Marked man

Former rapper and Calvin Klein underpants star Mark Wahlberg has shed his Marky Mark skin and set out for a career in the movies. He tells Anwar Brett about playing the boyfriend-from-hell in Fear.

arky Mark. Sarky Mark. Barky worse than his bitey Mark. Who is the real Marky Mark. and why did someone choose to saddle this attitude-heavy. white trash punk rap star-turned-serious-actor with such a girly moniker? Surely his real name -- Mark Wahlberg would have done him just as well. But then again, maybe not: his elder brother Donny had already burst onto the scene with that surname as one of the New Kids On The Block. Remember them?

By contrast. Mark took the solo route to pop stardom and earned a tough reputation that seemed to be endorsed by his highly toned physique and guttural speech. He appealed to a largely male audience with his hard-hitting rap lyrics and to female audiences with an infamous series of ads for Calvin Klein underwear. Some say he got a big packet for that job. others

Mark my words: Marky Mark and Reese Wltherspoon In Fear suggest the packet was his all along but. whatever the reason. it took some balls to use such dubious notoriety as the basis for a burgeoning film career.

After an okay debut in the mediocre Renaisswtce Man and a low-key but impressive performance beside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Basketball Diaries. here he is in an off-the-peg psycho thriller imaginatively called Fear. As every father of a teenage daughter’s worst nightmare, Wahlberg woos, wins. loses and obsesses over the lovely Reese Witherspoon, taking out his violent fury on her unsuspecting family. In terms of his career, it’s a lead role. but not one that will take him further down the line to acting greatness and it could cause him some real problems on the dating front.

‘I definitely have thought that after this film it might be harder for me to get a date,’ Wahlberg drawls, suffering from jet lag but proving


unexpectedly amenable to all manner of probing questions. ‘I haven’t had many fathers of girls I’ve been out with lay down the law to me, although there was one who told me to stay far away from his daughter. Other than that. I’ve never really got involved in that king of thing.’ In his pursuit of that particular girl. it turns out Wahlberg had an equitable solution to the matter: ‘I stayed away from him, I didn’t stay away from her. He was a meany.’

A meany? What is the world coming to? Next thing you know, Ice—T will be complaining about hangnails. Nevertheless. in person Wahlberg shows a maturity already glimpsed in his work on screen and clearly filtering into other areas of his life. Whether that comes from growing up a bit or as the result of some bitter experience in the music business. he’s not saying.

The reason that Wahlberg is here in Britain, of course, is to sell his movie and there is indeed plenty of selling required but in extending his candid views to Fear. he reveals more than a

‘I haven’t had many fathers of glrls I’ve

been out with lay down the law to me,

although there was one who told me to stay far away from his daughter.’

seasoned pro would. In fact. as he talks in that familiar ‘no bullshit’ manner of other rap stars. he shows that he hasn’t totally gone Hollywood.

‘I didn’t want to do Fear when they first offered it to me,’ he recalls, ‘because it wasn’t the smartest of stories. It’s still not exactly the most brilliant of movies. but I liked that my character was reserved and laid back, because those are the people who are much more scary in real life rather than the ones who run off at the mouth all the time.’

Such honesty could get him kicked out of the acting trade in America. but it might well endear this disarmingly candid chap to a more cynical British public. Perhaps we’ve just got him on a good day. because he admits to being a moody character; but the way he describes himself. it certainly seems that an acting career was inevitable at some point.

‘I never know who I am until I wake up and look in the mirror and ask the question, “What am I today? What’s going to happen?”.’ he says. ‘As far as work goes. basically I’m looking for stuff that’s different. I want to work with new, young and exciting people as well as skilled veterans. It depends on the situation. but I want to continue to do different things. to play different characters. But the way I feel now, I feel I’ve lived a long life. I feel very old. and I just want to do a couple more things before I go. Death wish or just shagged out? After the briefest of meetings. I hope it’s just the latter. a jet lagged plea for a long holiday. As for the old Marky Mark name, that seems to be part of the old Mark Wahlberg, a skin that has been shed in favour of sleek newness and a warmly embraced maturity. Yet as he leaves. and the question is posed in an echo of his screen character of how far he has gone to win over a girl, the charm. menace and mischief are glimpsed in quick succession.

‘I guess the furthest I’ve gone hasjust been to beg.’ he smiles shyly. ‘But I’ve also learned to take no for an answer. l’ve certainly never carved a girl’s name on my chest.’ he says. pausing. ‘Not yet. anyway.’

Fear goes on general release on Fri 29 Nov.

The List 29 Nov- :2 Dec l99617