The Catholic actor has been getting attention lately for his dramatic weight gain — and it’s reportedly for a film based on the real-life story of a boxer-turned-priest:
Mark Wahlberg has been trying to mount a biopic on boxer-turned-priest Father Stuart Long for at least six years. Now, however, thanks to help from above – or at the very least, Malibu – it looks like the feature project may be finally going before cameras.
Wahlberg has enlisted Mel Gibson and writer-director Rosalind Ross, Gibson’s longtime partner, for the biopic, titled Father Stu. Ross has written the script and will make her feature directorial debut, with Wahlberg playing the embattled priest. Gibson would play Long’s father while Teresa Ruiz, one of the stars of Narcos: Mexico, on board to play his girlfriend.
The story is one of grit, faith and redemption. Long was an angry young man, alienating both students and priests at the Catholic college he attended, turning to boxing as a release. A hoped-for career didn’t take off thanks to a broken jaw so he moved to L.A. for a career in the movies. Even that wasn’t working out when one evening he suffered a horrible motorcycle accident – he was hit by one car, then run over by another. In the hospital, according to reports, he had an out of body experience and rediscovered his faith and enlisted in Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon.
Here, Long’s life took another curve, as while studying, he was diagnosed with a rare degenerative muscle disease and by the time he was ordained as priest, he was on crutches. By the time he was a full-fledged priest working on Montana, he was performing duties in a motorized chair. When he passed away in 2014, many were looking to him as an example of faith and love overcoming pain and hardship.
From Long’s obituary:
Father Stu was born at Harbor View Medical Center in Seattle on July 26, 1963, to Bill and Kathleen (Kindrick) Long.
While he was still a toddler, the family moved to Helena, his parents’ hometown. The mountains literally rose up from the backyard of the family home on South Main and Stu loved joining his older siblings and the other neighborhood kids in exploring all the trails. Stu began his elementary education at Central School in Helena and graduated from Capital High School in 1981.
Stu grew into a big young man, proud of the powerful physique he developed while wrestling and playing football for the Bruins. He moved on to Carroll College, playing Saints football for two years and developing a passion for boxing, in which he excelled. He won the 1985 Golden Gloves heavyweight title for Montana and was runner-up in 1986, the year he graduated from Carroll, having earned a degree in English literature and writing. A planned career as a prizefighter was nipped in the bud by reconstructive jaw surgery, so at his mom’s suggestion he moved to Los Angeles intent on breaking into the movies.
Though he made some commercials and had a few bit parts, Stu eventually became disillusioned by the film industry, which he later described as “seedy.” Looking beyond the comedy club and bar jobs that had paid the bills, he took a position with the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, where he rose to become manager, a position he held for seven years. Riding his motorcycle home from the museum one evening, he was struck by a car, then run over by another. This close brush with death was a turning point in Stu’s life, prompting an exploration of religious faith that ultimately led to his baptism as a Roman Catholic so that he could marry the beautiful young lady he loved. God had other plans!
Stu felt a call to the priesthood as he was baptized, and in order to determine if it was genuine, he left the museum in 1998 to teach for three years at a Catholic school in Mission Hills, California. He went on to serve with the Capuchin Friars in New York City, working in some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. The friars sent him to Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, to study philosophy. After earning his master’s there, he was steered towards pastoral service, receiving his priestly formation for the Diocese of Helena at Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon. He was ordained a priest by Bishop Thomas on Dec. 14, 2007, at the Cathedral of St. Helena, along with his good friend Father Bart Tolleson.
While a seminarian at Mount Angel, Stu underwent surgery to remove a tumor discovered on his hip, after which the strength began ebbing from his once powerful body. He was diagnosed with inclusion body myositis, an extremely rare autoimmune disease that mimics the symptoms of ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and for which there is no cure. By the time of his ordination, Father Stu was walking with the aid of crutches. His first assignment was to Little Flower Parish in Browning. After two falls, he was sent to Anaconda where his physical challenges could be better accommodated. Father Stu found his great love serving as a priest, administering the sacraments and counseling his flock. Though only in Anaconda a short time, he left an indelible mark in the hearts of the Catholic community there.
In 2010, the diocese brought him home to Helena, where Father Stu took up a new life and ministry at Big Sky Care Center. Now using a power chair, and with the tireless assistance of his dad, Bill Long, Father Stu spread his love throughout Helena’s parishes. He celebrated Mass regularly at St. Mary’s and Big Sky Care Center, as well as traveling wherever asked to perform the duties of his calling.
Montana Catholic interviewed Father Stu in 2010: