Today, Mark Wahlberg is better known as the lovable dad in Will Ferrell’s 2015 film Daddy’s Home – which may just be one of the most underrated comedies of our generation — than a rough-and-tumble convict straight from the streets of Boston. Most of us forget that before the star was one of Hollywood’s highest-paid actors, he was the kind of troubled teen who was nursing a budding substance abuse problem and stuck on the wrong side of the law.
That all changed somewhere during the course of the star’s arguably regrettable hip hop career. Now, he’s a genuine A-lister whose fame — and rock hard abs — pale in comparison to his boyband brother, New Kids on the Block star Donnie Wahlberg. In the words of Ashlee Simpson’s 2004 hit, he’s not living in the shadow. Instead, he’s starring in major blockbusters like Deepwater Horizon and Ted, even jumping behind the scenes as a producer. This is the untold truth of Mark Wahlberg.
Mark Wahlberg’s complicated childhood
In a 2011 Vanity Fair profile, Wahlberg opened up about why he split from his then-recent girlfriend, 21-year-old Yale University student-slash-actress Jordana Brewster. In truth, he had a hard time relating to the type of person who talked about "living on Fifth Avenue and having housekeepers." Wahlberg’s childhood was nothing of the sort, and he believes he was "better off growing up in the world [he] did" because it taught him how to "survive anything."
Wahlberg’s home life was complicated. He grew up in a poor family in Boston, where he shared a room with five of his brothers. At one point, he believed he was the youngest of nine children, only to discover that there were 12 of them — or even possibly more. His father "was in the army and spent a lot of time overseas." His mother had six kids with his biological dad, and "three children out of wedlock."
Crime was something Wahlberg was intimately acquainted with at a young age, and it was actually not a sore spot within his family. When his brother got locked up in a youth facility, they happened to reap the benefits of the defective shoes Nike and Converse would donate there. "They’d be four sizes too big, but we were actually happy my brother was locked up, because we would get free sneakers," he said.
Mark Wahlberg, the little conman
When Mark Wahlberg was a kid, he wasn’t anything like the compassionate father figures he plays on-screen. In fact, he was a little con artist — at least according to his priest. In the actor’s 2011 Vanity Fair profile, Father Flavin, who’s described as "the man who probably knows him better than anyone else," claimed Wahlberg was "the greatest con artist he’s ever met."
"He could be in a fight and come and tell me with those big sad eyes how the other person started it and he was just defending himself. He could turn on those tears like nothing you’ve ever seen, and you’d feel so bad for him," Flavin said. "He’d get in a courtroom and you’d think he was just the best 16-year-old walking the street, out there helping old ladies. He could con anybody."
This act extended to his sister and mother. As a child, he stole his sister’s bike, repainted it brown, and only got caught when the paint started chipping off months later. He also claimed his parents did a "remarkable job," but his mother felt responsible for her son’s abhorrent behavior. As Wahlberg remembered, "She definitely held herself responsible for all the mistakes I made, even if the mistake was allowing me to convince her that it wasn’t me when it was me." If anything, Wahlberg’s con skills are a true testament to his acting ability — but let’s not use them for evil anymore, okay?
He first got high at age 10
Mark Wahlberg’s chaotic childhood led him to drugs at an early age, particularly as he struggled with the divorce of his parents. His mother, Alma, told Vanity Fair that she was "preoccupied with [her] own pain" at the time, so she didn’t see "what was happening" while her son was "kind of lost." At around age 12 or 13, Wahlberg would sneak out of his house by "climbing out the window" and "staying out all night." He "stopped going to school" when he was just 13 or 14 — but even before that, he had dabbled in illicit substances.
"My older brothers taught me how to get high when I was 10, and gave me a couple of beers. They thought it was funny to see me stumbling around. A lot of my family is now in A.A. But I don’t blame anybody," he told Vanity Fair. "I took it upon myself to take it to the next level. I was getting f***d up every day and committing violent acts."
When most of us were grappling with the normal pains of early teendom — like who to sit with at lunch and school kid crushes — Wahlberg had a "pretty serious cocaine problem." He claimed he was "sniffing and freebasing" but stopped short of heroin. According to his priest, he was also selling marijuana and would drive by the church in stolen cars.
Mark Wahlberg’s 1986 hate crime
Mark Wahlberg’s crimes weren’t limited to allegedly stealing cars and selling drugs. The star’s antics turned violent in the mid-to-late 1980s, and that’s when he found himself facing real consequences. According to the Independent, the first of these documented hate crimes occurred in 1986 when the star was 15 years old. The actor and three of his friends reportedly "chas[ed] three Black Children" while throwing rocks at them and yelling, "Kill the n*****s." It only stopped when an ambulance driver stepped in.
Wahlberg didn’t lay low for long after that. The Independent reports that the following day he "harassed" a "group of mostly Black children" who were enjoying a day at the beach. They were "around the age of nine or 10." During this incident, the actor reportedly encouraged "other white men to join in racially abusing and throwing rocks at them," which is indeed an indefensibly, horrifying action.
According to The Smoking Gun, who published the star’s court records, Wahlberg’s reported hate crimes resulted in an injunction, but he escaped jail time. This would not last for long.
He assaulted two men while high on PCP
As Mark Wahlberg’s life spiraled out of control, reaching a breaking point was inevitable. Unfortunately, this breaking point was jail. According to the Independent, in 1988, he "attacked two Vietnamese men while high" on PCP, which resulted in a two-year jail sentence. Vanity Fair reports that Wahlberg and his friends found the joints in "someone’s freezer" and set off on a "rampage," where they robbed a pharmacy and liquor store.
During the vicious attack, Wahlberg reportedly knocked out one of the men with a "five-foot wooden stick" while yelling racial slurs, according to the Independent. That same day, he punched the second man — an army veteran named Johnny Trinh — in the eye while yelling racial epithets. Though it was widely reported that Wahlberg blinded Trinh and caused him to lose his eye, the vet told Daily Mail that wasn’t the case. His eye was "already gone," though the attack still hurt.
The Independent reports that Wahlberg was issued a civil rights injunction for the first attack. It was settled the following month. The second attack resulted in his two-year sentence. Wahlberg was reportedly "charged with attempted murder" but pleaded it down to "felony assault." He only ended up serving 45 days. Years later, he told Forbes that jail changed his life. "I saw a lot of ugly stuff happen in there," he says. "It was enough for me to say, ‘I’m changing my life.’"
Mark Wahlberg sought a pardon for his assault charge
The Mark Wahlberg of today is almost unrecognizable compared to his teenage self. This may be part of the reason why he sought a pardon from his 1988 conviction in 2014. According to NECN, the actor, who was tried as an adult during the case, was hoping that his childhood criminal record would be erased so he could obtain a concessionaire’s license for Wahlburgers and "help law enforcement, working with at-risk kids."
In his application, Wahlberg cited a number of his philanthropic efforts, which included the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation, the Dorchester Boys and Girls Club, and the fact that he helped renovate Boston’s Parish Gym. " I want people to remember my past so that I can serve as an example of how lives can be turned around and how people can be redeemed," he said (via NECN).
Though his victim, Johnny Trinh, told the Daily Mail that he forgave the star, Wahlberg didn’t ultimately gain this forgiveness from the courts. According to the Independent, he dropped his pardon request in 2016. Four years later, the actor told The Guardian that he’d long been changed. "I took it upon myself to own up to my mistakes … and not be a part of the gang any more," he said. "Which made it 10 times more difficult to walk from my home to the train station, to go to school, to go to work."
Mark Wahlberg has three nipples
Mark Wahlberg’s Calvin Klein underwear ad is a thing of Hollywood legends. It’s so infamous that he even reportedly recreated it for paparazzi while on a 2018 vacation to Cape Cod, according to Daily Mail. Let’s be real: the dude is totally known for his physique, which includes enough abs that we lose count and/or swoon somewhere before we can get an actual total. This is perhaps the reason none of us ever noticed that Wahlberg was born with a third nipple, a feature he’s apparently very proud of.
According to Vanity Fair, Wahlberg’s third nipple was touched upon in his 1992 memoir Marky Mark. In true Marky Mark form, the book was dedicated to his "d**k" and included a "full-page diagram of the location" of the extra feature. He also claimed his third nipple was "dope. And b*****s like to suck it." Okay!
One of those aforementioned "b*****s" was not the actor’s Daddy’s Home co-star and friend, Will Ferrell, who was incredibly shocked to find out about Wahlberg’s anatomical irregularity. The news came out on Good Morning Britain while they were promoting Daddy’s Home 2. "We never talked about that… I just assumed he had two of them," Ferrell said, clearly perplexed. You’d think that’s the kind of thing co-stars discuss, no?
Mark Wahlberg’s music career completely changed his perspective
Mark Wahlberg has an oft-forgotten hip hop project called Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, which is generally embarrassing if you ask his kids. During an episode of Sunday Today (via People), the star revealed that when his 1991 hit "Good Vibrations" was played at his son’s football game, his wife cracked up as his son buried "his head in his helmet." Can you blame the kid, if only for the various scenes of Wahlberg inexplicably weight lifting in the music video? Still, it was this music career that set Wahlberg on the right path.
According to his 2011 Vanity Fair profile, Wahlberg first had the opportunity to be in New Kids on the Block with his brother Donnie, but he declined it because he couldn’t really "[carry] a tune." Nonetheless, Donnie helped his brother break into the industry by creating hip hop tracks, forming the band, and spending his own money producing Wahlberg’s first album Music for the People, which went platinum. The group’s first European tour changed everything.
"I hated Europe. I didn’t know how to deal with being on my own. I never realized any world existed outside Dorchester," Wahlberg said. "I thought everyone knew the same things, spoke the same language, stole from each other. Once I realized I was welcome in the rest of the world, then I just took it on myself to try to educate myself."
His Hollywood career forced him to shake the stigma of Marky Mark
Mark Wahlberg’s transition to Hollywood wasn’t the easiest, especially because he had to shake the stigma of his past, which included a felony and a hip hop career. According to Vanity Fair, the star decided to try acting when Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch’s second album You Gotta Believe failed to see the same success as their platinum-selling first album, but he wasn’t an instant success. Scott Kalvert, who directed Wahlberg in 1995’s The Basketball Diaries, admitted that "it was very hard to get him the movie, because of the stigma … everything was against him being able to succeed. He had to work four times as hard as somebody starting from scratch, and he did it."
It turns out that audiences could separate Wahlberg from his tough-guy persona, Marky Mark. James Foley, who directed Wahlberg’s 1996 thriller Fear, told Vanity Fair that the actor was largely motivated by "the obvious doubts about him." The year following Fear’s premiere, Wahlberg had a breakthrough with Boogie Nights, a film that required him to wear a "13-inch prosthetic penis" and show real vulnerability. It was one of the first times the actor markedly played a character that was nothing like him, and it shook the tough-guy image. Today, it’s not strange to see the star shedding a tear on-screen in films like Instant Family.
Mark Wahlberg graduated from high school in his 40s
Though Mark Wahlberg is considered a family man now — if his four kids and role in Daddy’s Home aren’t definitive proof — there was a time when he didn’t want children. According to The Sun, the actor feared he "would fail to give his own kids the stability he missed out on as a boy." That changed when he met his wife, model Rhea Durham, in 2001. "Until I met her, I wasn’t ready to have a family," he said.
Since then, Wahlberg went from the kind of guy who’s sold weed on street corners to the father who takes his children to church. Per The Sun, the actor is a devout Catholic and sets aside "15 minutes each morning for prayer time as a family." His life’s purpose has notably shifted. "My mission in life is to raise my kids right. With all the success I’ve had in the world, if I fail at that, my life means nothing," he told The Sun. He also leads by example.
In 2013, Wahlberg finally graduated from high school at the age of 42 after initially dropping out in the ninth grade. According to People, his children were his motivation. "I didn’t want the kids saying, ‘You didn’t do it, so why do I need it?’ They are all wanting to do things in their future that require an education," he told People.
Time’s Up for Mark Wahlberg’s huge paydays
Other than the occasional swimsuit paparazzi picture, Mark Wahlberg has spent the last decade largely out of the tabloids — at least for salacious reasons. For someone who caused so much controversy in his past, he’s rather controversy averse. Then, 2018 came along, and time was up for the Bostonite.
In a USA Today exclusive, it was revealed that Wahlberg received a massive $1.5 million payday to reshoot his scenes in All the Money in the World after Kevin Spacey was booted from the film following allegations of sexual misconduct. While this wouldn’t normally raise eyebrows since the star is consistently one of Hollywood’s highest-paid actors, Wahlberg’s co-star Michelle Williams was reportedly paid a paltry per diem, which added up to less than $1,000 total.
This, of course, did not look good for Wahlberg, especially as reports claimed the actor was paid almost 10 times more than Williams to shoot the film in the first place when Williams was the top-billed star and the pair shared similar amounts of screen time. According to The Hollywood Reporter, he made $5 million, and she made $625,000. The disparity triggered a SAG-AFTRA investigation, as USA Today reported that Wahlberg threatened to derail the reshoots if he wasn’t paid more than $1 million. Following a large public outcry, the actor later donated his exorbitant reshoot cash to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund in Williams’ name, per The Hollywood Reporter.
Yes, even Mark Wahlberg trashed The Happening
For many, Mark Wahlberg’s biggest blunder — aside from, you know, assaulting people — is The Happening. The M. Night Shyamalan thriller has long been used as a punching bag for the director’s body of work, receiving an 18% critical score on Rotten Tomatoes. What most people don’t understand is that The Happening happens to be one of the most brilliant thrillers of all time — at least in our opinion. Where else are you going to get slapstick comedy haphazardly mixed with ecological terror and a bizarre rant about the cultural value of hot dogs? What other film would get you absolutely obliterated if you were to play a hypothetical drinking game and take a swig every time Wahlberg says, "What? No!" It’s a perfect film, except in the opinion of the general public and, actually, Wahlberg himself.
According to People, Wahlberg addressed The Happening during a press conference, where he revealed that Amy Adams was initially being considered for Zooey Deschanel’s role in the mega-flop — and he trashed it. "She dodged the bullet," he said. "And then I was still able to…I don’t want to tell you what movie…all right, The Happening. F**k it. It is what it is. F***king trees, man. The plants. F**k it. You can’t blame me for not wanting to try to play a science teacher. At least I wasn’t playing a cop or a crook."