Mark Wahlberg

By Tony Rizzo
An enormous billboard erected in New York’s Times Square showed an almost naked Marky Mark in Calvin Klein underwear. While that billboard caused a sensation in 1992, who among us could imagine Marky Mark would emerge as Mark Wahlberg, an Oscar-nominated actor (for “The Departed”) who is sure to get his second nom this year for “The Fighter.” Wahlberg had his share of trouble as a teen, but managed to straighten himself out and become a successful recording artist, actor and producer. He produced “Entourage,” a mega-hit at HBO, for years.

Walhberg had to fight to get “The Fighter” made. In addition to several directors departing, and actors such as Matt Damon and Brad Pitt being in, then out, the film — which Walberg struggled to make — is being touted as one of the greatest fight films ever made. Sports Illustrated magazine put Wahlberg and co-star Christian Bale on the cover in mid-December. Rarely has an actor made it from Times Square, in his undies, to the cover of Sports Illustrated. This is an inspiration for anyone willing to work hard and fly right!
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Speaking of youthful inspiration, what about Thomas Horn, the 13-year-old who managed to win $31,800 on “Jeopardy” and then land the lead in Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2005 novel, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”? He will be in the company of Oscar winners Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, playing a 9-year-old boy who struggles to cope with his father’s death as a result of the 9/11 tragedy. You never know who’s watching “Jeopardy”!

Monkeying around with “The Wizard Of Oz” has begun. Warners is making “a transformation of the Oz narrative, with Dorothy caught up in a whirlwind of warrior witches, black magic, martial arts and monsters against a contemporary background.” It will use a new stop-motion software, which will enable “Oz Wars” to be made at an unprecedented economical cost point. When Disney made “Return to Oz,” it was such a disaster that it took 20 years for “The Wizard of Oz” to return to its former greatness. What do you think this “Oz Wars” picture will do to the franchise?

Jodie Foster is truly Mel Gibson’s friend. She’s gambling that people will go to a theater to see him in a movie. Her film “The Beaver,” which she directed and stars in as Mel’s wife, opens March 23. In it, Mel plays a depressed man who finds comfort in a beaver hand puppet. Too bad he didn’t have a hand puppet when he offended half the planet with the things he said. He would have had a fall guy … uhh, puppet, to blame it on!

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© 2011 King Features Synd., Inc.