What are the odds that a boxer with a criminal background would end up becoming a devoted and impactful Catholic priest? Perhaps they’re not high, but that’s exactly what happened in the case of Father Stuart Long, whose life story has been adapted into the film “Father Stu.”
“Stu was a guy always looking for his calling,” explained Mark Wahlberg, who portrays the titular role, embodying a character the actor felt passionately about doing justice.
Wahlberg’s own priest was the first to tell him Long’s story.
“He told me the story and I’m like, oh my God, I have to make this movie,” Wahlberg told Inside Edition.
Long grew up in Montana. He played football in high school and college, became an amateur boxer and tried his hand at acting. He got in trouble with the law and with drinking. But eventually, he found God.
“When he stumbled on his faith, it’s remarkable how gravitated to it and how unwavering he was throughout,” Wahlberg said.
Long’s religious revelation came after he almost lost his life in a motorcycle accident. Surviving what many believed he wouldn’t Long came our with a new lease in life and a determination to join the clergy.
“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!” Long’s obituary read.
The movie depicts the disbelief his own mother expressed when he informed her of his desire to join the priesthood. “I’m gonna be a priest,” Wahlberg’s Long tells his mother. “For Halloween?” she replies.
But Long’s unconventional path to the priesthood may have been one of his biggest assets.
“He had a profound effect on people,” Wahlberg said. “Because of his authentic approach.”
It wasn’t easy preparing for the role. To do so, Wahlberg put on 30 pounds.
“A dozen eggs, dozen pieces of bacon, white rice, porterhouse steak,” he said of the diet he followed to become Father Stu. “It was not fun.”
Long died of a degenerative muscle disease in 2014. He was priest for only four years, but was remembered for bringing “a servant’s heart to each and every minute of his ministry, his love increasing in power as physical strength declined,” his obituary read.
“Father Stu became a beloved priest, confessor and friend to countless people. He taught by example, willingly accepting the pain and weakness each day brought; Stu said it was the best thing that ever happened to him, because it allowed him to shed the pride he had felt for most of his life,” his obituary continued. “Father Stu will be missed, but his legacy of love and selflessness lives on in the hearts and minds of all he served.”
Wahlberg echoed those sentiments, telling Inside Edition, “The impact that he had in the short amount of time that he served as a priest was remarkable to me.”