Friday, April 15, 2022


Actor, producer and devout Catholic Mark Wahlberg...

...was in the Valley recently to promote Father Stu, which he executive produced, and in which he plays the title role. The movie is based on the life of Stuart Long, a failed boxer turned failed actor turned Catholic convert turned seminarian. Here’s some of what Wahlberg said about the getting the tale on film (answers have been edited for length and clarity):

Where did you first hear Father Stu’s story?

From Father Ed Benioff, who was a fellow seminarian of Stu’s, and one of Stu’s buddies…Whatever was going on at the time, I got a wife, four kids, tons of things going on, but for whatever reason, [the story] registered and I said start from the top. And that was when I realized oh my gosh, this is something that I’ve been looking for. The movie chose and found me. That was the beginning of the journey.

How did Rosalind Ross come to be the screenwriter and director?

I started with David O. Russell. Because we talked about what movie we would compare it to tonally, and we all kind of thought it was The Fighter, because there was just a similar journey of Stu, the dysfunction within the family unit, the complexities there, all that. So we had settled on a writer that we thought could deliver, and she handed in a screenplay that I wasn’t interested in making. It didn’t have the bones, it wasn’t even a good first pass. I felt like I needed to step away from that situation and figure out a different way to get the movie going. And I had been talking to Mel [Gibson], just to kind of pick his brain about Passion of the Christ and why he decided to finance it himself, and what that looked like and all the pros and cons of doing that. And Rosie [Rosalind Ross; Gibson’s girlfriend] had written something else that I really liked. So we started talking about it, and she felt she had an entry point into the story as a writer, about this guy, just really in search of his calling and his purpose. So I told her the story, I connected her with Bill [Stu’s father] and Father Ed and everybody else, all the people I knew would be helpful in giving her all the colors and all the information about Stu. And three months later she handed me a screenplay that I wanted to make. I really thought that in itself was a miracle. It was good enough to make right now, I mean tonally, the balance of humor, the heart, the edge, all that stuff. And I was like, well, if she can put on the page, she can put it on the screen. I thought it would be so much more interesting to have the story told from her point of view. And she just did a phenomenal job.

What is the movie’s relationship to the true story? For instance, what was Stu’s real acting career like?

He only had like one or two extra credits. Then when he fell in love with Theresa’s character, that kind of changed everything. He was willing to get baptized on the spot. We had to figure out how to take a story that spanned a couple decades and condense it into two hours.

Have you shown the film to Father Stu’s family and friends? Were any of them advisers on the film?

They all were very helpful throughout the process, but at the same time, with COVID and everything, they weren’t able to be there on the set, and kind of give us input and notes during shooting. They kind of just told us a story, and trusted that we would go off and make it. And then, of course, the most important thing was showing it to those people, and for them to really appreciate the job we did and love the movie meant the world to us.

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