In an interview in Boston, Mark Wahlberg talks about “Father Stu”, faith, family

BOSTON — Mark Wahlberg enters the corner suite at the Four Seasons hotel on Dalton Street and rushes to the floor-to-ceiling windows that surround the spacious eighth-floor bedroom overlooking the city. He stops to take in the view, which is fittingly that of a place of worship: a bird’s-eye view of the sprawling Christian Science Square, with its iconic church and 200-meter reflecting pool. meters long.

Wahlberg, 50, is in Boston to host a hometown screening of his latest film, “Father Stu.” The occasion brought the Dorchester native into a reflective mood, speaking to the assembled local media to interview the star ahead of the film’s April 13 release. The Sony Pictures film tells the inspiring story of Reverend Stuart Long, a boxer-turned-priest who dies of a degenerative muscle disease at the age of 50. Wahlberg, a devout Catholic, plays Long.

“It’s exactly the kind of movie the world needs right now,” Wahlberg said. “With everything going on, people need to feel hope and joy and they need a reason to believe.”

Alma, always

The visit is Wahlberg’s first trip since his beloved mother, Alma, died a year ago after a battle with dementia. As the end credits roll, a message reads, “In loving memory of Alma Wahlberg.” That the film would be released during Holy Week and on the anniversary of his death seems a little “divine,” Wahlberg said.

“It’s strange to be home,” Wahlberg said, fighting back tears. “She was always my first phone call as soon as I landed, and I didn’t this time. He feels…I don’t know…weird.”

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Wahlberg said being on the set of “Father Stu” brought him comfort during his mother’s illness.

“She was in my thoughts every day and she is still in my thoughts every day,” he said. “Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my mother. I rely on my faith and my family for strength. Who helps.”

South Shore Ties

Wahlberg grew up in Dorchester, but he has deep ties to the South Shore. He and his brothers, New Kids on the Block actor and singer Donnie Wahlberg (“Blue Bloods”), and chef Paul Wahlberg, own Wahlburgers and Alma Nove, both at the Hingham shipyard. The name of the restaurant is a tribute to Alma and her nine children.

In recent years, Wahlberg has donated $400,000 to renovate the gymnasium and school hall at St. Edward Elementary School in Brockton, in addition to donating $20,000 to restore basketball courts in the West Elementary School in Plymouth through the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation.

The day before his Boston stop, Wahlberg was in Helena, Montana, visiting Long’s grave and hosting a screening of “Father Stu” in the priest’s hometown.

“It was very moving. We had a great turnout. Even people who are not Catholic, or religious at all, find something to identify with.

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Mel Gibson (“Braveheart”) co-stars, playing Long’s father, Bill. Jacki Weaver (“Silver Linings Playbook”) plays Long’s mother, Kathleen, with Malcolm McDowell (“A Clockwork Orange”) as Msgr. Kelly, the rector of the seminary. Gibson’s longtime girlfriend Rosalind Ross wrote and directed “Father Stu.” She graduated from Emerson College, with a degree in writing and literature.

parallel lives

Wahlberg, who served 45 days in prison for assaulting a Vietnamese man when he was 16, doesn’t deny the parallels between his life and Long’s. Both spent much of their youth fighting and drinking. Eventually, Long moved to California to pursue acting. He felt called to the priesthood after nearly dying in a motorcycle accident. Wahlberg said he identifies with this need for redemption.

“We both had troubled pasts. He’s got it all figured out, but I’m still working on things,” Wahlberg said.

The drive to make the film was intense, but an R-rated, faith-based drama with F-bombs was a “hard sell,” he said. To ease his transition from script to screen, Wahlberg invested some of his own money in realizing his vision.

“When I first heard about Father Stu, I knew I wanted to do the movie,” he said. “I’m always looking for roles that I can personally identify with. It took six years, but I knew I would get there. I want to share Father Stu’s story with the world. That’s my mission.

The role required Wahlberg to add 30 pounds to his famous physique. He had six weeks to do so, consuming “7,000 calories for the first two weeks, then 11,000 calories for the last four weeks,” Wahlberg said. “It wasn’t fun. Eating every three hours cost me dearly.” (On this day, Wahlberg is moving closer to his time as a Calvin Klein underwear model.)

In a separate interview, writer-director Ross said “Father Stu” was such a perfect combination of acting and material.

“Mark surrendered to the role. It required such humility and grace, and he truly embodied all of Stu’s finest qualities,” she said. “When I was writing, I imagined a role for him that was really tough and would defy everyone’s expectations.”

Porn star to priest

Wahlberg launched his career as rapper Marky Mark in 1991, finding success with his debut album, “Music for the People.” He started acting in 1994 with a role in “Renaissance Man,” and became a bona fide star playing Reese Witherspoon’s crazy boyfriend in “Fear” and surpassing Leonardo DiCaprio as a drug-addicted teenager in ” The Basketball Diaries”. .”

Since then he has starred in over 50 films, best known for his critically acclaimed roles as a porn star in “Boogie Nights”; a Boston police officer in “The Departed,” for which he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor; and Lowell boxer Micky Ward in Oscar-nominated “The Fighter.”

He also became one of Hollywood’s action stars for his work in the ‘Transformers’ franchise, ‘Patriotes Day’, ‘Deepwater Horizon’, ‘The Italian Job’, ‘Lone Survivor’ and the recent blockbuster ‘ Uncharted”. Showing greater reach, Walhberg also flexed his comedic chops in “The Other Guys” opposite Will Ferrell, “Ted” and “Daddy’s Home,” the latter two filmed in Boston.

Ross said she’s teaming up with Wahlberg to do another movie next year, but can’t reveal details yet (although it’s a biopic about Patriots coach Bill Belichick) .

“It’s another true story about a very colorful and complicated man,” Ross said.

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As he steals another look through the floor-to-ceiling windows, Wahlberg takes stock of his own intentions for this season of Lent.

“I used to give up but now it’s to do more and be better. It’s not about giving up, it’s about giving more.

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Contact Dana Barbuto at dbarbuto@patriotledger.com.