Mark Wahlberg puts faith first in “Father Stu”
By Kharisma McIlwaine
Mark Wahlberg’s film career spans almost 30 years. After his debut in ‘Renaissance Man’ in 1994, Wahlberg became a household name in a string of blockbuster action films including: ‘Planet of the Apes’, ‘The Departed’ (which earned him a nomination for Best Supporting Actor Oscar) and “The Fighter” (which earned him a Golden Globe nomination).
Now Wahlberg is shifting gears to tell more personal stories that reflect her faith in God. Written and directed by Rosalind Ross, Wahlberg stars as Stuart Long in “Father Stu.” “Father Stu” tells the true story of Stuart Long, an amateur boxer who was tricked into becoming a Catholic priest after a terrible motorcycle accident. Despite insurmountable odds, including a degenerative and debilitating muscle disease that severely limits mobility, Stuart refuses to give up on his path to priesthood. “Father Stu” also stars Mel Gibson, Jackie Weaver and Teresa Ruiz. Wahlberg traveled to Philadelphia and spoke to SUN about his very personal journey creating Father Stu.
Set in the ’90s, “Father Stu” gives audiences a glimpse into the life of Stuart Long, who is in a perpetual state of downward spiral. His amateur boxing career is in shambles and ends quickly, he drinks too much and continues to find himself in precarious situations. After a failed attempt at becoming an actor, Stuart begins working in the meat department of a grocery store. While there, he meets Carmen (Ruiz), a devout Catholic Sunday school teacher. His interest in Carmen brings him to the church where he is baptized, first to gain her trust. After surviving a horrific motorcycle accident, Stuart has a revelation that his second chance at life should be devoted to God’s work. His faith is tested when he is diagnosed with a degenerative muscle disease that threatens to take away his ability to become a priest.
Wahlberg’s introduction to “Father Stu,” which he co-produced, came over dinner with two priests. This film served as a catalyst in many ways for Wahlberg to pursue content aligned with his faith and his mission to be a blessing to others.
“I think all the pieces kind of fell into place.” Wahlberg said, “I really feel like the big guy was hard at work pulling the strings here from the moment I was told the story by a priest in a restaurant. Then when I listened to the story. I realized oh my God, I searched [for this]. I know I wasn’t put in this position just to forget where I came from. It’s like, how can I use my talents and gifts for the greater good of God? This story was an opportunity to do that – to do something that really has real substance and meaning.
He added, “I want people to know and understand how good my faith has been to me and to me. Everything that is good in my life personally and professionally, I attribute to my faith because everything is deeply rooted in it. That’s where it starts, that’s my center of gravity and I want people to feel that. Certainly, if I can overcome the obstacles and obstacles I have faced, there is nothing that no one can do.
Wahlberg invested his time and money in creating “Father Stu”. The film, which he financed with two friends, ran for six years. At the center of the respective paths of “Father Stu” and Wahlberg is perseverance.
“I thought that was really powerful. He (Father Stu) wouldn’t take no for an answer and he wouldn’t give up. Anything I wanted to achieve in life or anything I wanted to achieve, I had to do it. doing it the old fashioned way – hard work, straight forward, no frills and disciplined. It all started from my faith, making that commitment and everything being grounded in that. Then it allows me to do whatever I want to do. It explained, “When I succeed, fantastic, I know it’s all about hard work. When I fail, I know I’m trying my best to be able to hold my head high in the amount of effort that goes into it.” Father Stu was relentless, and when he found his purpose he was so powerful in what he did.
“Father Stu” does not fear the truth. It reveals some of the errors that can be found in the church. Sadly, many have turned away from the church when they needed God, grace and fellowship the most. Wahlberg approaches the subject in the film through the lens of Father Stu’s experience.
“You’ve got the church, but you’ve got the guy who died to build it…he’s my guy!” Everything else is human beings making mistakes. We are all weak in the flesh, I understand. The rules are crazy and things have to change. If you want to attract people, why are you chasing them? It’s about bringing people together. God wanted to help everyone, especially the less fortunate.
That’s exactly what Father Stu did: he helped people. Through Wahlberg’s portrayal of Father Stu, we see his unique ability to reach people where they are, which allowed him to achieve more in a short time than some people achieve in their lifetime.
“I remember talking to the Archbishop and he was like, ‘You know why I really ordained Stu? Because I could see the impact he had on people when he talked to them. All of his real-life experiences gave him the credibility to communicate in a way that they knew was very real, very direct, and that they could relate to. Then to have him say that Stu has done more in his short four years as a priest than the bishop in 40 years is pretty remarkable,” Wahlberg said. “I didn’t really understand until I went to Helena, Montana, and saw all the people waiting to see the movie. They were all like, ‘Oh my God if you don’t don’t understand, you’re in trouble.’ Just seeing how many people he impacted and touched was really powerful.
Father Stu’s message was so powerful because he served as an example that everyone deserves grace – a message that also resonates with Wahlberg.
“I just want to encourage people these days too. Now is not the time to let people down. It’s about finding the good in people, supporting them, encouraging them, accepting them for who they are and knowing that they should have hope, that we care about them and that we support them. It’s the one thing that will bring everyone together.
“Father Stu” is ultimately a heartwarming story about a man on a journey to find his purpose. The film shines a light on aspects of life that are equally hilarious and heartbreaking…reminding us all that life is really about doing what we can for the greater good. “Father Stu” is currently playing in theaters nationwide. Check your local listings for times.