Mel Gibson spoke out and revealed why Mark Wahlberg’s faith-based film, which The Passion of the Christ director co-starred in, needed to be made.
The faith-based film Father Stu received critical acclaim from audiences. However, not many Hollywood critics sang its praises, which for Mark Wahlberg, who produced and starred in the film, turns out to be a great sign. To make the film, Wahlberg had to finance the entire movie himself after being turned down by every studio in Tinsel Town.
Nevertheless, all Wahlberg had to do was follow in the footsteps of Mel Gibson, who also shopped his iconic film The Passion of the Christ all over Hollywood and had no takers. Gibson took a chance and decided to finance the film and direct it himself. The result was one of the highest-grossing movies of all time, even though it was also panned by many Hollywood critics.
During a Fox News interview, Gibson said he was grateful that Wahlberg “listened to his gut,” took “an act of faith,” and was able to make this film about the real-life boxer turned priest, Father Stuart Long. The Oscar-winning director said the film offers “many life lessons about suffering and faith that the world needs to hear right now.”
“He looked into himself and who he was as a person,” Gibson said of the real-life Father Stu. “He came to accept his mortality and what he could do. You know, we’re all gonna get hit with something, either an illness or just some horrible, unfortunate mishap. We’re all going to experience something that’s going to affect us emotionally or physically. So how do you deal with those things? How do you heal? That’s the lesson for me.”
In order to play Long, the incredibly fit Wahlberg put on a whopping 30 pounds in eight months by eating 11,000 calories per day. He even went so far as to drink olive oil to play the part, and Gibson was impressed by his commitment to the role.
“He hit his mark,” Gibson said of Wahlberg. “He ate everything in sight for like a month. And mind you, it was only a 30-day shoot. He had to start eating peanut butter sandwiches and stuffing himself with spaghetti, steak, and cups of lard. I don’t know how he did it,” he continued. “I don’t have to try to do that. I just have to live normally and I blimp out. But he had to put in some effort. And then he managed to get it all off, which I can’t do no matter what I try. But I’ll ask him for some advice.”
Of course, Gibson wasn’t surprised Wahlberg couldn’t obtain financing from any of the major Hollywood studios. When asked about the stresses and decision to put one’s own finances on the line to make such a film, Gibson said, “It was tight, but that’s the beauty of it. There’s the art and then there’s that moment when it all comes together by the grace of God.”
Wahlberg agreed as Gibson added, “I think we’re really fortunate that the material was placed in the hands of a very competent and talented young writer who was able to take the story from the page to the screen. I think that’s what makes the difference. It’s about the execution and how it comes to life. You laugh through most of the film until you cry. And the reason you’re laughing and crying is that it’s hitting truth.”
Faith-based movies are usually well-received by Americans. Over the last 40 years, Hollywood studios have had little to no interest in seeing them made. That wasn’t always the case. Some of the highest-grossing films are based on Christian themes, like the 1959 film Ben Hur and the 1956 movie The Ten Commandments, which are two of the most financially successful films of all time.
Based on The Passion of the Christ and Father Stu, Americans’ taste for these films didn’t change, it was the Hollywood culture that changed, says Mel Gibson. “You know, I had a pretty big experience with The Passion,” he explained. “That was an interesting journey to understand that there’s a real thirst for this kind of content out there. People want it, and they respond well to it. So it’s a privilege to be a part of that delivery.”