Interview – Mark Wahlberg On ‘Father Stu’

Mark Wahlberg returns to the big screen with the inspiring Father Stu, based on the true story of a man just scraping by before an unexpected love interest and a violent accident leads him to use his second chance to help others by becoming a Catholic priest. I had the privelege of sitting down with Wahlberg when he visited Philadelphia to promote the film. Below are some of the highlights:

Stuart Long (Mark Wahlberg) in Columbia Pictures’ FATHER STU. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures.

On the importance of the story…

“The story itself, I mean, everything about it was, for me, the ideal movie to tell, part to play, journey to go on. It’s the beginning of a new chapter. I’m beginning to do more meaningful, faith-based content.”

Stuart Long (Mark Wahlberg) with his mother Kathleen Long (Jacki Weaver) in Columbia Pictures’ FATHER STU. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures.

On how he learned about Stuart Long…

“From a priest friend of his who hung out with him out in LA when he was trying to become an actor and then he decided to go to the seminary. He was pitching me the movie… it just seemed so weird… I’ve been pitched a lot of movies by a lot of people in a lot of places, but never by a priest. When it finally registered, I was like “oh my gosh, this is absolutely amazing and something that I have been looking for.” It was a unique opportunity to do something special.”

Ham (Aaron Moten) with Stuart Long (Mark Wahlberg) in Columbia Pictures’ FATHER STU. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures.

On what Stuart’s story means to him…

“First of all, it’s so inspiring and so relatable to everybody, especially now in the times that we are living in. Everybody who’s seen the movie has a personal connection to it, to Stu… we’ve all been through so much stuff that they can personally identify with it.”

Director Rosalind Ross and Mark Wahlberg in Columbia Pictures’ FATHER STU. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures.

On preparing for the role…

“I heard the story, then spent time with his family, his dad especially… friends from the seminary, fellow priests, people that he met and touched along the way. And then, of course, myself, I’ve been kind of preparing to play this role my whole life. With performing the duties of a priest, we would do masses every week, well before we had a script.”

Carmen (Teresa Ruiz) and Stuart Long (Mark Wahlberg) in Columbia Pictures’ FATHER STU. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures.

On his changing physique throughout the movie…

“I tried to get in as good as shape as possible for the beginning, for the boxing. I’d just done an adventure racing movie which was probably the most physically demanding film I’ve ever done. That hasn’t come out yet, but we shot the boxing on the first day. That night, we started the calorie consumption, starting 7,000 calories for the first two weeks and then 11,000 a day for the final four weeks or so. The first meal was the best meal, and the only enjoyable meal because I hadn’t had anything.”

Bill Long (Mel Gibson) in Columbia Pictures’ FATHER STU. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures.

On Mel Gibson’s casting…

“Bill’s (Stu’s Dad) first choice, second choice, and third choice was Mel. He just really got a kick out of Mel playing him. I’ve made a lot of true stories of real people in difficult times and it’s always really hard, hard when dealing with those situations and the sensitivity, the respect and approach you have to take. Bill was just like ‘hey, it’s a movie. Hopefully you get the essence of Stu correct’ and all that. He was able to detach himself.”

Stuart Long (Mark Wahlberg) with his father Bill (Mel Gibson) in Columbia Pictures’ FATHER STU. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures.

On Stu’s relationship with his father…

“Parents aren’t supposed to bury their kids, he dealt with the passing of the younger brother and the parents didn’t have the skills to cope with that. I saw it firsthand with my mom when my two older sisters passed, she was never the same after that. So for his dad to get a second chance to come back and take care of his son in a way that he didn’t the first go around, I mean he literally fed him, clothed, and bathed him.”

Stuart Long (Mark Wahlberg) in Columbia Pictures’ FATHER STU. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures.

On playing blue collar characters…

“I consider myself a bit of a blue collar guy, so sure, if they’d let me play some sophisticated Englishman from the 12th century, I’d be happy to take a crack at it. I want to play parts that I think people want to see me in, roles that I would like to play. I like to continue to grow, and change and evolve and challenge people, challenge myself. This is not something that people would ultimately expect, but then of course when you look at, take a step back and  it’s like “of course, this makes complete sense… why wouldn’t he do this particular thing?”

Father Stu is now playing in theaters everywhere.

Read Guy At The Movies’ review here.

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