Men's Health (Singapore) - - CONTENTS -

Mark Wahlberg is one of the big­gest stars around, but he knows he can’t af­ford to take it easy in or­der to stay suc­cess­ful.

Mark Wahlberg doesn’t re­ally have a prob­lem get­ting peo­ple to lis­ten to him. . .most of the time. We’re high in the Hol­ly­wood Hills; crows cir­cle over­head and L.A. seethes be­low on a near-37-de­gree day in Oc­to­ber. Wahlberg, in dark jeans and Air Jor­dans and wear­ing a 16-karat gold cross, is try­ing to ex­plain the per-square-foot cost of putting a fam­ily-owned Wahlburg­ers restau­rant in Times Square when his phone rings. “It’s Ari. I’ve got to take it,” says Wahlberg, apolo­get­i­cally men­tion­ing his agent, the re­al­life ver­sion of the char­ac­ter played by Jeremy Piven in the Wahlberg-helmed se­ries En­tourage.

I can only hear Wahlberg’s side. “Okay, is this gonna hap­pen or is this an Ari spe­cial?” he asks with a sly grin. “Well, good, I’m glad the mix­ing is go­ing well, but that doesn’t mean take the foot off the pedal. Let’s push down on the gas. . .He’s good, but you have to push him. . . Ari, lis­ten, I only got you for 30 sec­onds. We’ve got to move from left field to right field.” Wahlberg sighs and looks up to­ward the crows. “When you know, call me back.”

He apol­o­gizes for the in­ter­rup­tion and gets back to what we were talk­ing about: how he keeps things fresh when he could be tak­ing his foot off the gas. “It’s work ethic, it’s some­thing I’ve al­ways had.” He men­tions his four kids grow­ing up in a much dif­fer­ent world than his smash-and­grab Dorch­ester, Mass. “They’re only go­ing to learn it if they see it from me.”

But not ev­ery­one lis­tens to Mark Wahlberg. You see, he’s got kids. In 2017, a minis­can­dal arose when Wahlberg was seen leav­ing the Su­per Bowl be­fore his beloved Pa­tri­ots mounted their his­toric come­back. At the time, he told re­porters he had a sick son who needed to get back to their ho­tel. That’s partly true. The Wahlberg fam­ily was watch­ing the game in a lux­ury suite in Hous­ton’s NRG Sta­dium while the Pa­tri­ots were get­ting pounded. Wahlberg and Rhea Durham’s sec­ond son, Bren­dan, was not han­dling it well at all.

“He was spit­ting out F-bombs and go­ing crazy. It was bad,” says Wahlberg, shud­der­ing as if he’s re­liv­ing the mo­ment. “He was ly­ing down on the car­pet. He was very upset.” Rhea wanted to stay, but Wahlberg wasn’t hav­ing it and left with his boy.

I ask Wahlberg if his son learned a valu­able les­son about not giv­ing up on your team, and he laughs. “Heck no. He’s a vi­cious sore loser. He wants the ball. He hates when his brother gets it. When he doesn’t get the ball, he goes crazy. He throws rocks.”

Bren­dan’s older brother, Mikey, was in the foot­ball play­offs that week­end, and Dad was pretty stoked. He pulls out his phone and shows video of Mikey tak­ing a hand­off, break­ing into the open, and run­ning for a touch­down. You can see Mark do­ing se­cu­rity in the end zone.

It’s crazy be­cause all his team­mates came to greet him, and they’re like, ‘F**k yeah!’ And I’m like, ‘Ex­cuse me?’ “

Wahlberg has tried to get his kids into golf, but they like the rough stuff. “I tell them golf and base­ball are the two sports where they have the best chance for a long ca­reer, but they want to play foot­ball.”

In a twist, it’s his wife who’s more ex­cited about foot­ball. “She thinks they’re gonna go pro, and I’m like they have to have some­thing to fall back on.” To hear the for­mer wild boy talk of the im­por­tance of ed­u­ca­tion is strik­ing. Let­ting his kids play tackle foot­ball at all wasn’t a de­ci­sion he and his wife made lightly. He took his sons to see the movie Con­cus­sion twice and had NFL play­ers stop by the house to talk with his sons about the pain and risks of the sport. In the end, his sons’ pas­sion won out.

What can I say?” Wahlberg says with a shrug. “They love it.”

Wahlberg has some unique mo­ti­va­tional tech­niques avail­able for Mikey. He pushes a but­ton on his phone and there’s Ju­lian Edel­man of the Pa­tri­ots con­grat­u­lat­ing him on his jersey se­lec­tion-Edel­man’s num­ber 11--and urg­ing him on.

“Mikey, I see you’re wear­ing the sticks and look­ing good in it. Good luck in the play­offs. Go Pats. Do some work, buddy. Do some work.”

A week be­fore we talked, Wahlberg had been in New York City scop­ing out po­ten­tial spots for a Wahlburg­ers, the fam­ily-run, Mark-funded burger joint made fa­mous by the A&E re­al­ity se­ries. As he checked out a Times Square McDon­ald’s that had a sim­i­lar lay­out, he was able to look around un­de­tected for about 90 sec­onds be­fore the masses de­scended on him, thirst­ing for selfies. Wahlberg smiled for the fans, but he tries to live his life as privately as a movie star can. “I don’t seek out that kind of at­ten­tion. It’s a lit­tle crazy, but crazy things can hap­pen when you’re walk­ing down the street.” He quickly turns the con­ver­sa­tion back to the big­ger pic­ture. “There are a lot of pros and cons, and it’s


prob­a­bly the most ex­pen­sive piece of real es­tate ren­t­wise in the coun­try. We’ll see.”

For a man who started his life as a small-time thug, high school dropout, and then rap­per/un­der­wear model, the smart money would not have been on Wahlberg’s be­ing one of the sharpest minds in Hol­ly­wood at age 47. The youngest of nine kids, he tried to em­u­late the gang­sters he saw in the James Cag­ney films he watched end­lessly with his truck-driv­ing fa­ther. It ended badly with Mark do­ing time for as­sault­ing a Viet­namese man. I ask him what turned his life around, and he smiles like I’m an id­iot: “Uh, jail.”

I met Wahlberg a decade ago. He was much closer to the old days back then. He didn’t make any ex­cuses but of­fered an ex­pla­na­tion. “I’m glad I don’t have to be like that any­more. It is re­ally tir­ing to have that front,” said Wahlberg. “But where I came from you had to be like that or you’d be tram­pled. Now it’s okay to be sen­si­tive. But where I came from, if you weren’t tough and couldn’t take care of your­self, you were gonna get tor­tured.”

That seems like more than one life­time ago. Be­sides burg­ers and be­ing on screen, Wahlberg pro­duces most of his own films and is toy­ing with the idea of set­ting up an en­ter­tain­ment web­site. He’s also a gim­let-eyed star­maker: He talks of de­vel­op­ing a show for 10-year-old Scar­lett Estevez, who plays his puck­ish daugh­ter in the Daddy’s Home movies. “She just has some­thing. She’s go­ing to be re­ally amaz­ing.”

I ask him if some­one like Burt Reynolds gave him point­ers when Wahlberg, then in his 20s, made his break­through as porn star Dirk Dig­gler in Boo­gie Nights. Wahlberg pauses. “There’s a lot of peo­ple who are go­ing to be the next big thing and then they just get dragged down by some­thing,” he says, fin­ger­ing his rosary, an out­ward sign of his devout Catholic faith. “I was lucky it didn’t come to me all at once. . .I’ve worked with Jack Ni­chol­son, Jimmy Caan. I’ve been lucky. But it was Mel.” He’s talk­ing about for­mer Peo­ple Sex­i­est Man Alive and noted anti-Semite Mel Gib­son, who plays his fa­ther in Daddy’s Home 2. “He passed on a lot of movies, a lot of re­ally good movies. And he told me, ‘You should get it while there’s time. Get it while it’s there. If you’ve got an op­por­tu­nity, work.’ “He pauses for a sec­ond and mut­ters it again: “Work.”

Sens­ing a pat­tern? Wahlberg’s en­ter­prises may make sig­nif­i­cant rev­enue be­cause of his fo­cus on due dili­gence and profit mar­gins, but his body is the orig­i­nal money maker. Wahlberg has made a few con­ces­sions to mid­dle age: “I don’t play bas­ket­ball any­more be­cause I don’t want to roll an an­kle and miss a movie or screw up my golf game,” he says.

He talks about his new Ver­saClim­ber like some bros talk about their Beemers: “I’m do­ing that twice a day and jump­ing rope.” Wahlberg’s next project, Mile 22, is a CIA thriller that marks his fourth col­lab­o­ra­tion with Pe­ter Berg, a direc­tor he views as a brother fol­low­ing their work on Lone Sur­vivor, Pa­tri­ots Day, and Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon. “I’ve been fat in all of Pe­ter’s movies,” says Wahlberg. “For this one I’m go­ing to be down to 6 per­cent body fat.”

Go­ing all Val Kilmer in mid­dle age isn’t some­thing Wahlberg will al­low to hap­pen. You can tell it mat­ters to him even in his jokes. “Joe Pesci told me he gets his work­out by squeez­ing the steer­ing wheel on the way to the golf course.” He pauses. “I told him, ‘Bro, it’s not work­ing.’ “

What Wahlberg doesn’t men­tion is that his day starts in the dark so he can get a work­out in be­fore hit­ting the links. “If I wake up at 3:30, I can go to the golf course at 6:30, be done by 8:30, and then be home and then do the rest of my stuff: work with a phys­io­ther­a­pist, get treat­ment, hit the cryo cham­ber.”

Lov­ing the work seems to be Wahlberg’s key to his once stormy and now en­vi­able life. A decade ago he was still hang­ing with the real Johnny Drama and a guy named Rasta Phil. Most of the en­tourage is gone. “Johnny moved back to Mas­sachusetts, and his golf game has gone to sh*t,” he says with a grin. Coast­ing along isn’t in his na­ture. The only way to be the best is to keep work­ing like you got noth­ing,” Wahlberg says. “Keep get­ting af­ter it, and be more and more ag­gres­sive, more and more fo­cused every day. I don’t know. I have more drive and de­sire now than I ever have.”

It’s time for Wahlberg to leave. He has to get back to work, but it’s not a movie. He has to pick up his kids from school. They may not al­ways lis­ten, but they hate it when Daddy’s late.

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