Mark Wahlberg: the anomaly?

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Marky Mark can comfortably go from quality fare like The Fighter to mindless pap like The Happening – is he Hollywood’s exception?

The frenzy surrounding a flippant remark Mark Wahlberg made in August about wanting to play Iron Man has safely died down after only one short month. While the public was blinded with rage, it could be forgiven for ignoring the two films he had on release last month: 2 Guns and Pain & Gain. If you believe the reviews, these two films are actually pretty good. Which must come as quite a relief to Mark; on the one hand, Wahlberg has critically acclaimed work behind him (Boogie Nights, The Fighter), but on the other, he has some giant flops (Max Payne, Planet of the Apes). How is it that Mark Wahlberg can pick up an Academy Award nomination one year and a Razzie the next?

Even Robert De Niro and Al Pacino aren’t immune to the see-saw of quality

Ben Affleck’s IMDb page lists some outstanding films, Argo, Good Will Hunting and Hollywoodland included. These successes stand alongside Gigli, Jersey Girl and Armageddon. Which, to be polite, are abysmal. Indeed, weaker men with these sort of films on their consciences would have got out of the acting gig long ago. Robert De Niro and Al Pacino aren’t immune to this see-saw of quality, either. These accomplished actors gave us masterpieces such as Taxi Driver, The Godfather and Serpico. They also had a hand, respectably, in the less-than-stellar Meet the Fockers and Jack and Jill. As mind boggling as it may seem, bad films are really all part of the job.

mark wahlberg the fighter

Something that audiences often seem to forget due to all the glitz and glamour is that acting is a job. Regardless of the distracting high profile, these actors and actresses are still just working. Admittedly, it’s a very strange kind of work, but it’s work nonetheless. A staggering amount of energy is put into discussing acting as an art form, which disguises the fact that, when it comes right down to it, actors are humans pretending to be someone else in front of a recording device for money. The difference between getting a job or not is the difference between eating or not.

When it comes down to it, actors are people pretending to be someone else in front of a recording device for money

When seen this way, the varying quality of films in an actor’s career makes complete sense. Not many of us have a really fun job that earns us lots of money. Most of us have worked in bad jobs just because we needed to pay for things. Alternatively, many of us have started a job that we thought would be good but quickly turned into a living nightmare. This is the situation actors find themselves in every time they turn up to a new set to start work on a new project.

Mark Wahlberg isn’t really an anomaly: he’s downright pedestrian. Look at a cross-section of actors and you’ll find the exact same story repeated again and again. While you might feel this takes away some of the mystique surrounding acting, it also makes it a more relatable career. By looking at actors this way, it’s hard to get all het up over their film choices. In the end, they’re just people trying to make a living with what skills they’ve got. So, the next time Mark Wahlberg – or any actor, for that matter – makes a flop, just remember that he’s probably just trying to pay his bills. Or, in Mark Wahlberg’s case, pay off the Funky Bunch. One or the other.


Featured image: 20th Century Fox

Inset image: Paramount Pictures/The Weinstein Company

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