What a throwback! Here's how old Reese Witherspoon and Mark Wahlberg were in Fear

The 1996 thriller Fear is now streaming on Netflix, making viewers wonder just how young the baby-faced leads were when it came out.
The People vs. Larry Flynt Premiere
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If you grew up as a '90s kid like I did, you lived through a long list of memorable movies, some that are now considered iconic and others you realize were duds when looking back — yet total guilty pleasures anyway. And while I certainly was not old enough to watch the psychological thriller directed by James Foley, Fear, when it came out in 1996, I discovered it years later and thought it was very entertaining. I have vivid memories of watching this one multiple times as a pre-teen and loving Reese Witherspoon.

Fear follows a teenager named Nicole (Witherspoon) whose life is turned upside down when she meets a twentysomething named David (Mark Wahlberg) and falls head over heels. At first, their romance seems normal, apart from their age gap. They're both immediately attracted to each other and have common interests. But as Nicole is still getting to know David, he quickly becomes very attached, controlling, and outright threatening. With a measly score of 46% on Rotten Tomatoes, Fear is not a critically acclaimed flick, but I will say it's a fun one to watch just to see how young Witherspoon and Wahlberg were at the time.

How old were the two leads of Fear exactly? If you've stumbled upon the movie on Netflix this weekend, this is probably what you're wondering.

Reese Witherspoon and Mark Wahlberg are five years apart

Reese Witherspoon
30th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards - Arrivals / Amy Sussman/GettyImages

Born on March 22, 1976, Witherspoon had just turned 20 when Fear premiered in April 1996. She was 19 years old when they filmed the movie, and unfortunately, her young age was taken advantage of when it came to the explicit content. While speaking to Harper's Bazaar in July 2023, Witherspoon touched on one of the most memorable scenes of the movie in which her character gets intimate with Wahlberg's character on a rollercoaster, saying she "didn’t have control over it."

Continuing, Witherspoon said she requested a stunt double for the below-the-waist shots, recalling:

"It wasn’t explicit in the script that that’s what was going to happen, so that was something that I think the director thought of on his own and then asked me on set if I would do it, and I said no. It wasn’t a particularly great experience."


Witherspoon clarified that she was "not traumatized" by the experience, though she called it "transformative."

In the years since Fear, Witherspoon has become one of the most famous actresses in the world, best known for movies like Legally Blonde, Walk the Line, Just Like Heaven, Cruel Intentions, and Sweet Home Alabama, along with shows such as Big Little Lies and The Morning Show. She won an Oscar for her role as June Carter in Walk the Line and was nominated a second time nearly a decade later for her role as Cheryl in Wild.

Witherspoon founded her production company, Type A Films, in 2000, followed by her more recent company Hello Sunshine, which began in 2016. She is currently 47 years old at the time of this writing.

Mark Wahlberg
Los Angeles Special Screening And Adoption Event For Lionsgate's "Arthur The King" / Monica Schipper/GettyImages

Wahlberg is five years older than Witherspoon, born on June 5, 1971. When Fear premiered, he was 25 years old and was likely 24 when they filmed it. Interestingly enough, Leonardo DiCaprio was eyed for the role of David, but he turned it down. While doing so, he recommended Wahlberg and the rest is history. While speaking to Josh Horowitz for his Happy Sad Confused podcast (via Screen Rant) just this week, Wahlberg remembered getting the part in Fear.

According to Wahlberg, he got to meet with Foley about the part, though Foley wasn't convinced he found the right guy:

"And [Foley] felt bad, he wanted to give me an audition for one of the smaller roles. But it wasn’t really enough lines to see what somebody could do, so he just told me to read a scene with the lead. And next thing I know he was like, ‘Woah.’ He calls the studio and he’s like, ‘Listen, if you don’t give Mark Wahlberg this part, I’m not doing the movie.’ And I had never been in a movie before."


That must've been one heck of an audition!

Similar to Witherspoon, Wahlberg became a household name after scoring the role in Fear. Some of his best films include Boogie Nights (which came out a year after Fear), The Departed, The Fighter, and The Lovely Bones. He's also well known for action roles in movies such as 2 Guns, Lone Survivor, Patriots Day, Shooter, and The Other Guys, the latter of which being a comedy-action. Wahlberg was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance Dignam in The Departed and was also nominated as a producer for The Fighter.

And just like Witherspoon, Wahlberg is also a producer and has his own production company called Closest to the Hole Productions, among other businesses. As of 2024, the actor is 52 years old.

You can stream Fear on Netflix right now.

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