Mark Wahlberg In "Boogie Nights"

The video-porn industry that sprang up in the pre-AIDS, sexual freedom era of the 1970s is the subject of a new movie that opened this week, called "Boogie Nights." Among the film's stars, playing a character loosely modeled on the late, doomed porn icon John Holmes, is Mark Wahlberg, the one-time "Marky Mark" of b-boy and underwear ad fame.

MARK WAHLBERG, July 91: Although I take it seriously, some just like me because of my r-a-c-e. But I won't quit and I won't stop, 'cause I do hip-hop records just because I love hip hop.

JOHN NORRIS: Ah yes, the Marky Mark we thought we knew. Over a whirlwind two year period in the early 90s, he went from being a New Kids kid brother to tossing his shirt, dropping his pants, and becoming a much-exposed MTV icon. Then came Calvin Klein.

WAHLBERG, 1992, CK advertisement : Save the strange behavior for the kids with dirty drawers.

NORRIS: But visibility does not equal respectability, and as his record sales fell

off and he faced a backlash that included allegations of racism, Marky knew it was time to...

WAHLBERG, (in concert): Stop!

NORRIS: So a quiet reinvention began as Mark Wahlberg, actor. Four films -- "Renaissance Man," "Basketball Diaries," "Fear" and "Traveler" -- for the most part, found Mark cast in tough, street-kid roles. And now... Boogie Nights.

WAHLBERG: It was just the opportunity of a lifetime. Those kinds of parts don't come around too often, you know.

MTV: Nor do films like this, about the rise and fall of an extremely well-endowed porn star, screen name, Dirk Diggler, set in the heyday of adult films, the late seventies. For the first time in his acting career, Mark gets to be the hero.

NORRIS: That must have been a nice change of pace -- to play a good guy.

WAHLBERG: Definitely. Yeah, somebody with a little bit of heart, somebody that's kind of human. He's got some pretty inhuman things going on, too.

NORRIS:

Maybe the most inhuman is Dirk's tool of the trade, which we actually get a glimpse of in prosthetic form.

WAHLBERG: You have a tendency to forget about it, there's all this other stuff going on and it still comes back and you go, "Oh, that's the thing. That's the thing."

MTV: But even though he does "drop trou", and more in this movie, and even though he's not ruling out an eventual return to music, Mark has gone from being on the brink of one-hit-wonder status to creating a new and promising career for himself.

WAHLBERG: I don't have to be subject to making the next Marky Mark record, you know, dusting off the underwear. Running back out there, "Heyyy!" I don't have to do that anymore.