Mark Wahlberg was so determined to score the lead role in the biopic Invincible that he lied to get it. “I said I played college football – obviously, I’d never even gone to college, never played high-school football,” he says. But the 35-year-old actor rose to the challenge to portray Vince Papale, a regular guy who tried out for the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1970s and, incredibly, made the team. PEOPLE caught up with Wahlberg about fatherhood (he has two kids with model girlfriend Rhea Durham – daughter Ella Rae, who turns 3 on Sept. 2, and 5-month-old son Michael) and football injuries.
Invincible is about Vince Papale’s wildest dream coming true. What’s your wildest dream?
Before I made this movie, I would have given up my career to be a professional athlete. After making this movie, I like watching it on the television from my couch. It’s extremely dangerous and much harder than it looks on TV. In order to make it look real, you had to get out there and do it. Vince was there every day, so I couldn’t wimp out.
Did you get injured at all?
Banged up everywhere, you know, but they did a good job of piecing me back together. Whatever they had to do – ice and Ibuprofen, a little spit and glue – because obviously they wanted me back out there on the field.
There’s a scene where you get slammed – that wasn’t a stunt double?
No, that was me, but that particular hit actually fixed my bad back. It was like everything kind of popped back into place. But they were so worried. They ran in and everybody was dead silent.
You’re a father of two now. How’s parenthood treating you?
I have a very quiet, happy, simple life. I go to the golf course, I go to the store, take my kids to the park and stuff. There’s not too much to it.
Have you noticed your personality traits in your son and daughter?
My daughter wants to fight with daddy. And then she says, “Oh no, don’t hurt me, I’m just a gentle, little girl. She’s got a lot of me in her, and a lot of her mom. It’s amazing to see. You can’t help but look and laugh and smile from the first cry.
How about your son?
My son is amazing. He’s getting big, and I’ve been working too long. I have to get back home.
Would you allow your kids to be actors?
I would like my daughter to be a professional golfer – I don’t want her to be anywhere near Hollywood.
Is she swinging a golf club yet?
She has her own clubs and we golf together. I have a little practice range in the backyard that she likes to play in. We’ll start out putting and then maybe she’ll go play in the sand and throw sand in my eyes.