It remains standing dogma that men do not change. Of course we don’t. Change is an admission of error. To hell with that. We evolve. Some men have a skill for it. “Open arms,” says Mark Wahlberg, who is indisputably one of those men. That’s his secret. “My life has evolved so drastically over the years in every aspect. I embrace it.”
From teenage criminal to Marky Mark to cinematic bad guy to Oscar nominee to something different entirely: that’s Wahlberg. Two years ago, he’d just locked down some terrific roles and become a father. That could have been plenty. But he was already looking forward, focused on transformation.
He’d built a dream gym, boxing ring and all, where he trained for almost two years to play “Irish” Micky Ward, a Massachusetts boxer who fought three legendary bouts against Canadian fighter Arturo Gatti.
Now, nearly five years after he began his quest, The Fighter has been released and has received critically acclaimed. The movie wouldn’t have happened had Wahlberg remained any version of the man he was. Because as he knows – and the rest of us need to learn – the roots of any success backtrack in jagged, crisscross lines.
Or you can look at it this way: Wahlberg couldn’t have been a boxer without first becoming a porn star.1997 CHOOSING THE HARD ROAD
It’s not as if he was looking to play a porn star – but after The Basketball Diaries and Fear, he was typecast as a bad guy. And he knew what every successful man has figured out: while it’s easy to repeat old successes, you’ll only grow stagnant. “I sure don’t want to be told that there’s only a certain kind of thing I can do,” says Wahlberg.
So Wahlberg used a connection to score an “informal” sit-down with Philip Seymour Hoffman, John C. Reilly and Thomas Jane. That became an “informal” audition to play the well-endowed Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights. By the end, Wahlberg had the gig. “And then that became the thing that I was best suited to do. So I had to break that mould. It’s always been about going out there and having to prove myself.”
It goes to show: every meeting is an opportunity and every introduction a potential relationship. You must pack your A-game at all times.2004-2006 PLANNING FOR SUCCESS
Wahlberg went on to star in plenty of movies, but then decided that, too, was limiting. “A career is nice,” he says, “but I want to build a business.” That’s why he started his production company, Leverage, whose first TV show, Entourage, debuted in 2004. Vindication came quickly: in 2005, the show received three Emmy nominations.
Wahlberg responded by working harder. “We were already talking about In Treatment. We were talking about Boardwalk Empire (two more TV series),” he says.
And now was the time to capitalise, to put already formed plans into action. Many men miss this step. After every success, even small ones, huddle with those you work with and ask, “What’s next?”. And don’t wait for the answer – have five answers ready.2007 WORKING OVERTIME
Now he had to become a boxer. The mere possibility of The Fighter being made was enough to keep him training hard through all the movies he’d shoot in the interim. “It was tough. Going out and making another movie and still continuing to train for something that may not happen . . . We’re shooting 12-14 hours a day on one movie and I’m getting up two hours earlier than normal so I can train.”
A lot of men log hours of hard but hollow work that don’t advance them and, therefore, only allow them to brag about how much time they work.
“To look like Micky Ward inside the ring, outside the ring and in the gym, I needed to do it right,” says Wahlberg. “We hired real boxers and really went in there and hit each other. I was in better shape than the fighters I was shooting with.”
2007–2009 PUTTING THE PLAN TOGETHER
Wahlberg’s role in Martin Scorsese’s The Departed could go down as his most memorable. Still, by some accounts, Wahlberg and Scorsese didn’t get along too well. But Wahlberg is too smart to toss a relationship with such a man based on one experience. And Wahlberg had a plan: to bring Scorsese aboard Leverage’s new HBO show Boardwalk Empire.
He made it happen by knowing that small victories are invisible. You can’t expect to see a pay-off every time you push for something; you have to trust that progress was made. “Talking about our television business while we were working together and then seeing him during Oscar and awards season, then going to visit him on the set of Shutter Island – that’s how I convinced him.”
Scorsese became an executive producer and directed the first episode. But that was only phase one of the plan. Wahlberg’s big catch earnt him points with HBO, and he knew how to use them. He wanted HBO to help make The Fighter. “HBO allowed us to use their cameras and the guys who have shot all the HBO fights. We were able to make the best version of the movie – down and dirty and gritty and real.”TODAY WHY YOU DO IT ALL IN THE FIRST PLACE
The Fighter stands as a milestone because it represents a pay-off: never be so consumed in what you’re doing in the present that you lose sight of what you’re becoming.
Today, Wahlberg is 39 and has four children. “I think about 40 every once in a while,” he says. “I am working like a psychopath right now. It’s one thing to have a career, but I want to build something that can last forever. I’m in a unique position of doing things that I can be very proud of and excited about. I might as well take advantage of that now because it definitely might not exist later.” He pauses. “No guarantees, man.”
You need a strong core to be a strong boxer, says Micky Ward, the pugilist Mark Wahlberg plays in The Fighter. “That’s where all your power comes from. When you twist to throw a punch, you throw your hips and entire core into it.” Follow his routine:Push-up
15 repsMcGill curl-up
15 reps each leg.
Lie face-up – right leg straight, left leg bent so your foot is flat on the floor. With palms under your lower-back arch, lift your head and shoulders (don’t bend your lower back). Pause, then lower.Side crunch
15 reps each side.
Lie straight on your left side and brace your feet against a wall or a heavy object. Rest your left hand on your chest and place your right hand behind your head. Crunch your torso towards your hip. Pause, then return to the starting position.Hip-up
10 reps each side.
Lie on your left side, propping your upper body up with your left elbow and forearm and keeping your knees straight. Raise your hips so that your torso is beyond parallel to the floor and your body forms a straight line from your head to ankles. Pause, then lower.Medicine-ball twist
Hold a medicine ball at chest level, arms straight out. Without moving your torso, rotate your arms far to the left, then far to the right. That’s one rep. Continue back and forth as fast as you can.Do 2-3 circuits total.