Is Mark Wahlberg finally in contention for an Oscar? It certainly looks like he could be, because the first images to emerge from The Gambler prove that the usually beefy actor has undergone quite the transformation to star in Rupert Wyatt’s remake. In fact, Wahlberg has even claimed to have lost 60 pounds to play the role, which is especially impressive when you compare his size in the drama to how he looked in Transformers: Age Of Extinction.

USA Today has released three new images for the film, all of which feature a gaunt-looking Wahlberg, and they suggest that The Gambler is going to be one of the last-great movies of 2014, as it’s released on December 19th.

You can see an image of Wahlberg, who will play a literary professor with a gambling obsession that gets him into trouble with gangsters, lying down on his desk above, while below you can also check out a clearer picture of him alongside Jessica Lange too.

The Gambler

Not good enough for you? Then how about Wahlberg’s Jim Bennett stood at a table alongside a rather pensive-looking Amy, who is played by Brie Larsen? Because I’ve got that too.

The Gambler
Wahlberg has also been chatting about the research he undertook in order to play a professor, and he admitted to USA Today that was even harder than losing the weight.
"Forget losing the weight. Being believable as a teacher was one of my greatest challenges and most rewarding. It meant being able to have the comfort to really understand and say those words... Comments we've been getting from the test screenings include, 'I never thought I would see Mark Wahlberg as a professor, but I believed it and went along for the ride.’ Hearing that hit on one of my big reasons for doing this part. It's different and unexpected."

Wyatt, who oversaw 2011’s delightful reboot of the Planet Of The Apes franchise, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, is directing a script that was written by the Academy Award winning scribe of The Departed, William Monahan. But he only was able to take the position after both Martin Scorsese and Todd Phillips' incarnations disintegrated in pre-production. Wyatt’s credentials prove that he is more than up to the task though, as both Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes and The Escapist were remarkably enjoyable slices of cinema, but The Gambler will be a nice change of pace and it will require a more subtle, character-driven direction.

The film will ultimately live and die by Mark Wahlberg’s performance, and the fact that he has gone to such great lengths to slim down for the part proves just how seriously he is taking it. Having already been nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar back in 2006 for his scene-stealing turn in The Departed, and been cruelly overlooked for nominations after his sterling work in The Fighter and Boogie Nights, this looks like it could be Wahlberg’s most complete work to date. Whether Wahlberg actually pulls it off remains to be seen, but early signs are that he has more than rivaled James Caan’s stirring portrayal in the original. And that’s a feat in itself. Hopefully a trailer for The Gambler will be along shortly too.

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