Hollywood wouldn’t make Mark Wahlberg’s new faith-based film ‘Father Stu,’ so he made it himself
MIAMI, Florida — Popular actor Mark Wahlberg revealed that he received resistance from both Hollywood and the Catholic Church about his upcoming faith-based movie “Father Stu,” but he felt the world needed to experience the powerful testimony.
The devout Catholic spent several years pitching the religious drama to Hollywood studios. But in his words, “Hollywood doesn’t make films like this.”
The movie is based on actual events and tells the story of boxer-turned-priest Father Stuart Long and his incredible journey from “self-destruction to redemption.”
Wahlberg, who used his own money to partially fund the film, plays Father Stu. He is joined on-screen by Academy Award-winner Mel Gibson, who plays his father, Bill Long.
The Sony Pictures film features heavy vulgarity and is rated R. But is inspiring at its core, sharing the power of transformation in Christ.
“It’s so nice to hear the kind of reaction that we’re hearing and people all being touched by the film for one reason or another,” Wahlberg shared with The Christain Post. “Nothing worse than being like, ‘OK, I’m obligated to go out there promote with you because I was paid to do the movie.’”
“It’s a different thing when you actually paid for the movie yourself,” he continues. “But the movie was so blessed, and really many times there was a real intercession from some sort of higher power, I would have to say it would be God.”
Wahlberg spent six “slow years” trying to get to where the movie would finally be made. And when the time came, the project was filmed in 30 days during the pandemic in 2021.
After combing through many failed scripts, it was the script by Rosalind Ross that captured Father Stu’s true essence. So Wahlberg asked Ross to both write and direct the film.
The journey was not an easy one, though.
“I was met with resistance not only from studios to make this movie, but also from the Church, which I was really surprised about,” Wahlberg said. “But then I realized, they opened to Page 1, and Bill’s using the F word, and in Page 2, he used it again. Then next thing you know, ‘this is vulgar and this is unacceptable’ without really understanding what the message was.”
“I think if you’d left the 'Passion of the Christ' 20 minutes before the movie was over, you get the wrong message too,” the actor continued. “So it was important for us to just say, ‘OK, let’s go make the movie on our own and then bring it to them and then see what their response is.’ Then if it’s not, I will continue to grow to challenge why people are turning away, or why people are not accepting it because of various reasons or why this wouldn’t be accepted because of language?”
Wahlberg maintained that the movie is about “love, hope and redemption,” showing that “nobody is beyond redemption.”
The actor admitted that he was worried about sending the film to certain people, including the archbishop.
“I had to send him the movie, and you know, he was really supportive of me making the movie, but he was not supportive of the language. He was still pushing back on the language before he saw the film. Then when he finally came down to seeing the movie, he watched it with a new bishop-elect, and I believe a couple of other priests and maybe one other bishop. They watched the movie, sat there in silence, in tears, took about 10 minutes to kind of recover, compose themselves. They talked about it, and he wrote the most glowing review for the movie,” Wahlberg noted. “He talked about how it does have harsh language, and there is violence, but it is so important to really explain and understand his journey.”
The entertainer admitted that he, too, still uses vulgar language at times but wants to promote God’s message of acceptance and transformation.
“What I really need to be working on and focusing on, and especially being an example of, is going out there and doing the work. It’s one thing to say. It’s another thing to do it,” Wahlberg commented. “So this is the beginning of my journey to continue to try to do more.”
“Doing it was trying to just wear two hats. Being the producer who had to be really responsible financially because we had a ticking clock, and when you’re writing the check, you feel a lot more responsible to get everybody there on time and to make your days,” Wahlberg said of the pressure of being both actor and producer.
“Then, of course, the responsibility that you have to getting it right and honoring Stu, his legacy, most importantly his legacy as Father Stu, which was the most important thing.”
The Diocese of Helena in Montana, under which Father Stu served, praised Wahlberg's passion for making the film, saying in a statement that it appreciates "the thoughtful and diligent work of the production team."
"Father Stuart Long’s dramatic conversion to Christ before becoming a priest led many people to Christ and the Catholic Faith. His courageous witness left a special legacy in the Diocese of Helena," the dioecese statement reads. "Viewers should be warned that the film contains objectionable language, violence, and adult content. However, it’s our hope that the redemptive story of Fr. Stu’s conversion will invite viewers to faith and strengthen believers."
Joining Wahlberg as a producer is his producing partner and manager, Stephen Levinson, along with Jordan Foss. Miky Lee and Colleen Camp are named as executive producers.
Ross has been romantically linked to Mel Gibson, with whom she shares a child.
“Father Stu” will hit theaters on April 13.