Decorated television and film actor Mark Wahlberg is recognized world over for his success in a variety of comedy and dramatic roles. Many remember his early days as ‘Marky Mark’, the outspoken frontman of chart-topping hip hop group ‘Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch’.
But the actor’s youth prior to 1991 is a far more troubled story of drug addiction, criminal conviction and regret.
Wahlberg was born 5 June 1971 in Boston, Massachusetts. He grew up around the working class neighborhood of Dorchester, the youngest of nine children. His parents divorced when he was young and by the age of 13 he was addicted to cocaine.
The star of ‘Shooter’ dropped out of high school a year later at 14 and struggled with drug use, theft and petty crime until his eventual arrest at 16.
Wahlberg’s first conviction came in June 1986, when the 15-year-old was arrested for pelting Black children with rocks and shouting ‘kill the n****r! kill the n****r!’
The next day, the police rap report states, he was found with friends gathering a group of white males and chasing down one of the children from the day before.
The group again started throwing rocks, and the harassment only stopped when a teacher flagged down a passing ambulance.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts would go on to recommend Wahlberg serve two years at the Deer Island House of Corrections for the abuse.
The Mark Wahlberg from 1986 police reports seems almost unrecognizable to the polished Wahlberg who presented a Screen and Actors Guild (SAG) award to the mostly Asian cast of ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ on Sunday.
But, after nearly 40 years, the actor was recognizable enough for viewers to condemn the decision to allow him to present the award.
MailOnline looks back on the troubled past of Marky Mark and his attempts at redemption since.
Mark Wahlberg grew up the youngest of nine in the neighborhood of Dorchester, Boston
Mark Wahlberg is pictured with his mother in a photo shared by the actor on Instagram
Wahlberg did not immediately learn from the state recommendation in 1986.
Two years later, he was arrested again after attacking two Vietnamese men while under the influence of hallucinogen PCP.
The actor called one man a ‘Vietnam f***ing s***’ and knocked him unconscious with a five-foot stick.
Later that day, he punched a Vietnamese-American in the face.
Though he denied the attacks were race related, officers reported the future actor would use racially charged language to describe the men he attacked.
For beating Thanh Lam unconscious, Wahlberg was found guilty of violating his civil rights and slapped with a civil rights injunction.
For the attack on Johnny Trinh, he was charged with attempted murder. Wahlberg was jailed after pleading guilty to felony assault.
The actor was freed 45 days into his two-year sentence.
It was ultimately music that removed Wahlberg from his world of crime, helped along by the success of older brother Donnie Wahlberg, who contributed secondary vocals in the boy band ‘New Kids on the Block’.
From here, Mark made the contacts to reform his life, leave Boston and start a promising career in music. But it still took some time for the artist to mature.
1992 was a busy year for Mark, now in his 20s.
In August, he attacked neighbor Robert D Crehan reportedly ‘without provocation or cause‘, kicking the victim in the face and jaw while another man held him down.
The rap sheet reports that Crehan suffered a fractured jaw, which needed to be wired shut after the assault.
Still, Wahlberg was able to carry on making mistakes. In December, he appeared on British TV show The Word and praised dancehall musician Shabba Ranks, who had said gay people should be crucified.
And also in 1992, he published a memoir, ‘Marky Mark’, which he opened: ‘I wanna dedicate this book to my d**k.’
An adult Wahlberg admitted there were a few things he regretted from his youth. In a 2006 interview, he said he was no longer burdened by guilt for attacking the middle-aged Vietnamese American Johnny Trinh, who he punched in the eye in 1988.
‘I did a lot of things that I regretted and I certainly paid for my mistakes,’ Wahlberg told ABC News at the time.
‘You have to go and ask for forgiveness and it wasn’t until I really started doing good and doing right, by other people as well as myself, that I really started to feel that guilt go away.
‘So I don’t have a problem going to sleep at night. I feel good when I wake up in the morning.’
Then singer Marky Mark pictured on 13 October 1991 in Chicago, Illinois
American hip hop group Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, circa 1990 (Wahlberg R)
The stories feel far-removed from Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, the Boston-based hip-hop group led by Wahlberg that formed in 1991 and reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 the same year with ‘Good Vibrations’.
They feel worlds away from the actor Mark Wahlberg who carved out an illustrious acting career following his debut role in TV’s ‘The Substitute’ in 1993. After appearing in a slew of films through the 1990s, the actor built a reputation from working on remakes of the ‘Planet of the Apes’, ‘Charade’ and ‘The Italian Job’.
As he approached 40, the actor said he planned to retire to focus on parenthood, but instead went on to start in Ted and its sequel, Lone Survivor in 2013, The Gambler in 2014 and Patriots Day in 2016. By 2017, he topped the list of the world’s best-paid actors.
Thing were going well for the actor.
But the controversy flared up again in 2014 when he looked to have his criminal record expunged. A judge denied the application, citing the seriousness of the crime and the harm caused. An Asian Activist Group led protests against the appeal.
This was another turning point for the actor, who later said he regretted the decision.
‘I didn’t need that,’ he admitted. ‘I spent 28 years righting the wrong. I didn’t need a piece of paper to acknowledge it. I was kind of pushed into doing it, I certainly didn’t need to or want to relive that stuff over again.’
The actor had said in his pardon application: ‘I am deeply sorry for the actions that I took on the night of April 8, 1988, as well as for any lasting damage that I may have caused the victims.
‘Since that time, I have dedicated myself to becoming a better person and citizen so that I can be a role model to my children and others.’
Marky Mark performing for KIIS FM concert with his group Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch
Mark Wahlberg speaks onstage during the 29th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at Fairmont Century Plaza on February 26, 2023 in Los Angeles, California
Some good came of the protests, with Wahlberg able to make amends with Trinh.
‘I was able to meet with him and his wife and his daughter and apologize for those horrific acts,’ he said.
The actor has gone on to atone for his past, contributing to the betterment of the lives of inner city children through the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation since 2001.
In a pithy statement in 2014, he wrote: ‘I have not engaged in philanthropic efforts in order to make people forget about my past.
‘To the contrary, I want people to remember my past so that I can serve as an example of how lives can be turned around and how people can be redeemed.’
Wahlberg presented the award to the cast of Everything Everywhere All At Once on Sunday 26 February.