Mark Wahlberg Recalls 'Basketball Diaries' Feud With Leonardo DiCaprio: 'He Didn't Want Me' in the Movie
By Meredith B. Kile
Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Wahlberg's characters were friends on and off the court in the dark, coming-of-age 1995 drama The Basketball Diaries. But in real life, it seems things were a little more strained.
Wahlberg opened up about the tensions between the two young stars -- DiCaprio was 21 when the film came out, while Wahlberg was 25 -- during his appearance at the LEAP Foundation conference at UCLA on Tuesday, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“He didn’t want me for the part, and I didn’t think he was right for the part,” the actor recalled. “We both had to really learn how to respect each other, and we earned it.”
The Mile 22 star has spoken previously about tensions between him and DiCaprio while filming the movie -- an adaptation of Jim Carroll's autobiographical work of the same name, which tells the story of Carroll's teenage years as a promising high school basketball player who becomes addicted to heroin.
"Leonardo was like, 'Over my dead f**king body. Marky Mark's not going to be in this f**king movie,'" Wahlberg told THRback in 2013. "Because we'd had a thing -- I didn't even realize it, [but] I was a bit of a d*ck to him at a charity basketball game. So he was like, 'This f**king a**hole is not going to be in this movie.'"
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FLASHBACK: Young Mark Wahlberg and Leonardo DiCaprio Are BFFs on the Set of 'The Basketball Diaries'
Ultimately, Wahlberg said, casting director Avy Kaufman persuaded DiCaprio to read with him. "So I come in and I do the audition and I kind of look at him and he kind of looks at me, and then we do a scene, and they're like, 'Hmm, this f**king dude's pretty good, right?'" he recalled. "The next thing you know, boom, we're hanging out."
For Wahlberg, The Basketball Diaries was a stepping stone that led to his major feature breakout role, a starring part as Dirk Diggler in 1997's Boogie Nights.
“I had always done specific things and didn't really have too much of a chance to go out and show a lot of things I felt I could do, and this was the perfect opportunity,” Wahlberg told ET of the role at the time. After intense performances in The Basketball Diaries and Fear, he was ready to officially break up with his image as Marky Mark (of the Funky Bunch) and Calvin Klein underwear model.
Upon reading the script, however, the rapper turned actor had doubts that he could leave his past behind -- which almost prevented him from sitting down with director Paul Thomas Anderson. “I felt kind of reluctant at that point even meeting him, but I said, ‘Maybe he does think I can pull off the emotional side of this,’” he recalled.
But Anderson wasn’t distracted by Wahlberg’s past. “[Mark] said to me, ‘Do you want me because I'm, like, the guy who will get in his underwear and you'll know I'll do that?’” he recalled. “And I said, ‘No. I don't know really anything about the whole underwear thing or Marky Mark thing. I just want you because you're a good actor.’”
See more on Boogie Nights' recent 20-year anniversary in the video below.