Mark Wahlberg is best known for starring in major blockbuster films, as well as producing hit TV shows such as “Entourage” and “Boardwalk Empire”. Now, the Oscar-nominated actor is combining those talents to bring “Father Stu” to the big screen as both producer and leading man.
For the past six years, Wahlberg has been trying to make a biopic about Stuart Long, a troubled, foul-mouthed Montana boxer who dedicated his life to the Roman Catholic Church when he nearly got into a motorcycle accident. I had died. Priest died in 2014 after battling a rare autoimmune disease, inclusion body myositis.
Wahlberg was searching for a story to tell about his Catholic faith when a priest in his parish told him about Long’s life and how he redeemed himself through the church. Wahlberg saw parallels in his life and decided to give Long’s legacy the Hollywood treatment.
But it wasn’t easy.
After the project went nowhere in the development phase, Wahlberg opted to self-finance the film with the help of two collaborators, drawing inspiration from his “Daddy’s Home 2” costar Mel Gibson. Gibson — who, like Wahlberg, has dealt with controversies — put his money into creating his own divisive sensation at the 2004 box-office, “The Passion of the Christ.” Wahlberg also cast Gibson as Long’s father.
With “Father Stu” hitting theaters on Wednesday, Wahlberg still can’t believe his good luck.
“There’s a little divine intervention going on. The film has been blessed,” he told Insider over the phone last week.
Insider spoke with Wahlberg about his decision to self-finance the film, the grueling process of securing 30 pounds to play Long at the end of his life, and his plans to make more faith-based films. I talked.
Wahlberg said that Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” inspired him to self-finance “Father Stu”.
You’ve been producing for a very long time, and you know the rule to never break is to put your money.
So how did it get to the point where you decided to self-finance the film?
Well, I am always willing to bet on myself.
But was there a scenario where, if you didn’t bring the money, it wasn’t being made?
I slipped the script for a few people that I thought might get it, and they didn’t. And of course, this is subjective. You have your own sense of what the material is. Some thought it was disappointing because he was finally sick. He didn’t see the heart and the emotions and, after all, how inspiring it is.
So I figured Mel did it with “The Passion”, maybe I’ll give it a try.
And if I did find someone to do the funding, it’s totally negotiable because usually the person who cut the check also has the notes and wants to be involved in the process.
So I thought, you know what, I think it’s better if I just step up and have complete control.
How much did you have to put in? Are we talking about half the budget? More?
Let’s say I put millions and millions of dollars into the film – and then other costs because we were overdue in production, and there’s nod to the music.
But a friend of mine also came who is not in the film business but believes in the project. And I had another friend who is in the film business who came in for a small part.
The film is written and directed by first-time filmmaker Rosalind Ross, but before that choice did it ever get to the point where you could direct the film if it meant being off the ground?
Yes. That was definitely a conversation. But for me to carve out 18 months of my life, and then stop doing other things I was doing, it just won’t work.
I had a feeling Rosalind would do very well behind the camera. I wanted to give him that shot. To be a director for the first time and achieve these results, it makes me look a little smarter than I am.
However, I cannot take credit for the success of the film as it is God who has chosen me to make the film. He knows that ultimately I get to use all the talents and gifts that have been given to me for his greater good and to serve my part in his bigger picture. I mean, I prayed every day to make this film.
Mel Gibson introduced you to Rosalind, and you lean on her for advice as you get through the experience, along with a co-star in the film. How much impact did the “passion of Christ” have on you?
I remember seeing it on Opening Day. I was like, “Whoa.”
I was really impressed with the quality of the film and he took a chance and financed the film himself. It was something that I always appreciated. This is his love letter to his belief in God, and it inspired me to do the same.
Have you ever thought of him directing a film?
No, Rosalind actually put herself in that position. His script really blew me away. And Mel felt the same way, that she was more than capable. He knew I was at a point in my career where I knew what I wanted to do with it and did what I saw.
Wahlberg saw parallels between his and Long’s life ‘trying to find his purpose in life’.
So it all started because a priest in your parish gave you the Stuart Long biopic. This must be one of the most unique pitches you have ever received.
I mean, I would literally go from church to church because I would get a lot.
Yes. I’m not in church to find material. I am trying to find some peace and quiet to be able to worship. So he was the least likely person I was hoping to pitch me, but he told me the story twice and eventually, it registered for me.
I realized, “Wow, I was looking for something like this.” It’s a brilliant role, a powerful and inspiring story. Getting people’s attention felt different and original.
It’s not disrespect for the work you’ve been doing lately, but there’s just an energy from you in this film that’s different.
Listen, such things don’t come often. Sometimes, you really have to go out and look for things that challenge you. It’s a blessing.
As you began to learn more about Father Stu’s life, did you see much of yourself in him?
The similarities are: a difficult childhood, a lot of problems trying to find your purpose in life, what you are supposed to do and serve – all these things. So of course I did.
He had a lot of real life experiences, and I would really appreciate the way he was able to communicate with people and talk about things that people were going through through his own experience. Am.
That’s a major point of this movie: Father Stu just wasn’t talking about it. He was gone
You spent six years trying to make this film. Before putting in your own money, was there ever a point where you set out to shoot and the money fell out?
That never happened, thankfully. This happened three or four times with “The Fighter.” We’ll have a start date, and then something happens. Along with David O. Russell and I were trying to develop this. We met some writers, and some cracked it, but we never liked what we found.
So I decided that I was going to go and work on it myself. I wanted to make films, so I wanted to find the right people as soon as possible. But it took some time.
When I finally met Rosalind and she handed me a script, I couldn’t believe how it was. I figured if she could put it on the page, she could put it on the screen. From his point of view, the film is said to be much better.
To gain 30 pounds for the role, Wahlberg said he ate 7 to 8 meals a day composed of eggs, bacon, and steak.
By the end of the film, Long is transformed not only spiritually but also physically because of his condition. You had to put on 30 pounds for the role. Will you ever go through this again?
The weight gain was bad. It’s not something I want to jump on doing again.
But it was more important than just making the actor “Raging Bull” work. Everything about Stu was based on his physicality. It was incredible to see him lose but spiritually gain the strength of a thousand men. I wanted the audience to see and understand it.
Seeing this, I thought Sylvester Stallone was gaining weight for “Cop Land”. Here is a star like you who is known to completely transform her physique. He has talked about how, mentally, it was tough to gain weight. can you relate? Mentally, how was it for you to transform your body like this?
I can definitely understand it. You have to force yourself to eat even after your stomach is full. I tried to go the route that was supposed to be healthy.
So not eating burgers and milkshakes constantly?
No, I went to the doctor and tried to do it hygienically. The first two weeks were a 7,000-calorie-a-day diet plan. And then the last four weeks were 11,000 calories a day.
Catch. How is this healthy?
It’s not much healthier than other methods.
what did you eat
A dozen eggs, a dozen pieces of bacon, two bowls of white rice, a cup of olive oil to start the morning. More eggs, a porterhouse steak. That is, seven to eight meals in a day.
Then, in the end, it takes a lot of starch and sodium on top of the protein to get that bloated look.
I think by the end, you will never want to eat food again in your life.
I didn’t like it.
Wahlberg has formed a production company to produce more faith-based projects.
Hence it will be labeled as a film based on faith. But it’s very top shelf in that style with its high-end production design and obviously, the talent involved.
We wanted to make the highest quality of cinema.
And it’s high quality filmmaking mixed with spiritual storytelling, is there anything else you want to do right now?
of course. I hope I now have more to come, not only with stories that I can act in, but also helping others get their work off the ground. I want to do more of it in the future, and there is a huge audience for it.
Are you looking to start a production company that focuses on faith-based stories?
We’re already working on: film, television, across the board, but are emphasizing quality.
Hope I can intrigue other high-potential geniuses to come and do the same with “Father Stu”: Bet on Yourself, Take a Chance. It’s not always about the paycheck.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.