6 September 2006
THREE OF MY BROTHERS WENT TO JAIL, I WENT TO JAIL. MY SISTER WENT TO JAIL ABOUT FIFTY TIMES..
How Hollywood star Mark escaped a life of crime
AT 35, actor Mark Wahlberg is no longer just a Hollywood pretty boy.
Ten years ago, if people wanted to see him, it was mainly in his underwear.
A former rapper, first with his brother Donnie in New Kids On The Block and then with his own rapper band, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, his Calvin Klein underwear poster was a million seller.
That's all behind him now, but the new dad - son Mike was born in March and he already has a two-year-daughter called Ella - knows he has a lot of explaining to do as his kids grow up.
Today, he may avoid glitzy star spots and premieres, preferring to stay home with his family, work or play golf, but his big break came when he played the well-endowed porn star Dirk Diggler in 1998 film Boogie Nights - a performance he says he won't be showing his kids until they are much older.
He's also keen his children learn early on to stay on the straight and narrow and avoid their dad's bad-boy experiences.
"My brother went to jail, I went to jail. Three of my brothers went to jail. My sister went to jail about 50 times. She's the worst one," the actor said.
Mark's new film The Departed is set in his home town of Boston, where the actor grew up as the youngest of nine - six boys and three girls. He and his brothers Robert and Donnie are the result of his mother's third marriage.
The film deals with the temptations of criminal life - a temptation the young Mark found hard to resist in real life.
At 14, he dropped out of school and embarked on a life of crime - including assault, stealing and selling drugs. Two years later, he was jailed for nearly two months for his role in beating up a man.
He credits that low point as making him resolve to turn his life around.
He said: "I didn't want to spend the rest of my life locked up. I might have been acting like an animal but I didn't want to be a caged one. I started lifting weights in jail and went from 130lbs of scrawniness to 170lbs of muscle that year."
Mark worked as a bri cklayer after he got out of jail but people began to notice the impressive physique on his 5ft 8in frame.
Donnie offered his little brother a place in his band, New Kids on The Block, and while he did join for a time he went on to forge a brief music career in his own right as Marky Mark.
In his teens, he became notorious for dropping his trousers during his concerts - but it was in the racy ads where he appeared with Kate Moss in his Calvin Klein undies that Mark made his mark.
Gay billionaire David Geffen had taken a shine to him and talked his friend Calvin Klein into signing Mark to an exclusive underwear modelling contract.
Mark was on billboards across the world, buff and bulging, and his most notorious picture was when he appeared in just a pair of Calvin Klein pants.
Even the teen singer was taken aback when a woman in her sixties told him she had that very picture of him on her wall.
Mark said: "I just laughed and apologised to her husband. He said, 'I don't care. It gives her something to do.'
"My mom still gives me a hard time about it."
Since then Mark has reinvented himself yet again, as an actor.
He no longer drops his trousers, and has enjoyed an acting career longer than he would have thought possible.
Mark is also determined Mike and Ella won't be embarrassed by their dad by avoiding lousy sequels and sleazy films.
He said: "I've had a really good run. I've always looked at my career like an athlete would look at his - you want to try to do your best work and then you want to go off and relax and age gracefully.
"I don't want to do it forever, but I want to be able to be in a position to not have to come back and do bad things just to put food on the table."
And yet, although Mark Wahlberg is now a soft-spoken, mature man with a settled family life, he sometimes misses the carefree days of his bad-boy era.
He admitted: "I miss being able to wake up when I want and go onstage when I want and pull down my pants when I want. Making movies is a highly regimented profession. Dawn, schedules, responsibility - I never believe any of the stories about actors who are irresponsible and work in movies. Just to get a film made requires a real discipline."
Mark returns to his Boston accent when he plays a cop in Martin Scorsese's The Departed, a remake of a Hong Kong gangster film with Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson.
Although he shot the picture over a year ago, its release had been delayed.
"A lot of people have been waiting very patiently for this," agreed Mark.
"But it's Martin Scorsese, so don't get too worried about the delay."
Next he is set to shoot a follow-up to The Italian Job - The Brazilian Job, co-starring Charlize Theron.
But Mark hopes to eventually act with his older brother Donnie.
"It's just a matter of finding the right thing and making sure that I'm the star," he said with a cheeky grin.
Meanwhile, starting on ITV2 this month is Mark's executive-produced series Entourage, based on his own Hollywood adventures as a swinging single movie star, before he settled into a £3 million Beverly Hills mansion with his mother, long-time girlfriend Rhea Durham, and their two kids.
Entourage follows the rise of a cute young act or Vince Chase (Adrian Grenier) and the pals he brings with him to Hollywood, including best friend Eric (Kevin Connolly), less successful brother and actor Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon) and a ligger called Turtle (Jerry Ferrara).
All of them are hoping to benefit from the hype and heat generated by their big star buddy.
Mark wants to make it clear the clueless older brother is nothing like real brother Donnie. But he admits he likes having a bunch of pals around him that he could trust and, during his popstar days, says his entourage was even bigger than Madonna's pack of cronies and helpers.
"The only person who had a bigger entourage than me," he said with a laugh, "was MC Hammer."
However, some of Mark's were not exactly reformed characters.
He said: "I have friends I've invited out to LA after serving a certain amount of time in prison or rehab or something like that and try to give them a job and show them another way, and maybe they're not capable of adapting to a different world, especially since it's Hollywood.
"So if they're stealing equipment off of a set that you might be working on, that's usually a downside to having an entourage."
Mark can be seen making a cameo appearance in the first episode but says his own entourage I days are far behind him today.
He admitted: "With what I do now the most important part of my I entourage is the nanny."
The Departed is out on October 6.