Mark Wahlberg's loyalty permeates 'Fighter'

Joe Williams
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MCT)

ST. LOUIS — His glamorous life in Beverly Hills is the basis for the TV series "Entourage," but Mark Wahlberg left his heart in Massachusetts. Raised in the tough Boston suburb of Dorchester, where he was a teenage car thief and drug dealer, the actor-turned-producer returned to his home state to film the true-life boxing bio "The Fighter."

In a recent phone interview with the St, Louis Post-Dispatch, Wahlberg said that his local notoriety can be a distraction. "For about two weeks, it's good to be home, but then it becomes pretty hectic."

When Wahlberg shot "The Perfect Storm" in Massachusetts in 1999, some of his old cronies visited the set, and the rising star had to stop them from stealing the cameras.

But like the character based on Wahlberg in "Entourage," he is famously loyal. "The Fighter," the story of boxer Micky Ward and his troubled half-brother Dickie Ecklund, was directed by David O. Russell, with whom Wahlberg worked on "Three Kings" and "I Heart Huckabees." Like actor Christian Bale, who plays the crack-addicted Dickie, Russell was infamous for an on-set tirade (against "Huckabees" co-star Lily Tomlin), but as the producer, Wahlberg thought Russell was the right man for the job.

Likewise, the cast includes some nonactors with whom Wahlberg had a personal connection. "One of the guys I used to look up to in Dorchester, and who I got into a lot of trouble with, plays Dickie's drug buddy, Boo Boo. He's a good friend of mine named Paulie Campbell. He had never acted before, but I thought he could give a very real performance. And he was fantastic."

Wahlberg, 39, was a stickler for realism, and to prepare for the role of the boxer, he trained for more than four years in a ring he built inside his California home.

"I didn't want to look like an actor who could box a bit," he said, "I wanted to look like a boxer who could win the world welterweight title."

Wahlberg said he was attracted to Ward's improbable rags-to-riches story because it resembled his own. "I grew up 30 minutes from where Micky was from. I met him for the first time when I was 18. I was a huge fan, because of how he won the title against all odds, because of his relationship with his hometown of Lowell, because of his relationship with his mother and his siblings. He's from a family of nine kids, and I'm the youngest of nine. The parallels are hard to miss."

Like Ward, Wahlberg has an older brother who preceded him into the spotlight. Donnie Wahlberg was a member of the hugely popular boy band New Kids on the Block and inspired Mark to pursue a music career of his own. Rapping led to acting, and now Mark is one of the most powerful people in Hollywood, as both an actor and producer.

Wahlberg said he has at least one more debt to repay. He said he hopes that someday he can make a movie with Donnie, who plays a detective on the TV series "Blue Bloods."

"I'm committed. One hundred percent."





'We're Not Here to Entertain' Is Not Here to Break the Cycle of Punk's Failures

Even as it irritates me, Kevin Mattson's We're Not Here to Entertain is worth reading because it has so much direct relevance to American punks operating today.


Uncensored 'Native Son' (1951) Is True to Richard Wright's Work

Compared to the two film versions of Native Son in more recent times, the 1951 version more acutely captures the race-driven existential dread at the heart of Richard Wright's masterwork.


3 Pairs of Boots Celebrate Wandering on "Everywhere I Go" (premiere)

3 Pairs of Boots are releasing Long Rider in January 2021. The record demonstrates the pair's unmistakable chemistry and honing of their Americana-driven sound, as evidenced by the single, "Everywhere I Go".


'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.


Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".


PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor

Exploitation Shenanigans 'Test Tube Babies' and 'Guilty Parents' Contend with the Aftermath

As with so many of these movies about daughters who go astray, Test Tube Babies blames the uptight mothers who never told them about S-E-X. Meanwhile, Guilty Parents exploits poor impulse control and chorus girls showing their underwear.


Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.


Arcade Fire's Will Butler Personalizes History on 'Generations'

Arcade Fire's Will Butler creates bouncy, infectious rhythms and covers them with socially responsible, cerebral lyrics about American life past and present on Generations.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Thelonious Monk's Recently Unearthed 'Palo Alto' Is a Stellar Posthumous Live Set

With a backstory as exhilarating as the music itself, a Thelonious Monk concert recorded at a California high school in 1968 is a rare treat for jazz fans.


Jonnine's 'Blue Hills' Is an Intimate Collection of Half-Awake Pop Songs

What sets experimental pop's Jonnine apart on Blue Hills is her attention to detail, her poetic lyricism, and the indelibly personal touch her sound bears.


Renegade Connection's Gary Asquith Indulges in Creative Tension

From Renegade Soundwave to Renegade Connection, electronic legend Gary Asquith talks about how he continues to produce infectiously innovative music.


A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.