Mark Wahlberg grew up in the dark. As the eighth of nine children, it was practically the only way for the Bean-town native to get some alone time with his pop.
“My very first movie ever was ‘Hard Times’ (1975) with Charles Bronson. It was bare-knuckled fighting and I couldn’t get the images out of my head. I think I was five,” he said, chuckling. “My dad would sneak in a six-pack for him and bring me milk and cookies, which he hid under his jacket.”
These days he can afford all the concession snacks as the star of the recent “Daddy’s Home 2” and the new “All the Money in the World,” about the kidnapping of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty. Wahlberg plays a former CIA operative who is tasked with finding the grandson of the millionaire who refuses to pay the ransom.
RJ: What is a typical Sunday like for your four kids and wife, Rhea?
MW: If I’m home, it’s all about taking the family to church. That’s the key thing and then afterward the day is free to spend with family and just reconnect. One thing is we don’t just save church for Sunday. On Sunday and during the week, we set aside about 15 minutes each morning for prayer time as a family. It starts the day out right and helps me in every way.
You recently opened a Wahlburgers restaurant in Las Vegas at the Grand Bazaar shops. What do you love about Vegas?
I’ve always loved Las Vegas because it has a certain kind of excitement you can’t find anywhere else on earth. A great Vegas stay for me involves going to the fights and staying at the Wynn. I’ll get up early in the morning, beat someone at golf and then just hang out. If I have a free night, I’ll see one of the shows. You can’t beat Vegas for a great time.
You’re such a fit guy. Do you actually eat burgers?
I don’t eat burgers every single day, but I must say that I love the turkey burger at Wahlburgers because it’s filled with mashed potatoes, stuffing and just a hint of cranberries. I’m a big Thanksgiving guy. When I was younger, I got in a bit of trouble and actually missed Thanksgiving with the family. When I came home, my mom made me the whole turkey dinner — and nothing is better. So, yes, give me that turkey burger right now. And afterward, you just eat right for the rest of the week and exercise, so you can indulge on the weekends.
And you can ready for movies such as “All the Money in the World,” following “Daddy’s Home 2.” You hit all the bases with this one-two punch.
It’s important for me to mix it up. It’s great to do a big, broad comedy, but then there’s something deep about doing a film like “Patriot’s Day” where there is a pressure to get it right. I knew my hometown would hold me accountable because that film was about the Boston bombings. And then I’ll do a “Transformers” film where it’s just non-stop action, the kind of stuff I dreamed of doing when I was a kid, and now I’m a big kid doing it. I’m a lucky guy that I get to do it all.
What was it like to be one of nine children?
Well, there was a lot of us, but being the youngest of nine wasn’t odd. It was common where I grew up. My parents were like everyone else and spent their time just trying to put a lot of food on the table, which wasn’t easy because my Dad drove a truck and my mom worked as a nurse’s aide.
Were you ever jealous of the kids who seemed to have more things?
I was jealous of the kids who went to private school. I was envious of those kids who got to wear those crisp little uniforms. I really thought that was something special. I’d get on the train and get into trouble before I even went to school. I thought if you wore one of those uniforms you would have a different life without all the trouble.
Your escape was the movies.
I grew up loving movies. That’s how I bonded with my Dad. He would take me from a very early age to see inappropriate movies for my age.
I remember the days when you were Marky Mark. Who convinced you to stop rapping and start acting?
I thought, “I’m a bad-ass rapper. I will never act.” I was pushed to go to acting meetings and said no quite a bit when I was younger. I didn’t think it was for me. Then I met with Penny Marshall. I loved watching her on TV as a kid. Penny said, “How come you don’t want to be an actor?” I said, “I’m a rapper.” She said, “You act like a rapper. You can act other things.” It was one of those life-changing moments.
Then there was your infamous Calvin Klein underwear ad in Times Square.
Only thing was (it was) hard — to walk by it with your mother. You do get a little bit nervous and try to divert her attention.
You’ve worked with so many acting legends. Ever get nervous?
I’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of talented people. I worked Robert Duvall, James Caan, Jack Nicholson, Denzel Washington and John Malkovich. People ask, “Are you intimidated?” The answer is no. You work with these guys and they make you look good.
So many people make resolutions to change themselves and the world. But you actually do speak with young people about keeping their life on the right track. Why is that important to you?
Anytime I can share my story and experience, I will. I made the impossible possible. I like talking with teenagers because, at that age, I needed guidance and needed to refocus. I try to encourage kids to depend on their faith. I wouldn’t be here today without it.
What would you like to tell your younger self knowing what you know now?
Stop looking for the wrong role models. For me back then it was the cool guy on the corner with the pretty girl and the nice car who was doing the wrong things. Why not look to your faith or those who serve the community? Those are the real heroes.