Justin Bieber
Credit: Ray Mickshaw/Getty Images

Mark Wahlberg would really prefer the world not remember him for inspiring sweet sensations at the dawn of his career. Remarkably, he has mostly accomplished that feat over the past decade and a half — carving out a major career for himself as an actor (though he’d probably rather be thought of as Mickey Ward than the guy who figures out that plants are killing people).

Apparently, Wahlberg sees a similar future for Justin Bieber. In a recent conversation with MTV about his upcoming movie Contraband (whose trailer looks like one of the fake ones that runs before Tropic Thunder), Wahlberg talked about casting Bieber in a dramatic role in a future film that has something to do with basketball. The artist formerly known as Marky Mark says that he sees something in the Canadian pop pinup that let him know he can handle a dramatic role.

“I’m pretty intuitive,” Wahlberg explained. “I see the guy and spent time with him, and you see what he does and how he does it, and then you actually have a conversation with him, and it’s there.”

Wahlberg may have a point. While he currently bathes in untold riches and feeds on the adoration of millions, anybody who saw Never Say Never knows that Bieber grew up poor in a broken home in a small town. Wahlberg came from similar circumstances; he’s the youngest of nine children and spent his early years getting arrested in a rough suburb of Boston. While YouTube didn’t exist when Wahlberg was first singing and busting dance moves on the streets of Dorchester, he almost certainly would have gone Bieber-style viral had the means been there.

Of course Bieber has experienced significantly greater musical success than Wahlberg did. But one thing he can learn from the older star: Teen idoldom doesn’t last forever (one need only look at Mark’s New-Kid-turned-actor brother Donnie for proof), and there is a very small window wherein he can experiment with film without being held to an unkindly high standard.

Consider Eminem’s performance in 8 Mile: Though it was Mr. Mathers’ first acting job, he managed to carry the movie and received many lowered-expectation accolades for his work (it probably helped that he was playing an only vaguely fictionalized version of himself). At the time, Slim Shady was on top of the music world — his second album, The Marshall Mathers LP, had recently been nominated for a Grammy for Album of the Year — which allowed him a free pass to dip his toes in the Hollywood water without too much fear of failure.

Bieber is in a similar position. Though he doesn’t necessarily receive the critical love that Eminem had earned at that point, his albums are hugely successful and ubiquitous, and he has already proven himself a box office draw (Never Say Never racked up nearly $100 million in worldwide receipts).

If Wahlberg’s movie is even the slightest bit edgy, Bieber will get credit for boldly exploring territory he isn’t used to. And if it tanks, nobody will really hold him responsible.

Do you think Bieber has what it takes for big-screen drama? Is Whalberg’s “intuition” on point here? And most importantly: “Baby” or “Good Vibrations”? Duke it out in the comments.