On a hilltop parking lot overlooking downtown Burbank, CA, Mark Wahlberg grabs a club from his Wahlburgers-branded golf bag, places a Wahlburgers-branded golf ball on the tee, and squares up, nonchalantly remarking to the real-life entourage of celebrity minders, groomers, and photographers on hand, “We’re gonna do about 210 with a 6 iron.”
The fantastically fit 46-year-old proceeds to smash the ball, slicing it over the heads of an unsuspecting foursome of golfers lingering near the seventh hole of a nearby municipal course. The ball rolls to a stop just beyond them, just beyond the green, a glorious 317-yard drive, according to the readout on his laser sighting scope.
This isn’t the first golf Wahlberg’s played today. The Boston-born actor/producer/sports nutrition entrepreneur/casual-dining franchise builder rose at 4 a.m.—as he does most days—hit the gym for an hour, then squeezed in a round of “cardio golf,” playing 18 holes in 90 blistering minutes.
“We’re always busy; we always play fast. It got started while I was in training on Transformers: Age of Extinction. I’d hit the ball and just sprint to it.”
Now, with the upcoming Transformers: The Last Knight set to roar into theaters on Wednesday, he's still sprinting—and he's not ready to let up yet.
"I'm hungrier now than I've ever been," he says.
And though his Hollywood hot streak shows no signs of cooling down anytime soon, Wahlberg still acknowledges the specter of showbiz mortality: He’s planning to stop acting to focus on his businesses.
“The pace I’m making films at—I can’t do that forever,” he says. “I’ve got five years. I keep telling my wife I’ve got another five years to do my best work; the businesses are taking off.”
Among those enterprises: Performance Inspired Nutrition, a line of all-natural protein bars and sports supplements that the famously cut 185-pounder both uses and helps formulate (“I’m not an endorser but an owner who’s involved in every aspect of the business and product development,” he says); Aquahydrate, an alkaline water company he co-owns with Sean “Diddy” Combs, which has seen triple-digit growth since its 2012 launch; the “sneakerhead stock market” StockX, in which he’s an investor; and the Wahlburgers gourmet burger chain, with outposts in seven states and Canada (and 30 more on the way).
Given the star’s fierce competitive streak, I ask if he’s making a run at the McDonald’s market share. He shrugs again: “McDonald’s is a $100 billion cap space. We’re cool with 5% of that.”
He runs the chain with brothers Paul and Donnie. “Paul does the food,” Wahlberg says. “I’m very actively involved in the business. It makes him crazy because, in a perfect world, he’d have one restaurant and make every burger himself. But we want to build something we can pass on from generation to generation.”
Indeed, family is paramount to Wahlberg—a fact, he says, that explains why, this past Super Bowl Sunday, he, his wife, Rhea Durham, and his two sons left during the game’s third quarter, when their beloved New England Patriots were trailing the Atlanta Falcons by 25 points. (The Pats, of course, went on to win in overtime.)
No, it wasn’t a loss of faith in his team that caused his hasty exit, says the eternally optimistic Wahlberg. It was an F-bomb freak-out by his 8-year-old son, Brendan.
“Obviously, I’m a crazy fan,” Wahlberg says. “My son inherited that and went a little crazier: Atlanta scores. He’s like, ‘What the fuck!’ I’m like, ‘Did you just say...?’ He looks at me like, ‘You heard what I said.’ Then they turn it over on the fumble. He goes, ‘They’re going to fucking score again!’ He was on the floor, all over the place.”
Wahlberg says that as a dad he made the decision it was the right time to take his brood back to the hotel.
Luckily, it turned into a private victory party. “We watched the win on TV, went to bed, woke up at 5 a.m., and had to be wheels up at 6 just to beat all the congestion. Dropped my kids off at 7 and was on the golf course at 8:30. So it worked out pretty good!”
Kind of like launching 317 with a 6-iron—or maybe, we’re pretty sure he’d say, even better.