Sony Pictures has acquired Father Stu, the biography of short-lived but extraordinary priest Father Stuart Long, starring Mark Wahlberg in the title role, along with Mel Gibson, Jacki Weaver (Yellowstone) and Teresa Ruiz.
Written and directed by Rosalind Ross — reportedly Gibson’s longtime significant other — the film is set to be released on Good Friday, April 15.
UPDATE: Sony has now changed the release date to April 13.
For a post on the film last June, I interviewed Father Sean Raftis, pastor of St. Richard Catholic Church in Columbia Falls, Montana, who had Father Stu as a confessor, and Bishop George Thomas of the Diocese of Las Vegas.
Thomas was formerly the bishop of the Diocese of Helena, Montana, when he ordained Father Stu, even though the priest’s health was declining because of inclusion body myositis, which mimics ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
From the earlier post:
On June 9, 2014, Father Stuart Long, subject of Mark Wahlberg’s upcoming movie Father Stu, passed away at the age of 50 at the Big Sky Care Center in Helena, Montana. It was the end of a too-short life that saw him move from prizefighter to actor to museum manager to Catholic convert to Catholic priest.
Said Bishop Thomas:
In a Skype chat, he recalls, “So, my struggle was whether or not I would call him to Holy Orders, for a couple of reasons. One is, obviously, he’d have a very short active priesthood; there are tremendous costs associated with this kind of care, a lot of question marks.
“But I kept being prompted by the Holy Spirit, moving forward the Holy Orders. And in my estimation, there’s a lot of power in redemptive suffering, and that’s exactly how he lived.
“His priesthood was about six years altogether, and he was stunningly effective in those years. And things like, I’d go to visit him at the rehab center, which was really a rehab nursing home. And it would not be unusual to have six or eight or 10 people lined up outside his room waiting to go to confession.”
Added Father Raftis:
“He was very Christlike,” says Father Raftis. “It was great, because he was a great priest, but he was like an old shoe, in a way. He could talk to anybody. He was just a very charismatic man. He just drew so many people to him. And it was very interesting, because the time he drew so many people to him is when he was suffering the most.”
“Father Stu’s journey from troublemaker to clergyman was inspiring to many, including me,” said Wahlberg. “Rosey has done an incredible job capturing the essence of who he was and how he affected the people he met. I hope that with this film, we keep his spirit alive and continue his good works.”
Along with starring as Father Stu — which required him to put about 30 pounds on his normally lean physique — Wahlberg, a very public Catholic, is a producer on the film, with Stephen Levinson and Jordon Foss. Among the executive producers are Miky Lee, Colleen Camp, Patrick Peach and Tony Grazia.
Gibson, whose relationship with Catholicism is, shall we say, complicated, plays Bill Long, Stu’s father.
Here’s a video from Collider about Wahlberg’s physical transformation for Father Stu:
UPDATE: On Feb. 8, the trailer for the film dropped, and here it is:
Image: Sony Pictures/Diocese of Helena
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