HELENA — The Mark Wahlberg movie “Father Stu,” which is based on the life of Helena priest Father Stuart Long, is returning to theaters this week. “Father Stu: Reborn” is a PG-13 rated cut of the original film which premiered in April.
MTN’s John Riley sat down with Wahlberg and the films director/writer Rosalind Ross in April at the Montana premiere of "Father Stu" and got their take on bringing the story of Stuart Long to the big screen.
Full MTN interview with Mark Wahlberg
“You know, everybody who sees it is touched in their own personal way, which is fantastic,” said Wahlberg. “And I'm just hoping that Stu’s dedication and commitment and service to God is going to rub off on people. And it's just going to challenge them, when they're walking out of the theater on a very emotional high to just trying to do a little bit more, just be a little bit better, you know, just do their part. And I think that's all we can ask for.”
Born in Seatle, but raised in Helena, Long was a prominent athlete, playing football for both the Capital High School Bruins and the Carroll College Saints. Long also won the 1985 Golden Gloves heavyweight title for Montana and was runner-up in 1986.
After a jaw injury from prizefighting, Long made the decision to move to Los Angeles to take a shot at becoming a movie star, although he never did anything more than commercials and bit parts.
Friends remember Father Stu
A near-fatal motorcycle accident in L.A. prompted him to explore his religious faith which ultimately lead to his baptism as a Roman Catholic so that he could marry his girlfriend at the time.
Long said he felt the calling to become a priest during his baptism. In the following years, he’d explore his faith to make sure the calling was genuine. He received his priestly formation for the Diocese of Helena at Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon and was ordained a priest by Bishop Thomas on December 14, 2007, at St. Helena Cathedral.
While in seminary, Long was diagnosed with an extremely rare autoimmune disease that mimics the symptoms of ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The disease ultimately claimed his life, but despite the hardship, he continued his ministry up until his disease claimed his life.
Stu’s father Bill Long, portrayed by Mel Gibson in the film, played a huge role in the priest's life, although Bill is quick to say he was just doing what he could. Bill was a constant presence toward the end of Stu’s life, helping care for him and aiding Stu with his ministry.
Fr. Stu Long passed away in the early morning hours of Monday, June 9, 2014, at the Big Sky Care Center. He was 50 years old at the time.
MTN interview with Director/Writer Rosey Ross
While Stu may not have initially made it big in Hollywood, he had a big impact on the lives he touched. Those who knew him or attended mass with him remember Long fondly and with reverence.
Wahlberg said he’s proud to be able to share Stu’s story with the world.
“I was doing an interview and somebody was saying, ‘Well, you know, he was successful as a boxer. And you know, he failed miserably as an actor, but then he really found his calling,'” recalled Wahlberg. “And I was like, ‘Wait a second.’ I don't know I kind of got a little offended by it, that they were real quick to judge his experience in Hollywood. It's a difficult place to navigate. And so it dawned on me so, wait a second here, we're actually here right now promoting a major motion picture being released by a major studio. I'd say that's a success in Hollywood.”