Gone are the days of “Good Vibrations” and rapping shirtless. Here to stay are golden paychecks – and a few more years of acting shirtless.
Mark Wahlberg is this year’s highest-paid actor, banking $68 million in our 12 month scoring period, before taxes and fees. At 46, he has earned the biggest payday of his career, thanks to soaring upfront fees for big-budget fare including Transformers: The Last Knight and Deepwater Horizon.
Despite a monumental payday, Wahlberg had an awful year at the box office. Oil spill biopic Deepwater Horizon grossed barely more than its estimated $110 million budget, managing just $121.8 million worldwide. A retelling of the Boston Marathon bombing, Patriots Day, fared even worse, grossing $50.5 million on $45 million production costs. Most expensive of all, the final Transformers movie became the worst performing of the franchise, grossing $601.1 million on a $217 million budget.
Luckily for Wahlberg, upfront compensation means he gets paid even when movies don’t pay out. That’s the case for this year’s movie take-home, which he plumped by shilling for AT&T.
Given that his movies have grossed $5.9 billion globally, a couple of under-performers won’t hurt his reputation as a box office draw, but Wahlberg will be looking to justify his eight figure upfront fees with a hit with the forthcoming Daddy’s Home 2.
“I want to build a great body of work; I want to build a great business,” Wahlberg told The Hollywood Reporter in 2013. “My goal is to finance my own projects, own my own material, maybe even have a studio.” With executive producer credits on Entourage, How to Make It in America and Boardwalk Empire, he is well on his way.
But how he got here is as incomprehensible as the plot of a Transformers movie. Wahlberg’s rap era as Markie Mark is long behind him. Forgotten, too, are teenage instances of assault. At 13, he allegedly threw rocks and yelled racial slurs at black schoolchildren; at 16, he assaulted two Vietnamese men, and was sentenced to two years but served 45 days. (Wahlberg filed for a pardon in 2014, though the Massachusetts Parole Board closed the bid for a pardon in 2016.)
After a breakout role 20 years ago in Boogie Nights, Wahlberg has been consistently putting out movies in his niche: mid-budget productions that strike gold at the box office. Recent success in an increasingly unpredictable market has ratcheted up his desirability: Daddy’s Home scored $242.7 million worldwide on an estimated $69 million budget in 2015. Before that, 2013’s Lone Survivor did $154.8 million on production costs of $40 million. A year prior, Ted cleared a whopping $549.3 million on a $50 million budget.
Such cheaply-made hits made him a lucrative prospect to studios, who began to remunerate him accordingly. But it was the big-budgeted Transformers that helped him leverage his quote upwards. Wahlberg pocketed $17 million for 2014’s Transformers: Age of Extinction, which carried a $210 million pricetag. Since then, he’s been able to negotiate even more for its latest installment, Forbes estimates, and demand eight figures upfront for other films – even ones with far smaller production costs.
“He wasn’t an action hero, but he’s evolved into that,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at industry analytics firm ComScore. “He knows the business and the importance of selecting great material – and even when it’s not great material, Transformers 5 made a lot of money internationally.”
Today, Wahlberg is one of Hollywood’s few leading men who can demand north of $15 million upfront for a film, plus a cut of profits where applicable.
Good vibrations for his wallet, indeed. – Written by ,