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Wahlberg and Gibson to star in biopic on boxer turned priest

Wahlberg and Gibson

Alex Millauer | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 05/18/21

The film has been in development since Fr. Long's death in 2016.

Mark Wahlberg and Mel Gibson will star in an upcoming biopic about the life of Fr. Stuart Long. Wahlberg will take the lead as Fr. Long, while Gibson will play his father. The movie has only just started filming and has yet to announce a release date. 

Fr. Stuart Long

Fr. Long had a long and winding road to the priesthood. As a young man he was an aspiring boxer with a promising future. In 1985, Long won the Montana Golden Gloves championship, but he eventually left the circuit after a particularly brutal fight left him in need of facial reconstructive surgery. 

Angelus News reports that Long switched from sports to acting, moving to Hollywood and attempting to get his foot in the door. There, he found moderate success in commercials and as a background extra, but this was not the career he had envisioned. 

Leaving behind acting, The Catholic Telegraph explains, Long made another career change, accepting a position at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California. For seven years he worked as a manager of the museum, to which he would often ride a motorcycle. 

Tragedy struck one day as he was driving home, when his bike was hit by a car. After tumbling off the motorcycle, he was hit by another car. In a 2010 interview with Fr. Long, provided by the Catholic Telegraph, Long described the accident in his own words:

“One day, I was riding home after work, and I got hit by a car, and I smashed into a car in the next lane with my head. The witnesses told the sheriffs and reporters that I was rolling down the road and another car ran over the top of me. And here I am.”

It was in the hospital that Long had a “religious experience,” and when he returned home, he discerned his vocation. Fr. Long entered Oregon’s Mount Angel Seminary in 2003 and was ordained a priest in 2007.

The drama does not end there, however, as Fr. Long was diagnosed with a rare degenerative muscular disease while in seminary. Slowly moving from crutches to a motorized wheelchair, Fr. Long never let his disability get in the way of his duties. His death, in 2016, was a blow to the Diocese of Helena, which remembers him as a transformative figure. 

The movie

The feature film on Fr. Long’s life has been in development since 2016. After hearing about Fr. Long’s passing, Wahlberg teamed with filmmaker David O. Russell to produce the project. With a script from Rosalind Ross, Gibson’s partner and mother of his youngest child, the famed actor soon came on board as well. 

The production has only just begun filming so there are few details to share. With so many events to cover prior to his conversion and vocation, it is hard to tell to what extent the film will cover Fr. Long’s ministry. Wahlberg has assured the Diocese of Helena that he intends to “do honor” to the late priest’s memory. 

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