Mark Wahlberg Feared ‘Boogie Nights’ Would Exploit Him and Be ‘Absolutely Terrible’: Playing a Porn Star ‘Was Not Appealing to Me’ at First

Mark Wahlberg was better known for his Calvin Klein underwear ads and his Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch music career than for his acting (“Fear”) when he accepted the role of aspiring porn star Dirk Diggler in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Boogie Nights.” The 1997 drama made Wahlberg a bonafide movie star, but he wasn’t immediately sold on the role. Speaking to Cigar Aficionado magazine, Wahlberg admitted he feared “Boogie Nights” might exploit him.

“When I first heard about the film, the subject matter was not appealing to me,” Wahlberg said. “I came from the whole Marky Mark thing, pulling down my pants, Calvin Klein underwear — I didn’t know if this was just the next level of exploiting me and now all of a sudden we have to lose the underwear.”

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Wahlberg continued, “My agents kept pushing me. So I read the first 25, 30 pages, and I kind of put it down. I was like this could be something great, or this could be absolutely terrible.”

It wasn’t terrible, suffice to say. “Boogie Nights” was one of the most acclaimed films of 1997 and remains a touchstone of Anderson and Wahlberg’s careers. His co-stars Julianne Moore and Burt Reynolds earned Oscar nominations, while the door opened for Wahlberg to take on leading man roles in “Three Kings,” “The Perfect Storm” and more.

During a 2017 appearance at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago with Cardinal Blasé Cupich, Wahlberg said he partially regretted starring in “Boogie Nights.” He added at the time, “I just always hope that God is a movie fan and also forgiving, because I’ve made some poor choices in my past. ‘Boogie Nights’ is up there at the top of the list.”

He later clarified his remarks to People magazine, saying, “I was sitting in front of a couple of thousand kids talking about and trying to encourage them to come back to their faith, and I was just saying that I just hope [God] has a sense of humor because I maybe made some decisions that may not be okay with.”

“I don’t want to compromise my artistic integrity or choices based on my faith or my family, but I also have other things to consider, and being a little bit older and a little wiser, the idea of having to explain that movie and the reason behind it to my kids is another issue,” Wahlberg added.

Wahlberg hasn’t appeared in a movie this year, but he had a busy 2022 with films such as “Uncharted,” “Me Time” and “Father Stu.” His upcoming releases include the Apple original film “The Family Plan,” co-starring Michelle Monaghan, and the action film “Our Man From Jersey,” co-starring Halle Berry.

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