After making a name for himself as the head of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, Wahlberg leapt into movies and enjoyed critical and commercial hits in films like Boogie Nights (1997), Three Kings (1999) and The Italian Job (2003) remake. He also recently stood out in Martin Scorsese's Oscar-winning ensemble The Departed (2006), securing an Oscar nomination into the bargain, and is executive producer of a little show called Entourage.
His latest, Shooter, finds him as a sniper framed by the government for an assassination. It helped put his life in focus and he explains why to BBC Movies...
What came easier - getting into shape for the role or learning to look like you knew what you were doing with a gun?
Learning to look like I knew what I was doing, that was the important thing. I wanted to feel believable in the role. Antoine [Fuqua] and Lorenzo [di Bonaventura, producer] made sure of that. They sent me off to the middle of nowhere with some crazy guys that like to shoot. But it was great because once you feel that confidence in knowing what you're doing and what you're talking about everything else comes easy and you can concentrate on important stuff like hitting your mark.
Have you become proficient with a gun?
Only if the role requires it! While we were making the movie we went paint-balling and stuff with all of our friends. But as soon as it was over, like anything else I've done, I just walked away from it.
You've been quoted as saying that a few years ago you'd have thought nothing about jumping into some of the movie's stunts but now that you're a parent you have more to live for. It obviously hasn't affected your choice of roles, so is it more the training?
Yeah, I was just trying to wimp out on all the training! It was like: "Come on Antoine, shoot it the right way and make it look real." But I was a thrill-seeker and it was the first time I felt fear at something I would normally jump at the chance to do. I couldn't help but notice that.
How interested would you be in revisiting the character in a sequel?
I love the character but I've never made a sequel before. I think my only reason for wanting to make one would be to make it better than the first and only a few movies have been able to do that, such as The Godfather. I love the second Rocky. A lot of people feel like we just do them for the pay cheque and in that sense I'm not interested. There's a lot of other bad movies I could do without hurting something that some people think is pretty special.
It's why we haven't done The Brazilian Job yet. They're trying to get the script there. I like that they're willing to get it there but I'm not willing to risk it without having it on the page.
Is it also a period in your career when you find you're getting more interesting and varied scripts?
I've just changed. For a while I never thought I'd make 35, but now that I have I'm enjoying life a lot more and I want to make 45 and 55. I'd also love to see my kids grow up. But I do feel like I've finally kind of hit my stride. My confidence is higher because I've worked with great people. I've been very fortunate in that I've learned from the best and I don't think I've ever taken on more than I can handle. It was always about the work so I got out what I put in. I committed 110% and then when I finally looked up after working for so long I realised the position I was in and was thrilled.
Why didn't you think you'd see 35?
Certainly when I was younger I was living in the fast lane. I lost four friends of my age last year alone. For a while, I didn't see it happening - I don't know if it was just the way I was looking at life or the world but now I love life and I'm enjoying it to the fullest.
What kind of impact has the Oscar nomination had on your career? Is it too early to see any change?
No, you'd be surprised. They still continue to send you a whole bunch of crap! But you still continue to do the same things. It's about finding interesting and challenging roles or making the kind of movies I want to go and see. I want to work with really talented people. So you just have to sift through it. The pile's a little bit bigger.
How confirmed is The Departed sequel?
It's as confirmed as The Italian Job sequel. Until we're on the set shooting it's not happening in my opinion. They asked me if I'd be interested and I said, "of course". I loved working with Martin Scorsese and in that world. So if they can make it better than the first, then it's worth a shot.
Shooter opens in UK cinemas on Friday 13th April 2007.