Why Mark Wahlberg Passed On ‘Brokeback Mountain’ (And Other Famous Roles He Nearly Had)

Mark Wahlberg’s had a solid past few years at the box office with Lone Survivor, Ted, Pain and Gain, and The Fighter. This Christmas we’ll get to see how he fares paired up with Jessica Lange and John Goodman as a college professor who gets in over his head in The Gambler. It hasn’t been completely smooth sailing for Marky Mark since he dropped the “Marky” part of his name and decided to become a serious actor. He’s had his fair share of bombs like Planet of the Apes and Max Payne, but for the most part he’s been pretty wise about picking his film roles.

There are still a handful of movies Mark Wahlberg has passed on that one might label career missteps, simply for the fan praise and critical accolades the actors who played those parts received. Here are seven roles Mark Wahlberg let slip through his fingers for one reason or another.

1. Ocean’s Eleven (2001) — Mark was originally slated to play Matt Damon’s pick-pocketing character, but opted to pass on the project. It’s not something that he particularly regrets either and has said the second film in the franchise flat-out “sucked.”

“People tell George Clooney it’s great, but we all know it sucked,” the Boogie Nights star said. “I made two bad movies instead — Planet of the Apes and The Truth About Charlie — but doing that was better than sitting with Brad (Pitt) and George, telling the press how great everybody is! ‘We were in Europe, George was funny, then we had some wine …’ — that’s not for me.”

2. Donnie Darko (2001) — Mark was at one time up for the role of playing troubled teenager Donnie Darko, but lost the part because he insisted on giving the character a lisp and director Richard Kelly wasn’t a fan of the idea. In the long run it’s probably better that he did lose the part to Jake Gyllenhaal. Being that he’s a full 10 years older than Jake, asking the audience to believe a 30-year-old man is supposed to be a 17-year-old high schooler would have been a stretch.

3. Assault on Precinct 13 (2005) — Mark Wahlberg was considered to play one of the starring role’s in the remake of the 1976 John Carpenter action thriller, but for unknown reasons passed on the part. The role later went to Ethan Hawke.

4. Brokeback Mountain (2005) — Director Ang Lee was considering Mark Wahlberg for a role in his cowboy romance, but passed over the actor in favor of Jake Gyllenhaal. Which as totally fine by Mark, who reportedly was a little creeped out by the script and the thought of snuggling up with Heath Ledger.

“I met with Ang Lee on that movie, I read 15 pages of the script and got a little creeped out,” Wlahberg told the press. “It was very graphic, descriptive – the spitting on the hand, getting ready to do the thing. I told Ang Lee, ‘I like you, you’re a talented guy, if you want to talk about it more.’ Thankfully, he didn’t. I didn’t rush to see Brokeback, it’s just not my deal. Obviously, it was done in taste — look how it was received.”

5. The Black Dahlia (2006) — Mark Wahlberg was briefly attached to the Brian De Palma’s crime noir film about two L.A. cops trying to solve a bizarre murder, but dropped out in favor of Invincible and The Departed. Aaron Eckhart ended up playing detective with Josh Hartnett instead.

6. Pride and Glory (2008)Pride and Glory had been floating around Hollywood for nine years before it’s release and originally had Mark and Hugh Jackman playing the troubled NYC cops. Screenwriter Joe Carnahan cited the 9/11 attacks as the primary reason for movie’s delay and suggested that New Line Cinema was worried it would come off as an anti-cop movie. During that time both Hugh Jackman and Mark Wahlberg lost interest and moved on to other projects, with Colin Farrell and Edward Norton picking up the slack.

7. Star Trek (2009) — Mark Wahlberg is a down to Earth guy — literally. He has no interest in exploring other galaxies and just assume keep his feet planted on the ground, which is exactly why he passed on joining the crew of the Starship Enterprise. Mark opted to not work on the movie because all the script’s space talk was just too confusing for him. He did offer director J.J. Abrams praise for the film though and said he would love another shot at working with the director.