The movie we all need right now
It’s rare to see God at the box office. But the movie Father Stu — about a boxer turned Catholic priest — draws large crowds and a lot of attention for a faith-based film.
So far the film – starring actors Mark Wahlberg, Mel Gibson and Jackie Weaver – has grossed over $14m (about A$19.6m) since its release in the US on April 13. 2022, during Holy Week (between Palm Sunday and Easter). And on May 12, Father Stu will be released in Australian cinemas.
Father Stu is the brainchild of Mark Wahlberg himself. And it is for him what The passion of Christ was for Mel Gibson – a personal labor of love. Wahlberg poured “millions and millions” of his own dollars, plus six years, into making Father Stu. Why? Because he felt called by God to do so.
“I always thought: How can I continue to pay for all the blessings given to me?” Wahlberg, a devout Catholic, told the National Catholic Register.
“I know God didn’t put me in this position to forget where I come from. I’ve done a lot in my own community where I grew up and worked with inner city kids and at risk youth. But he doesn’t give you the gifts and talents until it’s time to use [them] in a good way — and for him and not for yourself. So I always said, ‘Okay, what’s my mission? What is my goal ?’ And plant the seed, let it blossom, then use it to keep spreading his word.
It was while dining with two priest friends that Wahlberg received his “divine plan”. One of the priests offers him an idea: to make a film about the life of Stuart Long, an agnostic boxer from the 1980s who converted to Catholicism and eventually became a priest after nearly dying in a motorcycle accident. Despite a devastating health crisis and skepticism from church officials and her estranged parents (Mel Gibson and Jacki Weaver), Stu pursues her calling with courage and compassion, inspiring many along the way.
It was a story that resonated with Wahlberg, who was also redeemed from his troubled past by focusing on his faith.
But getting the story to the screen was a difficult process. Wahlberg received several setbacks from screenwriters and production companies. So, in addition to dipping into his own wallet, Wahlberg also turned to prayer.
“I prayed about it and I prayed about it. And I said, ‘No, I have to. It is my calling. There is a very specific reason I was called to do this,” he told the National Catholic Register.
Wahlberg also turned to fellow Catholic and film producer Mel Gibson: “I asked Mel if I could sit down with him and talk to him. I asked him how he had become Passion did and all the hurdles… all the hurdles he had to face and why he had to fund it himself and all those things.
“This film can be an injection of hope and inspiration for the community.” – Rod Hopping, CEO of Heritage Films
A fan who is very happy that Wahlberg managed to bring Father Stu is Rod Hopping, CEO of Heritage Films – the film distribution company that partnered with Sony to bring the film to Australia. In fact, Hopping describes the movie as “the movie we all need right now.”
“We have been through such a dark season. We’ve kind of wandered from a global pandemic to this looming presence of war… This film pulls no punches insofar as it’s about pain, suffering and loss. It’s very real and very raw on many levels. But what Father Stu does and how it inspired him to turn to God and help others is really, really inspiring,” Hopping said. Eternity.
“So this film can be an injection of hope and inspiration for the community, and I think that’s needed at this time.”
“You can’t help but think of God when you watch this movie.” – rod jump
The film drew criticism in some religious circles for the amount of swearing in the dialogue. But according to Hopping, that doesn’t take anything away from the film, rather it might help get its message across to non-believers.
“Father Stu was no ordinary pastor. It was rough around the edges. So there’s a lot of language in this movie,” admits Hopping.
“I know some people struggle with this, but I think it creates authenticity by keeping Father Stu’s legacy alive. And I think that legacy is going to be attractive to people who don’t have faith, who aren’t interested in faith, or who think faith is rubbish.
“You can’t help but think of God when you watch this film – it’s just impossible… When you see his transformation and his journey, it prompts something deep within you to also consider your own journey .”
Eternity has five double passes to see Father Stu to give. ENTER HERE.