MIAMI — Actor Mark Wahlberg described his encounter with the transforming power of Jesus Christ as he answered the call from God to tell the true-life story of Father Stuart Long.
Wahlberg both starred in and produced the new movie “Father Stu.” Based on actual events, the film tells the story of Long, a boxer-turned-priest, and his incredible journey from “self-destruction to redemption.”
While the Sony Pictures film is rated R and contains heavy vulgarity, it's inspiring at its core because it shares the power of transformation through Christ, which is something Wahlberg said he's also experiencing.
"I feel it every day. I'm feeling it now more than ever,” He told The Christian Post.
When asked about the last time his faith was questioned, Wahlberg said it was during “the pandemic.”
“I couldn't go to church anymore. I lost communication and touch with people that really helped me every day [to] remind me of the importance of my faith, and just going to church every day and praying and going to Mass every weekend,” he said.
Wahlberg also suffered the loss of his mother, who died during the pandemic. But despite the challenges, he felt called to make this faith-filled movie and used his own money to partially fund the film because Hollywood refused to finance the project.
Wahlberg portrays Father Stu on-screen and is joined by Academy Award-winner Mel Gibson, who plays his father, Bill Long.
He 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 ongoing lockdowns last year.
Wahlberg said it was "always a mission" of his to get the film made.
"All this talent, and especially the gifts that have been bestowed upon me and the blessings have been for a reason,” he declared. “It's not to go off and do another five ‘Transformers,’ this was part of the calling. This movie came to me at a time when I was prepared enough to be able to do it justice, to be able to go out there and articulate the message and the meaning behind it.”
It was created at the height of all of the division and negativity that was amplified in the media.
"This is a movie about redemption, and no person is beyond redemption, as long as they're willing to repent, and they have good intentions in their heart, and they want to make a change,” he told CP. “I'm just glad that I was able to get it made, I'm glad that it's resonating with everybody, because everybody can identify with his story in some sort of way.
"We're all dealing with loss, uncertainty, lack of faith, hope, just questions of why things happen," he added. "To be able to see somebody handle it with such grace in some of the most difficult and trying times after being through so much, it gives people a lot of hope."
In the film, Father Stu was faced with much resistance from his family as well as those from the Catholic Church, but he never gave up fighting for what he felt called by God to do, which was to become a priest. Wahlberg said he identified with the fight that was in his character.
"It's those kinds of losses and that kind of adversity that makes you stronger,” the Boston native explained. “Challenges will only make you better if you're willing to get up again, and dust yourself off, and go out there and continue to compete. I certainly was not supposed to be in the position that I am. I just never took 'no' for an answer.
“I never listened to what people thought or what they said. So I always felt like it was up to me to prove myself by doing the work. And day by day, job by job, moment by moment on my knees, just trying to better myself as a person, then as a father, and as a husband. Doing the work is the thing that has allowed me to achieve success, or to be able to handle a loss and disappointment and failure, and all those things, and allow me to keep going and keep pushing, he added.
"My destiny is different from everybody else's destiny. How it's written was not by me. It's time for me to go out there and go through the motions, but this is God's doing!”
On multiple occasions in the film, Wahlberg preaches and says his mini-sermons were divinely inspired.
"Especially in the jail, I felt like these were people that could relate to Stu. These were people that could [have] easily have been Stu. This was Stu's life, and that was my life. So most of that — there's a bit of dialogue in the beginning, but the message that I'm giving them was all improvised,” Wahlberg revealed.
“That's just me talking to them from the heart and just telling them that God's not going to give up on them, don't give up on themselves. That's a very important thing because when you have nobody to root for you or to support you, that's the most difficult thing,” he stressed. “People need to know that people care. That people love them and support them and they're rooting for them and they want them to see them do good. That is very important.”
Wahlberg agreed that God's spirit was in him as he preached on set.
“Father Stu” hits theaters nationwide on April 13.
Jeannie Ortega Law is a reporter for The Christian Post. Reach her at: email@example.com She's also the author of the book, What Is Happening to Me? How to Defeat Your Unseen Enemy Follow her on Twitter: @jlawcp Facebook: JeannieOMusic