From high school dropout and convicted felon, with stints as a rapper and underwear model along the way, Mark Wahlberg is one of the highest-paid movie stars in the world today. He credits his Catholic faith with turning around his life and is currently starring in a faith-based movie, Father Stu, which he financed himself.
Wahlberg plays the title role of Stuart Long, an angry, troubled youth (much like Wahlberg) who confronted numerous challenges before he found God. Grappling with a debilitating disease, he ministered to thousands of people from his nursing facility even as his body was failing. The movie also stars Mel Gibson, Jackie Weaver, Teresa Ruiz, and Malcolm McDowell, and is written and directed by first-time director Rosalind Ross, Gibson's girlfriend.
Taking a brief break from filming the Netflix movie Our Man From Jersey in London, Wahlberg stopped in Los Angeles to see his family and take his sons golfing. He talked to FC about the movie and the turn his career is taking.
Why did you decide to make a faith-based movie?
I searched long and hard to find what my calling was, and I really felt like I found that in film. But I think now after getting to know Stu's story and his journey, and because of my faith, I also know that I am tasked and challenged to now utilize this platform that I have to continue to do God's work. So, Stu has now basically tasked me to continue on with his message and to do my part.
Will this change your career?
I would like to say no because I don't ever want to compromise my artistic integrity because of my faith, but because I am a parent and a husband, those things definitely come into play. I don't necessarily gravitate towards things that have a lot of sexuality, although I just did a movie with Kevin Hart, and the first time you see me, I'm stark naked on the dock in the middle of the day with fifty other naked people behind me getting ready to go to my birthday party. (Laughs.) My wife is seeing the movie today so I am going to have to do some explaining. I didn't tell her that yet, but hopefully, she will think it's funny. I am making another movie now and it's great, but when you make movies that touch somebody or point somebody in the right direction, help somebody that is going through difficult times, that is a beautiful thing.
How did you convince Sony to distribute it?
I didn't want it to be on a streamer. And then of course I had Uncharted [a huge Wahlberg success for Sony with costar Tom Holland] and I didn't have a sequel deal to Uncharted. I didn't say that I would do a new one, but I maybe indicated that. (He laughs.) So yeah, I might have promised if I had a fifth child, I would give it to them. But it's one of those things where, yeah, I would barter whatever I had to get the movie made and released and supported. They realized that it was not your typical faith-based movie. It's really a biopic which just happens to go into the priesthood, which then kind of falls under that umbrella of a faith-based movie. But faith-based rated-R movie, released during the pandemic! Craziness.
How did you transform yourself from a boxer to an overweight person?
The boxing stuff was easy because I had done it for so long, it was really second nature for me. We shot all the fights on the first day. And then I was so excited about, now I can eat whatever I want. I had a plan to have 7,000 calories a day for the first two weeks and then 11,000 calories a day for the final four weeks. A lot of high protein and then starch and then a sodium to get bloated. But the first meal was the only good meal. I was so stuffed. And then when I went home, I laid down and there was a knock on my door and it's like meal number two is ready. And then it was just depressing after that.
You shot during the pandemic. What was that like?
We rehearsed once on Zoom when I was in the Dominican Republic and then when we showed up on the set, it was like, let's go, there was no rehearsal. We shot it in 30 days, that's all we could afford. I lost my mom through the movie and I have been through a lot of emotional things.
How did Mel Gibson get involved?
I knew it was a tough sell and I knew that Mel had made The Passion of the Christ on his own, and I had always kind of picked his brain about that, and I just went to pick his brain again. And I had read something that Rosalind had wrote for Mel to direct that I was going to act in and I just thought it was such a wonderful screenplay and she is such a wonderful writer. She then said that she was interested in taking a crack at it and so I said okay, go ahead. And then I went to go off to make a movie, and I came back and she handed me the script and I was like, this is the movie that I want to make.
So your faith is the driving force in your life?
All the good things in my life I accredit to my faith. From having a difficult childhood, being born into an area that was plagued with violence and gangs and drugs and I was right there in the thick of it. But once I really started focusing on my faith, good things started to happen for me, like okay, this really works. Of course, I have had many struggles and ups and downs as I continue to grow, but I really accredit all of my success, both professionally and especially personally, to my faith. Yes, I have continued to be blessed and fortunate, but also knowing that He was going to call and say okay, now it's time to give back and do what I really want you to do with all of these things that I have given you. That will be financially, as well as me going and doing the personal work and inspiring and challenging everybody else to do their part, whatever their part is.