A week ago a strange scene unfolded as journalists crowded onto a top floor of the posh seaside Mandarin Oriental hotel in Miami waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more for the chance to interview Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and the rest of the cast of the upcoming film "Pain & Gain."
The flick revolves around three real-life physical trainers-turned criminals from the '90s who want to pump you up. And pump they did -- especially Wahlberg and co-star Anthony Mackie, who needed to catch up to the Rock's level of muscular prowess.
"He's very selfish with his workout secrets," Wahlberg told Yahoo! Movies, joking of the Rock's reticent ways. "He needed no tips," the Rock said of Wahlberg. "He came in in crazy shape."
It's what happened after the cameras stopped rolling that had many reporters scratching their heads and even cracking some jokes. As media members filed out, an associate of Wahlberg's would slip a small, Binaca-sized spray bottle and a pamphlet for the vitamin supplement Bio D Supreme into journalists' hands.
Not expecting such an exchange, it came off as a tad dodgy, if not a bit befuddling. One local Miami reporter rolled with it, saying she used the spray during her on camera interview, joking around with the two "Pain & Gain" stars.
Bio D is just one supplement Wahlberg is into these days. He also has a new GNC line called Marked Nutrition. Wahlberg says he used the stuff when bulking up for his "Pain" role to gain 40 pounds. In an ad, the 41-year-old actor is quoted as saying the line's protein bars, shakes, and supplements were "critical in helping me reach my goal."
And yes, journalists got a Wahlberg-branded protein bar, too – a care package of sorts sent by Paramount and Marked this week. The co-branded marketing campaign is getting traction at places including Rite Aid and ProSource.net, according to a recent Los Angeles Times report.
But is mixing movie business with his business as a spokesperson a good thing?
"[It's] ingenious," said Vásken Kalayjian, CEO of GK Brand. "We will see that he is obviously in shape [in the movie] and the product line works," he told Yahoo! Movies, pointing out that A-list celebrity endorsements from the likes of Nicole Kidman, George Clooney, and Brad Pitt are nothing new.
"To me, it makes sense -- why wouldn't you do something like this?" Lewis Henderson, chief executive of Davie Brown-TMA Entertainment, an entertainment marketing company, told the L.A. Times. "It appears to be authentic, and if so, it appears to be a smart move for both sides."
Wahlberg said the nutrition line was his idea, and that he approached GNC. "I said, 'look, I have to have access to the best scientists, get the best formulas and the best stuff out there,'" he told Piers Morgan on CNN last summer.
Incidentally, the Bio D pamphlet follows up its many health claims with asterisks pointing to a note in small print that says the product – which is not officially endorsed by Wahlberg -- is not FDA-approved nor is it intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
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But Marked Nutrition appears to be more thoroughly vetted: Its site boasts it is free of banned substances, is thoroughly tested by a top anti-doping lab, and adheres to FDA regulations. It's a good thing, because in 2009 the FDA issued a warning against bodybuilding products that contained steroids.
"Mark Wahlberg is a big movie star and obviously in shape, but he's not an Arnold Schwarzenegger or a Lou Ferrigno," Barclays Capital analyst Brian Wang told the L.A. Times. "But now you have the movie tie-in and he plays a body builder. They obviously saw all of this, and now it makes a little more sense and they are pushing it with the movie."
"Pain & Gain," directed by Michael Bay, muscles its way into theaters April 26.
Watch 'Pain & Gain' Theatrical Trailer:
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