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