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5 on the Line
July, 2001

Mark Wahlberg's terrific performance in Boogie Nights wiped out any doubts Hollywood might have had about whether or not the former rapper could act. Deservedly, the guy hasn't stopped working since. His working-class charm, accessibility and undeniable charisma have played well in films ranging from the Hong Kong-flavored action comedy The Big Hit to the bold, flashy Persian Gulf War adventure Three Kings to the dark, intense little drama The Yards to the blockbuster The Perfect Storm. But despite all those excellent performances, Wahlberg has never had the starring role that carried a big hit. This summer's mammoth Planet of the Apes, remade and reimagined by director Tim Burton, will be Wahlberg's first effort to front a big-budget, mainstream studio picture. Playing the equivalent of Charleston Heston's role in the original 60s film-the astronaut who crash-lands on a planet populated by intelligent, organized and often belligerent simians.

Wahlberg will spend a lot of screen time doing cool, heroic things while displaying his famously ripped body. Audiences should flock to see the studly, charming actor brave a strange new species portrayed by such actors as Helena Bonham Carter and Michael Clarke Duncan in Rick Baker-designed ape gear. But the most critical part of Wahlberg's assignment is to stamp his unique personality on what could otherwise be a mere orgy of great special effects, action sequences and production design. If the story works and Wahlberg gives it a personal shape, Planet of the Apes will go through the roof and Wahlberg will finally emerge as an A-level star. If not, it could be a long time before anybody asks the gifted ex-rapper to play the lead in a megabudget movie again.

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