CENTURY CITY, California — Millions of people share the most common daydreams, wishing they were world-famous pop stars, sexy fashion models, the producer of one of TV's hottest shows or an A-list movie star.
Mark Wahlberg has been all four in only 35 years, and he's still got plenty of other dreams to live out — his fans, meanwhile, are welcome to continue coming along for the vicarious ride.
"This is a real story, about a real guy," he said of the new flick "Invincible," which, like "Boogie Nights" and "Rock Star" before it, tells the story of an ordinary guy who gets to live out a testosterone-driven dream. "It's the kind of movie that I would love to go and see, so when given an opportunity to make it, why not?"
Once known as rapper/ underwear model Marky Mark, Wahlberg's unimaginable Hollywood resurrection saw him evolve over the last decade into a dependable box-office star and the executive producer of the semi-autobiographical TV show "Entourage." If there's one recurring theme throughout much of his work, it's a desire to portray the common man who never gives up on a dream — and his blue-collar background has made him the natural choice to portray many of those working stiffs.
"Mark's life story and Vince's life story have a lot of similarities," observed "Invincible" co-star Elizabeth Banks recently, comparing former juvenile delinquent Wahlberg to Vince Papale, the real-life bartender-turned-football-legend that he portrays. "They both come from humble beginnings and were on a certain track, and then they turned their lives around. Mark's got a well-documented past, and the fact that he is who he is now — he's an inspiration in and of himself. And I think he gets that he's a hometown boy. Playing the everyman is right in Mark Wahlberg's wheelhouse."
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"It's got a great story that was inspired by my rise to the NFL," said the real-life Papale, now a charismatic gray-haired loan adviser happily married to the character Banks plays in the flick. "With the way it's shot and done by Hollywood, it's a lot more entertaining. It's a lot more fun this time, that's for sure. At least I didn't feel the aches and pains."
The same can't be said for Wahlberg, whose working conditions involved considerably more danger than when he donned tight leather pants for "Rock Star" or the prosthetic, um, co-star he wielded in "Boogie Nights."
"There are some scenes in the movie where I know he's going to get it — I just grimace, because I know he took the hit," Papale said with a wince, noting that Wahlberg wanted the audience to see that it was really him running down that football field. "There's one scene where he's in super-slow [motion], and then all of a sudden this guy comes running out of nowhere and just clocks him.
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"It was really hard getting out of bed every day," said Wahlberg, who tried to suck it up in front of the cast and crew, but admitted that he'd often collapse once he got out of everyone's view. "I'd get on my knees and say, 'God, please protect me and everybody else out there.' Thankfully, at the end of the day I was able to walk back to my trailer and I'd get back on my knees and say thank you again."
"He was mostly in a Jacuzzi in the back of his trailer," teased Greg Kinnear, who plays real-life coaching legend Dick Vermeil. "No, I've got to tip my hat to Mark ... I don't know who was insuring this movie, but they were crazy, because Mark was out there most of the time taking hits that he shouldn't have taken seven years ago, much less at this stage."
"[There was] a lot of Ibuprofen, a lot of ice and we just had to get out there and tough it out," Walhberg continued. "I knew it'd be tough, but I knew if I'd stuck it out I'd be happy with the end result. And I knew if I didn't — if I cut corners and kind of winged it — then I'd regret it, and I'd be kicking myself in the butt for a long time."
"I didn't ever feel the need to hit Mark in any particular way, and I had no reason to go after him," Banks added. "But it was very fun to watch him get hit by other people."
Taking hits aside, there's no question Wahlberg has not only lived many people's grandest aspirations, but played them in films as well (he's been a football hero, rock singer and porn star on the silver screen). So we had to ask: What does this guy still have to dream about?
"I'd be playing against Tiger [Woods] on a Sunday, with a two-stroke lead," Wahlberg grinned, his eyes glazing over. "Yeah definitely; that's what I want to do."
But would he win? The actor could only laugh: "It'd all depend on how Tiger was playing that day."
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