Wahlberg talks of days as troubled teen


Hollywood A-lister Mark Wahlberg has come a long way from the rough streets of Boston. His movie, Shooter, opens today.


When Mark Wahlberg walks into a posh Yorkville hotel room adorned in a pinstripe designer suit, oozing humble confidence fresh off his best supporting actor nomination at this year’s Academy Awards, it’s difficult to imagine an actor and former rapper whose past life was riddled with run-ins with the law and stints in jail.


But if the actor’s correct, a youth spent growing up on Boston’s seediest streets prepared him for his current role as Hollywood’s A-list, go-to tough guy.


In his new film Shooter, Wahlberg plays Bob Lee Swagger, an ex-special forces sniper recruited back into service to protect the president, a part he says pushed him to his physical and mental limits.

“This guy would tell me stories of how he’d jump out of a plane, have to swim two miles, hike 30 or 40 miles and then sit in one position for six or seven days at a time with 130 pounds of equipment being dragged around,” the 35-year-old actor recalls of his time spent training with a real U.S. marine scout sniper. “That’s pretty intense.”

As for seeming to suit those tough guy roles — think back to that recent Oscar-nominated stint in The Departed, his leading role in director John Singleton’s Four Brothers and his other military turn in Three Kings — Wahlberg attributes his street cred to those days spent dodging the police in Boston.

“You can’t teach that stuff in acting class, there’s no technique, and I think audiences recognize what’s authentic and what’s real,” he says.

“I’m grateful for all the things I went through, unfortunately not the pain and agony I caused my mother and other people, but I’ve certainly apologized over and over for that".

Those ‘things’ in his teenage years included terms in jail and encounters with the law for throwing rocks at a group of African-American school children and beating two Vietnamese men while allegedly high on drugs.

But with his days as a delinquent, not to mention an alter ego as the hyper-sexual rapper Marky Mark, behind him, the proud father of one- and three-year-olds is very much a straight shooter in his personal life, where he devotes a great deal of his time to helping underprivileged kids.

“My biggest concern is what’s going on in inner cities like the one I grew up in and how we can give kids a better shot at having a successful, long and fruitful lives as opposed to the path most of my friends took and the path that I was on for a while.”

Wahlberg offers this answer only when asked. He prefers not to advertise his philanthropic efforts or the charities he’s created to help youth, saying that he’s not trying to promote his work.

Skeptics would argue that Wahlberg is merely trying to atone for his past sins, but the Boogie Nights star says he wants to teach teenagers about the turning point he arrived at behind bars, that not only toughened him, but forced him to acknowledge his downward criminal spiral.

“Dealing with the kids is the only way I can really have an impact,” he says.

“With my past, I’ve never tried to use it to my advantage and I’ve never tried to hide it.”

Shooter opens in theatres today.