Eminem Almost Played Mark Wahlberg’s Best Role

Eminim was the first choice to play Mickey Ward in The Fighter, a role that went on to become one of Mark Wahlberg's best.

By Lyndon Nicholas | Updated

Mark Wahlberg in The Fighter

Rapper Marshall Mathers III, better known by his stage name Eminem, is known for his hard-hitting, dynamic, lyrically complex rhymes. But fans of the artist were very close to seeing him let loose a completely different kind of punch. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Eminem was apparently at the head of the pack to star as none other than Micky Ward in the 2010 David O. Russell-directed sports drama film The Fighter. 

“The first person that we thought would star in this film was Eminem,” film producer Todd Lieberman said. “Eminem was going to be Micky Ward.” This may come as a shock to viewers given Eminem doesn’t have the same profile as an actor as Mark Wahlberg, but when Liberman explained the context around the situation things become more clear. “That was a moment in time where he had come off of 8 Mile, and he was interested in making movies, and he wanted to do a boxing movie,” Lieberman said. “So that was something we pursued for a minute. And there was real life in that for a minute.”

2002’s rap drama 8 Mile was both critically and commercially successful. Pulling autobiographical details from Eminem’s own life growing up as a white rapper in Detriot, the film tells the story of Jimmy Smith Jr. aka B-Rabbit as he tries to make it in the battle-rap scene of Detroit as a white rapper from the other side of town. Eminem became the first rapper ever to win an Academy Award when his single “Lose Yourself” won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2003.

Although Eminem’s career has primarily been in the world of Hip-Hop, the rapper has made a number of appearances in film, television, and other media. He had a small role in the 2001 film The Wash, as a voice actor in the video game 50 Cent: Bulletproof, as a guest star on the Comedy Central television show Crank Yankers, and has had cameo appearances as himself in the 2009 film Funny People, in the HBO series Entourage, and in the 2014 comedy film The Interview.

Not many people would think that Eminem and Mark Wahlberg could satisfy the same niche, but the two might have more in common than the average person might guess. 

Eminem in 8 Mile

For starters, both are critically acclaimed within their own genre. To go along with his Academy Award, Eminem has won 15 Grammy Awards, 17 Billboard Music Awards, and Billboard even named him the “Artist of the Decade” from 2000-2009. Mark Wahlberg’s roles in the crime drama The Departed and The Fighter both garnered him praise from fans and critics, and he has had a successful and prolific career in film.

One big overlooked similarity is that Mark Wahlberg was also a rapper in his early years. He had a brief stint as one of the original members of New Kids on the Block alongside older brother Donnie Wahlberg, before he went off on his own with Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, earning himself a hit with “Good Vibrations” from their debut album Music for the People. Both also come from fairly humble beginnings, with Mark growing up in a working-class neighborhood in Dorchester, Boston, and Eminem hailing from a single-parent household in working-class Detroit.

Although it initially sounds far-fetched, maybe Eminem could have been a great fit for the gritty fighting film. That being said, Wahlberg’s performance in The Fighter was hailed as one of the best performances of the year and helped propel the film to critical acclaim. It certainly would have been a different experience altogether if it had been Eminem and not Mark Wahlberg, and it’s a fun alternate reality quandary for fans of the rapper to ponder as they await his next film appearance.