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A Golden Role For Wahlberg

In the new crime caper "The Italian Job," Mark Wahlberg plays a thief who plans to re-heist a safe full of gold that has been stolen from him by his double crossing ex-partner portrayed by Ed Norton.

Wahlberg explains that Norton's character Steve thinks he has successfully killed the rest of the team until he gets a surprise visit in a restaurant.

He tells The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler, "We have blown the element of surprise, so now my character, along with my crew and the audience has to figure out a way to steal back our gold. Which sets up the most amazing heist and getaway that I think I've ever seen in a film," he says.

Wahlberg's character Charlie Croaker and the rest decide to travel to Los Angeles to recover the gold and give Steve a little payback. Their plan involves causing the largest traffic jam in L.A. history. To maneuver around the bumper-to-bumper mess as they steal back the gold and elude those who try to chase them, the gang uses small MINI Cooper cars.

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The actors, not doubles, drive the MINI Coopers. Wahlberg says, "they are a blast to drive, like most people who get behind a wheel of a car like that, it's so small and so maneuverable and so fast, you have a tendency to break the law."

After going to driving school, he says he is glad the director, F. Gary Gray, wanted him and the other actors behind the wheel.

Wahlberg says, "It does make for a much more exciting chase and getaway because you really get the sense that we're in there and it's not wide shots of stunt guys, and a close-up of an actor in a sound stage doing a generic reaction. It really feels real."

Seth Green (computer hacker Lye), Jason Statham (wheelman Handsome Rob), Mos Def (explosive expert Left-Ear), Donald Sutherland (veteran safecracker John Bridger) and Charlize Theron (safecracker Stella) also star.

As for his character, Wahlberg steps into a role first played by Michael Caine in the 1969 classic. Charlie Croaker is a thief who is also very likable.

"That was the challenge." Wahlberg says. "We knew that the movie wouldn't work as a whole if my character and my crew wasn't likable. So it was a combination of me trying to bring a little bit more of my own personality to the part because I'm usually having fun and in a good mood when I'm not carsick. Which is what happened to me when I was in the MINI Cooper with Charlize."

In fact, Charlie Croaker and his team may break the law but they do not resort to violence. There are very few gun scenes in the film.

"They don't use weapons," Wahlberg says. "Which is also something that really drew me to the part, the material, because here's a thinker. And there's still that threat of physical violence, but only when it comes to paying off the audience."

As for his personal life, what is golden for him is his impending fatherhood. His girlfriend, Rhea Durham, is six months pregnant and he tells Syler he can't wait to be a father.

Some Facts About Mark Wahlberg

  • Born Mark Robert Michael Wahlberg in Dorchester, Mass., on June 5, 1971
  • In 1984, Wahlberg started breakdancing on Boston streets
  • In 1985, he and brother Donnie became first two members of the teen vocal group, New Kids on the Block
  • In 1986, unwilling to take singing lessons, Wahlberg quits NKOTB after about six months
  • In 1988, Wahlberg is arrested for assault and jailed for 45 days
  • In 1991, he and his band, The Funky Bunch, release a debut platinum album "Music for the People"
  • In 1992, Wahlberg signed a two-year contract as a Calvin Klein underwear model
  • In 1993, Wahlberg made his television-movie acting debut in USA's "The Substitute"
  • In 1994, he made his film debut with a featured acting role in "Renaissance Man"
  • In 1995, Wahlberg had a breakthrough screen role as Mickey, the hot-tempered best friend of Leonardo DiCaprio's Jim Carroll in "The Basketball Diaries"
  • In 1996, the actor starred in the teen thriller "Fear"
  • In 1997, Wahlberg had a starring role of an Irish con man in the little-seen independent "Traveller;" he played a 1970s porno star in Paul Thomas Anderson's "Boogie Nights"
  • In 1998, Wahlberg starred alongside Antonio Sabato Jr., Lou Diamond Phillips and Bokeem Woodbine in the action comedy "The Big Hit"
  • In 1999, he played an idealistic New York police recruit on the Asian gang beat opposite Chow Yun Fat's veteran cop in the crime thriller "The Corruptor;" Teamed with George Clooney and Ice Cube in David O Russell's acclaimed Gulf War chronicle "Three Kings"
  • In 2000, Wahlberg reunited with Clooney for a fact-based sea thriller "The Perfect Storm;" Starred in the New York City-set crime drama feature "The Yards"
  • In 2001, Wahlberg starred as a salesman who becomes a heavy metal rock star in the comedy "Rock Star;" Starred in remake of "Planet of the Apes"
  • In 2001, Wahlberg was cast alongside Clooney in the remake of "Ocean's Eleven," but later he dropped out of the production, because of the shooting schedule of "Planet Of The Apes;" replaced by Matt Damon
  • In 2002, he co-starred in "The Truth About Charlie," a remake of "Charade"

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