Mark Wahlberg cursed his way to an Oscar nomination with his supporting turn in Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed,” but it turns out the actor accepted what would become one of his most beloved roles after numerous rejections. During a career retrospective interview with GQ, Wahlberg looked back at telling Martin Scorsese “no” multiple times. Working with Scorsese might seem like a no-brainer, but Wahlberg just wasn’t interested in playing support to Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, and more.
“‘The Departed’ was interesting because I wasn’t committed to making the movie and my agent told Marty that I was,” Wahlberg said. “Marty called me up and he was so excited about making this movie together. I said, ‘I’m not doing the movie.’ I wanted a different part, and I wanted some other different things. We had talked about doing it for a long time, but things happened and the studio pushed back on different things. I [told Marty] I didn’t want to do it.”
Wahlberg remembered Scorsese reacting to his rejection of the film by staying silent for a minute and saying “ok.” It only took five minutes for Wahlberg’s agent to call back and chastise him for turning down an icon like Scorsese. “What the fuck?” Wahlberg said his agent asked him. “Just go talk to [Scorsese].” Despite Wahlberg’s resistance, Scorsese and the actor’s agent knew the part was the right choice and concocted a plan to get Wahlberg to see it for himself.
“They sent me on a plane over the weekend to Marty’s office,” Wahlberg remembered. “I read the script again, and I was pretty angry and I said again I wasn’t going to do it. Marty told me, ‘Look at this part, look at what you get to do with all these people.’ He knows I’m from that [Boston] world and I talked to him about improvising and doing my own thing and he said, ‘Dude, you’re free to do what you want to do.'”
Scorsese giving Wahlberg the blessing of improvisation gave Wahlberg the confidence to finally put his reservations aside and accept the role. Ironically, “The Departed” would give Wahlberg some of the best reviews of his career and his first and only acting Oscar nomination to date.
Wahlberg next stars in Peter Berg’s “Mile 22,” in theaters nationwide August 17. Watch the actor look back at his entire career in the GQ video interview below.