] Yeah. A little bit.
It seems like just yesterday you were normal sized. Or, you know…normaler.
Yeah, it all happened really fast. I knew going into it how hard I was going to work. The big challenge was going from movie to movie and they both required completely different physical preparations.
Was CGI involved or was it all you?
No, this is a very low budget movie. I love roles where I am required to prepare physically. And it’s fun putting on weight and eating.
Especially the eating part.
Well, it depends. I did Broken City first, and I had to get down to 165 pounds, which for me is really, really thin. I wasn’t eating anything, and I had a lot of cravings. And then for Pain & Gain, I was able to eat whatever I wanted, which was fun for about three weeks. But then it became torture.
I heard you were eating like ten meals a day.
More like twelve.
How’s that even possible?
Well, sometimes you have to get up in the middle of the night for a meal.
So you weren’t sleeping either.
Not as much as I wanted. I’d have a big meal and go to bed at 9pm, and then I’d get up at midnight to eat again, and I’d still be full from the last meal.
That sounds horrible.
It kinda was. And then you exercise first thing in the morning and eat all day, and you try to take as many naps and rest as much as possible. Especially after eating, because you feel like you’re growing while you’re sleeping.
What kind of workout routine did you follow to pack on that much bulk?
Well, I’d wake up at 4:30 every morning, have a nice big breakfast—a pre-workout igniter—and then I’d hit the heavy weights, depending on the day and the routine for the day. But it always involved lifting heavy, and mostly just lifting weights. And then a protein shake right after the workout. And then chicken, steak, fish, a little bit of pasta here and there. Just really overloading, meal after meal after meal.
Chicken and burgers and…
I can’t take it. It feels like something they’d do in Guantanamo, force feeding you till food loses all pleasure.
Food really did stop having any real taste for me.
Method acting is fucking brutal.
You do what you’ve got to do.
But it’s different from DeNiro gaining a bunch of weight to play Al Capone. He just had to look chunky. You had to look like one of those guys obsessed with pumping iron, whose entire lives are in the gym.
Yeah, these guys are pretty dedicated to perfecting their physiques. It’s not just about the physical. You also have to inhabit the headspace. It’s where you had to live, to think like they think.
When you were doing your workouts, did you ever go back and look at the Marky Mark workout video?
Form, Focus, and Determination? You remember that one?
I do remember it, unfortunately. But no, I haven’t seen it in a few years.
Would it be awkward to watch stuff like that again? Or would you be like, “Oh yeah, that guy is wicked awesome?”
I don’t really think about it. There are so many things that I did for money in my past.
Some hold up better than others.
Sure, yeah. With the workout video, the clothes might be a little embarrassing in hindsight, but I wasn’t pretending to be something I wasn’t. And fitness was and is important to me. I’ve always been into working out and eating healthy. That’s just who I am.
Do you like to work out alone or with other people?
I have a guy who works out with me in the morning now. And I have my friends who are into working out. But I have a gym at the house so I don’t usually get to the gym all that often. If I’m away, I’ll work out with somebody. I like that back and forth, where they’re pushing you or vice-versa.
When shooting Pain & Gain, did you work out with the Rock?
Nope. We had very busy twelve hour days, so he’d train while he was home and I’d train before I got to the set. (Pain & Gain co-star) Anthony Mackie and I worked out a couple of times. And when we were shooting at the gym location, everybody would mess around.
Are there ways of making it fun? When you’re doing intensive, seemingly never-ending workouts like you did preparing for this movie, how do you keep from going nuts?
It depends. If I’m training for a specific project, then I just keep my eye on the prize. It’s not something I do every day of every month of every year. It’s for specific projects. After we finished Pain & Gain, I went right into 2 Guns (with Denzel Washington), so I immediately had to lose 30 pounds in 30 days. So I started playing basketball right away, full court basketball every day to shed the weight. And then I changed my supplementation program.
Your character in Pain & Gain gets off on the pain of pumping iron. Do you love that pain?
No, I love the relief of being done. I love the protein shake five minutes after the workout is over. It helps you feel good throughout the rest of the day. When I don’t exercise and when I’m not eating good and clean, I feel sluggish. So it’s good to get it done, especially if you’re tired or sore.
I caught your appearance on the Graham Norton Show, which was just amazing.
I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed you on a talk show as much. What was going on there?
Going on how?
There was some speculation that you might’ve been a little tipsy.
I was jet-lagged.
But you had a few adult beverages?
We were trying to do a bit. We were just trying to be funny. It’s weird because I come from a pretty serious background. I try to make jokes and humor on many occasions and they come across as being serious, and people read into it the wrong way. Which is completely ridiculous. Whatever.
You think people don’t know when you’re being ironic?
They don’t always. But it won’t stop me from trying, especially now that I’ve gotten into making comedies. I feel a little more free. Obviously I’m very serious about my life and my faith and my family, but I also like to go out there and have fun. I don’t take myself too seriously.
My favorite part of the show was when you challenged Michael Fassbender to a cock-off.
That was a joke!
I know. That’s why I enjoyed it. If it wasn’t a joke, it would’ve been kinda creepy and weird.
We kind of talked about the whole thing; me with Boogie Nights and him with Shame.
You both doing full frontal in a movie?
Yeah, yeah. And Sarah Silverman was there, and she’s so funny. So you know, things were said. It was one of those things that was taken the wrong way and what are you going to do.
My point is, you’re really entertaining after a few cocktails.
Hey, you know what? I was prepared and professional. Even after the taping, I had other work to do. I wasn’t overdoing it, that’s for sure.
When the media makes assumptions, prints stories with headlines like “Mark Wahlberg drunk on BBC,” does that upset you?
Why would it?
Because you said it isn’t true?
You can’t worry about that. It’s a waste of time.
It takes a thick skin to just turn the other way when thousands of strangers are writing negative things about you. Is that maturity that comes with age?
I think it does come from age, yeah. But I learned early on that I am who I am and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. All I can do is maximize my potential through hard work and dedication and try to accomplish the goals that I set for myself. But with age, I become even more comfortable in my own skin.
You’re okay with getting older?
I embrace old age. Look, I’m never going to dunk on LeBron James and I’ve learned to accept that. I got a pretty good life and I’m very fortunate and I have my blessings. When you think about the characters in that movie—
Which movie? Pain & Gain?
Yeah. Nothing was enough for those guys. A lot of bodybuilders seem to have that attitude; if only I could get a little bit bigger or a little more rich. As opposed to just appreciating what they have. And in (my character) Lugo’s case, it was just going out there and doing the work to obtain those goals.
Are you an intimidating presence to other actors? When you meet a new cast, are they a little wary of you?
I don’t know. I don’t think about that. I try to make them feel as comfortable as possible. I want everybody to feel good about what they’re doing, but also, I expect the same level of dedication and preparation that I bring to the table. The movie is only going to be as good as its weakest person. I want everybody to be as strong as possible. I want everybody to shine. So I would hope I encourage people to do their best work.
But if they don’t?
If someone is not prepared and is just phoning it in, that is an issue. I’m not okay with that. No matter what kind of movie we’re making, no matter what the subject matter and the genre, we want to make the best possible version of that movie. And hopefully everyone has that same approach and attitude towards the work.
Were you surprised about what Kate Moss told Vanity Fair about working with you?
What’d she say? I didn’t read it.
She says she had a “nervous breakdown” after doing a Calvin Klein photoshoot with you in 1992, and she couldn’t get out of bed for two weeks. Do you remember what happened?
No! She seemed really comfortable. Gosh, I got there, she was having a Heineken and smoking a cigarette and it was very quick and easy, what we were doing. We were working with Herb Ritts, one of the great photographers of all time. And we worked for just a couple of hours. She was a pro and it was very easy. (Pause.) But I did have some friends hanging around.
Just some of my boys. They came with me everywhere. Maybe that was a bit weird and she was uncomfortable because she was only wearing underwear.
But you’re doing an underwear ad for Calvin Klein, who I assume is paying you a teacher’s salary for every minute on the set. Isn’t being in her underwear in front of strangers kind of the job description?
Yeah, pretty much. It is what it is. I can’t speak for her, but there’s no limit to how hard I’m willing to work to succeed at what I do and to be the best that I can be. The people who hire me, they put their faith behind me. I work as hard as anybody will ever work and I like that. That’s why I’ve been successful and that is when I feel good about myself. If I do my damnedest and don’t succeed, I feel good about the effort. But things that you can’t control—how can you spend time worrying about it? You let stuff go. I know how I live my life and what I do on a daily basis to make myself a better person and husband and father and neighbor and a leader to whoever looks up to me as an example and as a follower to those who I admire, who do amazing things for the community and who do God’s work. Those are the things that I worry about and focus on and everything else is out of my hands.
In other words, you’re comfortable being in front of strangers in your underwear.
] Not as much as I used to be, but yeah, sure.
Is it hard to balance your values with some of the requirements of being an actor? You’ve said you try to avoid roles in which you have to kiss another woman. Has that ever stopped you from taking on a role you otherwise would’ve loved to do?
No, no. Look, I have respect for my wife, and she is uncomfortable with it. But it is part of my job. There’s a lot of things I need to weigh out when making those decisions. But I definitely don’t look for those kind of roles. If there is way to avoid it or negotiate it down to the bare minimum, I would probably do that. But at the same time, I don’t want to compromise my artistic freedom as an actor.
You’ve been focusing more on producing and even non-movie business ventures lately, like starting your own water company, Aquahydrate. Is that because you’re getting tired of being in front of the camera?
I could never get tired of it. Acting is my passion. But I love business and creating opportunities and it allows me to spend a lot more time at home. Some of it’s as surprising to me as it is to everybody else. Like with Aquahydrate, I had no interest in being in the beverage business. I had no desire, no knowledge of it. But what happened was, I took a meeting as a favor to a friend—I didn’t even know what the meeting was about. They started pitching me on alkalized water. It was just kind of going in one ear and out the other. But I was training for Pain & Gain and I drank about a gallon and a half of water a day. So I said give me some of the water, I’ll try it. I started drinking it and realized, holy cow, this really has an impact on my recovery time. I had a pep in my step after drinking a couple of cases of it.
A couple of cases? Like per day?
Wow, you like your water.
You got to, man, especially if you’re training.
If I can play devil’s advocate for a minute.
By all means.
One could argue that water is pretty much perfect in its natural state. Why mess with it? It’d be like saying “Hey, I improved oxygen.” Why improve something that doesn’t need improving?
Many people have said the same thing, but if I drink another water after I’ve flown on a plane, I can immediately taste the acid in the water. I feel the difference in the weight of the water. We were talking about doing a deal with Dr. Pepper/Snapple and because it’s alkalized and it is non-PH and it has electrolytes in there, we were like okay, let’s put our money where our mouth is and do these clinical tests. It was the first product in the history of the company that had clinicals.
Another business you’ve started is Wahlburgers, a restaurant you own with your brothers. And apparently it’s good.
Well, most restaurants with pun names, or restaurants owned by celebrities, tend to be awful. But I’ve heard nothing but stellar things. Somebody asked Steve Carell recently what he’d eat for a last meal, and he picked your burger.
Seriously. He said it “holds up against all others.”
That’s awesome. Yeah, I really believe in that business. I would never just put my name on something and throw it out there and see if it sticks. Anything where you get celebrity names involved—
Like Planet Hollywood?
Yeah, sure. You have the celebrity connection, people are gonna show up. But the only thing that keeps people coming back is the quality of the product. For us, the quality is in the food, just like with the water.
There is one way that Wahlburgers is like Planet Hollywood. Aren’t the walls covered with props and memorabilia from your movies?
Oh yeah. We got movie stuff, music stuff from my brother Donnie, and stuff from our family and our upbringing in lower middle class Boston. There’s a theme to our upbringing and the business of where we are today.
Do one of the restaurants have…you know…your manhood from Boogie Nights?
The prosthetic? No, I don’t think that’s something people want to see while they’re eating.
Do you know where it is?
I have it.
You own it?
Do you keep it at home on your mantel or something? Or a closet?
I keep it someplace safe, let’s just leave it at that. I used to keep it in my desk drawer, and I’d take it out now and again to play pranks on my boys. You know, slap ’em in the face, stuff like that. But I don’t do that anymore.
Would you ever donate it to a museum?
Maybe one day, if Paul Anderson was doing a retrospective, I would let them show it in New York for a couple of weeks.
Did they give it to you or did you have to sneak it off the set?
It wasn’t even a discussion. Listen, if I had to put it on, have this thing molded to my own shape, I was going to keep it.
The original owner of that penis, Dirk Diggler, was one of your best characters.
Thank you, man.
He wasn’t an especially self-confident guy. Which, as we were talking about before, doesn’t seem to be one of your problems.
I’ve got a lot more confidence in myself than Diggler did in himself, yeah.
When you’re playing a character with self-esteem issues, how do you get to that place? Do you dig deep until you find that insecurity that must be in there somewhere?
Well, like you say, we all have it. A lot of times I just had to put on a tough exterior, you know. I’ve definitely been vulnerable and I’ve been in some hairy predicaments too. But in a lot of ways, the things I’ve been through, the bad times, they’ve been the source of strength I draw on. You know what I’m saying? I lived through that. You really do come out stronger on the other side.
Most people romanticize the wildness of their past. How much do you trust your own memories?
I think people that haven’t lived that life or been exposed to it romanticize it. Anybody who actually lived it and understands it isn’t going to romanticize it. I was just on Howard Stern and Howard likes to talk about a lot of stuff that he obviously hadn’t experienced in his younger days, cause he think it’s cool or interesting. To me, it was just what I had to deal with. And I was able to move on from it.
You’ve used your past as creative fodder. Your roles in The Fighter and The Departed probably wouldn’t have felt as authentic if you weren’t drawing on first-hand experiences. And Marky Mark certainly had that Boston tough guy swagger.
When I was in music, it wasn’t something that I was trying to hide or glorify. It just was what it was. I’m grateful that I can at least use that real life experience now, in my work, in a positive way. I can relate to the characters that I play, that live in the real world. Other than that, if I could have changed a lot of things about my past, the bad things that happened to me, I certainly would have.
George Clooney once said that while shooting Three Kings, he saw you get into bar brawls almost every night. Did that really happen?
Yeah, a little bit.
It sounds like a spaghetti western.
But it wasn’t always my fault. We were in a little random hotel in the middle of nowhere and there were all these skydiving conferences, so there was one bar/restaurant to hang out in. These dudes would come in, drink too much, and start looking for a fight. One of them actually attacked me. When I was sitting down, he attacked me from behind. So I had a problem with that.
Was it just “hey look, it’s Mark Wahlberg, let’s start some shit?”
I don’t know. I didn’t ask too many questions. I didn’t get an explanation as to why.
I heard another story that when you were working on Planet of the Apes, you were jumped by some chimps.
Actual chimps, yeah. Not another actor. What happened was, we were doing this shoot and there was a chimp who was obsessed with (co-star) Helena (Bonham Carter) and every time I went near her, the chimp would go after me. He was very protective. He’d try to grab me and jump on me and all that stuff, you know. And one time, when I gave Helena a quick hug, he got right on top of me and just started wailing on me.
It was pretty bizarre. He wasn’t that big so I wasn’t too scared. But still, this is a wild animal we’re talking about, and it’s unpredictable. You don’t know what it’s going to do, how violent it’s going to get. The trainers had to run in and pull him off of me.
Do chimps fight dirtier than humans?
Chimps are a lot stronger than humans. But I don’t know if a chimp has a good chin and can take a punch. You know what I mean? That’s their problem. The bigger the chimp, the stronger they are. They could rip your arm off if they wanted to. But if you could catch one on the chin with a good left hand, you might be able to knock ’em out.
Do you get mellower as you get older? Is your temper less explosive than it was in your 20s and 30s?
Absolutely! And there are plenty of things to lose my temper about. I’ve got four kids who are not always nice to each other. When they start pushing or misbehaving, you can get upset. But I don’t let myself get to that level. I like to have a nice chill.
That’d be the best name ever for a parenting book. A Nice Chill.
Yeah, yeah, I like it. Also, it helps that I don’t go out anymore.
You mean to bars?
Right. I don’t have to be dealing with dudes who want to test me and all that stuff. Those days are way behind me.
I hate to bring it up, but given your roots in Boston, I feel like we should talk about the marathon bombing that happened last week.
It’s just absolutely horrible. A number of people that I knew or have connections with were affected by it. Especially after Newtown, you can’t help but wonder what’s happening to the world. We need to protect the innocent, especially women and children. It’s horrible what is going on.
How do you deal with it on a personal level? Do you get out there and volunteer, donate your money or time? How do you help make it less horrible?
I try to be as positive as possible. I just believe that through the power of prayer and faith, we’ll be okay. I loved what Obama said at the memorial, about rediscovering that state of grace. But I get so upset when I think about those children getting hurt. I have four beautiful children of my own. And I also try to remain hopeful and positive that things will change. But that may be a little far fetched. I just try to do the right thing and hope for the best. I certainly want the best for everybody.
There was something you said last year about 9/11 that caused some controversy. You were supposed to be on one of those flights that hit the Twin Towers.
I was, yeah. We ended up changing our plans, going to Canada instead.
You said in an interview that if you’d been on that plane, “there would have been a lot of blood in that first-class cabin.”
I’ve apologized for that. It was in poor taste.
But isn’t that fantasy role-playing just a way of dealing with the feelings of helplessness and anger? I don’t think anybody who was affected by 9/11 didn’t have fantasies about kicking a terrorist’s ass. Which isn’t the same as saying, “I’m braver than the people who died in that tragedy.”
Yeah, yeah, I hear what you’re saying. It’s hard not to play those scenarios out in your head. Of the four or five of us who were supposed to be traveling that day, maybe it would have at least been an opportunity to do something. I’m not trying to turn this into any kind of action-adventure movie or anything, where I’m kicking down the cabin door and saying “Not on my watch, terrorists!” But, you know, you have these thoughts. What would I have done?
It’s been twelve years. Do you still think about it?
Not as much as I used to. I don’t intentionally block it out but I try to live for the moment and the future.
Seth McFarlane, who directed you in Ted, also had a close call with 9/11. He was supposed to be on one of those flights as well. Have you ever talked about that with him?
Not at all. We’ve been working hard and enjoying the opportunity to be able to do what we love. Why would I want to bring up something like that?
Well, because it’s unique. How many living people had a ticket to a flight that caused one of the worst tragedies in U.S. history?
I don’t want to dwell on it, and I don’t think Seth does either. We’re both just appreciative to be alive and working on projects we believe in. I have so much respect for Seth, and I’m so grateful that he had the faith in me and wanted to make a movie with me.
Were you guys fast friends? You seem very different in a lot of ways.
We hit it off right away. I hadn’t been too familiar with him or his work until I read the script for Ted, and then I watched some Family Guy episodes. I think he realized real quick what I’m willing to do as an actor, and when I commit, I commit 110% and I was there to service his vision.
Seth is very clean cut; he’s into Broadway show tunes and impeccable hygiene. Back in your working class Boston days, would you have wanted someone like him by your side during a fight? Could he hold his own if shit went down?
You know, I don’t think you’d know until you put him in that situation. I know a lot of guys who pretend to have a tough front exterior, and I’ve seen many of them running away as it’s going down, on many occasions. So I think some of the toughest and strongest and most capable people are people who are in that situation and rise to the occasion. Never judge a book by its cover. I’ve seen many 99 pounders who can beat up big dudes, too.
There’ve been rumors recently of a possible Funky Bunch reunion. How realistic is that?
That was a joke!
It was? Well the entire Internet believed it.
That happens to me all the time. Nobody can tell when I’m joking.
Here’s an example. Mila Kunis and I did a movie together called Max Payne, and she had just done a Judd Apatow movie. So we were doing a press conference with a bunch of foreign journalists and I started joking—I was doing my Kathryn Heigl imitation. But I didn’t explain it. I said that Judd’s movies are chauvinistic and disrespectful to women and why would she do something like that?
Oh yeah, I remember that. You called him misogynistic.
And I was joking!
You thought it was obvious?
If you look at me and my sense of humor and the work that I’ve done, it should be obvious. After it happened, I was getting phone calls from people because they’d printed about how I was going after Judd Apatow and we have a lot of friends in common. I’m getting all these phone calls asking me what my beef with Judd was. First of all, they didn’t even remember where it was coming from or what it was about. And then finally somebody figured it out. I’ve had so many stories like that.
Like the pseudo-feud with Andy Samberg, whose “big fucking nose” you threatened to break for impersonating you on Saturday Night Live?
I thought that was such an obvious joke. Maybe I should fall through the table or do some kind of pratfall, so people get that I’m joking. If I didn’t have a sense of humor, I never would have done Date Night or The Other Guy or Ted. I guess people just got so accustomed to my performances in the past, when I played everything straight and normal and real.
But that crosses over into your personal life? Off the set, away from the cameras, you’re a guy with a healthy sense of humor about himself?
At the Emmys in 2011, host Jane Lynch made a crack about the cast of Entourage, a show you produce and is based on your life. She said, “A lot people are very curious as to why I’m a lesbian—ladies and gentleman, the cast of Entourage.” Did you find that funny?
I thought it was hysterical. During the show, I was sitting right next to her and her partner—I don’t know if they’re married. When she said it, it was one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever heard. Fantastic. And seeing the look on those guys faces was even better. She nailed it. I was dying.
(He’s briefly distracted by his kids, one of whom is purportedly faking a foot injury to get out of school. “And now you’re bopping around here like you’re in a Jazzercise class,” Wahlberg says.)
That was some amazing parenting, Mark.
Thanks. Yeah, they are always up to something.
I’ve got one kid and it feels overwhelming at times. You’ve got four kids. How the hell do you do it?
I have an amazing wife. And if I’m not working, I’m just with the kids. I try to be as patient as possible because they’re all going in different directions and you’ve just got to be patient. As they get older, it becomes a lot more fun. They start doing sports and getting really good at athletics and it gets exciting to watch. I don’t have to fake enthusiasm with my kids.
Is your parenting style similar to your own parents, or did you take it in a different direction?
It’s more similar than I ever expected it was gonna be. A lot of things they told me when I was growing up, I thought they didn’t know what they were talking about. But it turns out they were right. When I was younger, I always thought my parents were out of touch and didn’t know what was really happening, what the world was really like. Little did I know that they’d been through all of it before, and I could have avoided making some pretty major mistakes had I just listened to them.
Your parents were fond of cursing, isn’t that right?
That’s true. But I don’t pass that on to my kids.
So that’s one way you’re not like your parents? You don’t drop the f-bomb as liberally?
I don’t drop it at all. My wife is very conservative so we don’t want to get into any problems there.
Are your parents still creative cursers?
My dad passed away some years ago, but my mom is. Yeah, she can definitely curse up a blue streak. It depends. She won’t do it as a normal thing, but if you get her going, she’ll swear like there’s no tomorrow.
What’s your favorite curse word used by either of your parents?
They covered the whole gamut. I don’t have a favorite, honestly.
I heard you were going to be in Albuquerque working on another film, Lone Survivor.
I left Albuquerque last night to come home to Los Angeles to have a day off and I’m going back tomorrow.
Do you think about that before you take a movie role? Do you consider how long you’ll be away from your family before you say yes?
All the time. I don’t like being away from them for more than two weeks, but you’re never going to shoot a movie in two weeks time. The average schedule is usually about eight to twelve weeks, depending on the size of the movie. If I’m lucky they’ll be shooting for at least a week in LA, but they don’t seem to shoot movies in LA anymore. All these other places are luring the business away from California.
You once promised to retire from acting when you reached 40, and then pushed the age to 50. Are you sticking with 50?
Very serious. I don’t want to be one of those actors who stick around too long, past their expiration date.
But some actors do their best work as they get older. Look at Michael Caine or Ian McKellan or Morgan Freeman. You could be acting well into your 80s if you wanted.
But I’m not sure I want that. I’m making some different choices nowadays and trying different things and delving into comedy and stuff like that. I always looked at my life more as an athlete. I would have a certain amount of time to focus on what I was doing and be the best at what I was doing and then retire after a certain amount of time and focus on my family. Obviously everybody is different. Jack Nicholson has an amazing career. But I don’t want to be Jack Nicholson. Family is the most important thing to me, certainly more important than making movies.
(This story originally appeared, in a slightly different form, on MensHealth.com.)