The Passion of the Christ director and Lethal Weapon actor Mel Gibson recently provided quite a bit of details about his newest film, Father Stu, where he plays Father Stuart Long’s father, Bill Long.
Gibson spilled the beans to Father Dave Nix on his Padre Peregrino YouTube channel as part of his ongoing Theology and Current Events segment.
At the beginning of the interview, Gibson relates a brief summary of Father Stu’s life saying, “Well, he was just guy, a rough and tumble guy. He was very good at boxing. He was like kind of a Golden Gloves champ guy in Montana. He lived a life like most young guys, pretty venial. He liked to drink, he liked to fight, he liked to, you know, pretty much go where he would.”
Gibson continued, “And he just had a conversion experience, at one point. He met and fell in love with a young woman who was Catholic and then he started to explore what that meant. In the screenplay, she says, ‘I can’t date someone who is not baptized.’ And he goes, ‘Well, where’s the water?’ So, he doesn’t enter into it with the purest of motives.”
“What he ends up doing — he had a motorcycle accident and he described some kind of out-of-body experience that occurred while he was in the twilight zone,” Gibson explained. “He survived the accident, a hideous one, he got hit by a car and then he got run over by another. So they didn’t expect him to live, but he pulled through. And when he snapped out of it, he said he needed to be a priest.”
“And the girl was like, ‘But we were going to get married.’ And he’s like, ‘Sorry, I need to be a priest.’ And he was really dead sure about it and he followed that,” he elaborated.
Gibson then relayed, “And, of course, he did follow that, but it wasn’t a grease ride because he also developed a disease [inclusion body myositis] it’s kind of like Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS, it’s a bit like that, but slightly different, which eventually got him.”
“But he was ordained and fulfilled his priesthood, but was ill. He died at the age of 50, I think. That conversion and what he was able to achieve and relate to other people about the nature of suffering — he considered himself to be pretty lucky that he had these trials and was able to communicate that to others. He was an inspiration to many. And I think the film itself and I’ve seen it is pretty inspirational,” he asserted.
Gibson then went on to detail, “Yea, I play his Dad. And they were kind of agnostics as a family. One of Stuart’s triumphs, I think, was that he converted his parents, before he checked out. And that’s portrayed in the film.”
When asked how he thinks this film will affect priests and if any priests have seen it, Gibson answers, “Yea, they have. They love it. And they’re quite emotionally moved by and are relieved and surprised that it sort of portrays the priesthood in a very positive way.”
“In most cases, it is that. One hears about the bad news. I mean there’s some bad apples, you know. And that is just so tragic that that has to be, but that is the case unfortunately. But, hey, they are not all bad apples. The majority are good guys. I think that they were pleased and quite moved by the film. It is a good experience,” he says.
Gibson went on to state, “And you don’t have to be a Christian to appreciate it either. I think the story works across the board for just about anybody that wants to see it. Because it talks about faith, conviction, and relationships in families that need healing. I think you see that in this. So the many people who aren’t even religious are moved by the film.”
“It’s pretty good. She did a very good job. The director [Rosalind Ross], she wrote it and directed it. And it was the first time she directed, but has done a phenomenal job. It was like she was born to do it,” he declared.
Later in the interview, Gibson would provide more details about the film explaining, “It really displays the tenets of the faith in a pretty pure way. And almost in a comical way. The really, wonderfully, surprising thing about watching the film with an audience as I did is that they begin to laugh at the beginning and they really laugh a lot.”
He went on, “Particularly Catholics because they get the human. Because you have a guy who’s an outsider asking questions about like — well that seems pretty weird — he’s asking about confession being a laundry service and all this kind of stuff, which is your basic assumptions that people make that they don’t understand completely, which is kind of comical.”
“So there is a lot of fun in the film. And you laugh and you laugh and you laugh until you cry,” The Passion of the Christ director explained. “It works very well. The writer followed the old Shakespearean technique of if you’re going to make tragedy have the first half be a comedy. And it does that very well and beautifully.”
Gibson then provided some more details about Father Stu’s life explaining, “He was pretty zealous about what he found. Because I think he found peace in his own life and existence and he wanted to bring it to other people. He was serious. And there’s footage of him even at the end of the film there’s real footage of him talking.
“He was an inspiration to many. Apparently, when he was on the way out, people would just line up to talk to him. That’s portrayed in the film. He was in demand, incredibly so and was very [generous] with his time even though he was suffering,” he concluded.
The official description of the film reads, “Based on a true story, Father Stu is an unflinchingly honest, funny and ultimately uplifting drama about a lost soul who finds his purpose in a most unexpected place. When an injury ends his amateur boxing career, Stuart Long (Mark Wahlberg) moves to L.A. dreaming of stardom. While scraping by as a supermarket clerk, he meets Carmen (Teresa Ruiz), a Catholic Sunday school teacher who seems immune to his bad-boy charm.”
It continues, “Determined to win her over, the longtime agnostic starts going to church to impress her. But surviving a terrible motorcycle accident leaves him wondering if he can use his second chance to help others find their way, leading to the surprising realization that he is meant to be a Catholic priest.”
“Despite a devastating health crisis and the skepticism of Church officials and his estranged parents (Mel Gibson and Jacki Weaver), Stu pursues his vocation with courage and compassion, inspiring not only those closest to him but countless others along the way,” the description concludes.
The film was recently picked up by Sony and is expected to arrive in theaters on April 13, 2022.
Do you plan on checking out Father Stu? What do make of Gibson’s praise for the film?