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Mark Wahlberg on 'Entourage' Cast Apology, Wish to Own a Studio and 'Highway to Heaven' Reboot Pitch

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Donna Langley on Wahlberg: 'I Adore Him
Brian Bowen Smith
Mark Wahlberg

The movie star-turned-mogul, one of the town's most talked-about producers, opens up about how he saved the "Lone Survivor" financing, prays every day, his 30,000-square-foot house and his long-ago feud with Leonardo DiCaprio.

This story first appeared in the Dec. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Mark Wahlberg grips the wheel of his black Mercedes S600. His eyes scan the streets, alert to danger. We're driving through the hilly part of Beverly Hills. He's fast but not furious. He makes you feel safe.

Then he pulls up abruptly to an elegant megamansion in the final stages of construction. The place is enormous -- it's 30,000 square feet and three stories tall (if you include the basement), a modern-day Versailles, so huge it dwarfs many of the gargantuan houses around it.

Dozens of workers scurry around, racing to finish the building before Wahlberg moves in at the beginning of 2014. But there's a massive amount to be done -- wooden and marble floors to be laid, walls painted. And the front yard looks like a construction site.

PHOTOS: Mark Wahlberg's Road From Movie Star to Mogul

"We got the doors yet?" Wahlberg asks a foreman as he gets out of the car.

"They're being shipped," the man replies with a shrug.

If the answer isn't quite what Wahlberg wanted, he shows no sign of irritation. He's long gotten used to dealing with obstacles like these, and worse -- money that fell through for films; producers who didn't believe in him; even thugs who jumped him in jail and gangbangers who tried to keep him on the gritty streets of Boston. None of it gets to him anymore. Because he knows he's going to win.

He leads me into the house and shows me around. "When I built it, I didn't necessarily know if this was something we were going to live in," he acknowledges as we move through the two-story foyer. "[But] I knew it was a smart investment; after the market crashes, I don't want some stockbroker calling me, saying, 'Hey, by the way, you lost everything.' "

He leads me to the garden and a grottolike pool, dug into a covelike setting with hills blocking out the neighbors. (Well, most of them: Wahlberg jokes that WME agent Adam Venit, whose home is perched above, keeps asking in frustration, "When are you going to get it done?")

We head upstairs, past bedrooms for Wahlberg and his wife of five years, former model Rhea Durham, through the kids' rooms, and over to a two-level study, with a spiral staircase that takes you down to the basement below. It's the basement that thrills Wahlberg the most, especially an immense screening room that likely will top any belonging to his peers. "You can have 3D, everything," says Wahlberg, without gloating in the least, almost lost in the wonder of it all.

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Cast all doubt aside: Mark Wahlberg has arrived and is determined to stay.

At 42, he's reached the pinnacle of the entertainment world, with Oscar nominations for The Departed and The Fighter, blockbusters such as Ted and Planet of the Apes, and a reputation as one of the few producers who can get things made. "He has an incredible perspective on the business," says Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley. "I adore him."

Others note that neither The Fighter nor Boardwalk Empire nor Prisoners would have been made without him -- and yet he remains widely regarded as one of the most decent men in town.

"He's obviously extremely talented but also very humble," says Ted creator Seth MacFarlane. "He comes in with the same energy and humility as someone starting out. There's just zero entitlement and an enormous work ethic."

Wahlberg got $10 million for starring in last summer's 2 Guns, and sources say he'll make even more than that for Transformers: Age of Extinction, which opens June 27. He is that rare actor who can still play action roles in his 40s during this post-Stallone, post-Schwarzenegger era that has had so much trouble grooming action stars.

But he'll work for next to nothing if it's a labor of love -- like David O. Russell's $11 million biopic The Fighter, which he starred in and produced (and which grossed $129.2 million worldwide), or his upcoming war drama Lone Survivor, a roughly $40 million drama that opens Dec. 25 and tells the real-life story of American soldiers caught in a firefight in Afghanistan. Wahlberg resurrected the project when Universal decided not to finance it.

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Investors now are coming to him with cash ("We have no shortage of people trying to give us money," he says) and pleading with him to join their business ventures (in addition to filming, he owns two restaurants in Boston, one of which will be the basis of an A&E reality show, Wahlburgers).

But with all this; with enough wealth that he can afford this new house (after selling his old one for a reported $13 million); and with friends ranging from billionaire Nelson Peltz to rapper-mogul Sean Combs to WME's Ari Emanuel, he hasn't forgotten his roots.

Wahlberg created the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation in 2001 to help at-risk youths. "I set it up with my brother, James, who also has had a very difficult past -- sober for 27 years. He runs the foundation. And we've been able to do amazing things."