Mark Wahlberg: Gambling on the future


Mark Wahlberg, 43, changes direction from his usual roles and plays a university professor who also happens to be afflicted with a gambling problem, and to add to his problems, he has a complicated relationship with one of his students.

He began his career as a rapper known as Marky Mark before finding his feet in the acting world. He’s known for roles in films such as Boogie Nights (1997), The Perfect Storm (2000), Planet of the Apes (2001), Rock Star (2001) and The Departed (2006) for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. His resume also includes The Other Guys (2010), The Fighter (2010), Ted (2012), Lone Survivor (2013), Pain & Gain (2013) and Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014).

Wahlberg has been in a relationship with Rhea Durham (a former model) since 2001 and they were married on August 1, 2009. The happy couple is raising their four children in Los Angeles.

Together: Do you believe in addiction, such as your character with gambling?

Wahlberg: I do to a certain extent yes; yes I do.

You have always been open to the press about your demons, so how did this film and this character resonate with you personally?

Well, for me it was very different from anything that I had ever done before. I am used to playing the underdogs as opposed to the guy who has everything and is trying to strip himself of all that to become the underdog. So it was very different. I have a lot of people in my life who suffer from various addictions. Gambling was a big part of my upbringing, so those are things that I identify with, but the big appeal to me was saying the words created by William Monahan after working with him on The Departed and working with him on Mojave and him writing American Desperado for us. And anytime you get to speak the words of William, I will be the first one to sign up.

There’s an on-going theme in the film about not being complacent. I remember you said acting was addictive. What was the turning point in your life where you felt that this was more than a job?

Just when I think about all the various projects that I have done, the different people that I have worked with, every day I just wake up and pinch myself. I am so lucky to have found my true calling and what really drives me and pushes me and challenges me and allows me to learn and see the world. I found that this particular part was another opportunity for me to do something different. Even having missed out on my college experiences and going back to various universities and sitting with various professors and going to lectures with (director) Rupert (Wyatt) and wandering around UCLA, around the dorms. I didn’t want anybody to think that was weird. (laughter)

But I remember the first time being on set with Penny Marshall and Danny DeVito and everybody else that I had met in the film world which was very different for me. And then I met them and they spoke the same language, and they seemed to be from the same sort of place that I was from. I remember being on set and it just reminded me, ‘Oh my God, all I ever did was watch movies with my dad.’ I had seen this movie as a kid and the first movie I ever saw in a theatre was Hard Times with Charles Bronson.

I knew who John Garfield was and Robert Ryan before I knew who Robert Redford was or Tom Cruise or the guys who were like the stars of the day – when I actually started making movies I didn’t really know who any of those guys were. So I just found out that this is a miracle I found in the process of making films.

So you came to Martin Scorsese.

Yes, thanks again to Bill’s words. That was another thing; I have to say these words to these particular people, in this particular way.

Onto more personal matters, you have a daughter, Ella, not too far from reaching her teenage years, what are you going to do to the guy who breaks her heart?

I don’t know. I enjoy my freedom, so I don’t want to have to do anything too crazy. But I don’t want to think about it. There are only a couple of more years before I’ll have to deal with that.

What’s it like for you now to be the older guy in moves?

You know what? I agree that I am getting older, but I embrace that.

Nothing sexier than a dad.

Well, I don’t know. I think that you are lucky to grow in this business and age gracefully and so I have no problem with that. I am married now with four kids and I don’t think I have looked in the mirror in 10 years.

You keep switching for every movie, you gain weight, lose weight. How do you do it?

I don’t have a little magic pill or anything. I exercise and change my diet. For Gambler, I went from 197 to 137, and I just jumped rope for two hours a day, and I drank only liquid.


No, only milk. In the morning you put a little fibre, a scoop of fibre, and then all the rest of the day you put this little powder in and you have essential proteins and vitamins, but just that for over a month. A total month of no food and then afterwards twice a day you can have greens and you can have as many steamed vegetables as you want. 

What does that deprivation do to your psyche?

I am miserable. My wife and everybody were just like, ‘Eat, stay away from us.’ (laughter) I was very cranky.

What was your first treat after all this?

Oh God, I had a pancake breakfast with bacon and eggs and toast and an English Muffin. I remember ordering the meal and then the guy came with the English Muffic and I go, ‘Dude, I have been waiting four months for this fucking English Muffin, take it back, and make it golden brown.’ (laughter) But it’s a place that I frequent, so he’s not a stranger, he’s a friend.

Are you going to have a role in the new Entourage movie?

A small role. I will appear as myself. Just one scene, a little cameo.

Do you still box?

I haven’t boxed for a while but I jumped rope to lose all the weight, as I mentioned.

So you have this movie, this reality show with your brother, the restaurant, Wahlburgers, what’s next?

In Hollywood and outside of Hollywood I am just trying to expand my horizons.

Do you still wake up at 4:30 am?

Yes. The thing about the show, the show is designed to promote the restaurant. And people love the show because it’s very different from anything else that’s out there, and it’s actually very inspiring and it’s very real, it’s really about my mum and my brother, and it will continue to be more about them as we go along.

I am driving it to build a real business. We have a CEO who was the COO of the largest growing franchise in the United States as our CEO, and it’s a real serious business. The show is designed to promote the business and to also promote and inspire other people. And the great thing about it is that we are all in America right now; there isn’t anything that can’t be done. And if I go from prison at 17 years old to being in this situation right now, in one generation completely turn it around you can’t do that with many places in the world. So I am trying to show people that anything is possible through hard work and how important a family is. And that experience has brought us closer together because for a long time we were off doing our own thing, but now we are building this business and we’ll hopefully have something that we can pass on to future generations.