Is Father Stu Based on a True Story?

Image Credit: Karen Ballard/Sony Pictures

Directed by Rosalind Ross, ‘Father Stu’ is a touching drama movie. It follows Stuart Long, an amateur boxer who quits the sport after an injury and lands in Los Angeles to look for a job. To woo his ladylove named Carmen, an otherwise agnostic Stu begins attending church in jest. But a motorcycle accident changes his perspective. Realizing his true calling in life, he embarks on the path of God to become a reputed Catholic priest.

Featuring a stellar cast comprising Mark Wahlberg, Mel Gibson, and Teresa Ruiz, ‘Father Stu’ amazes the audience with its heartwarming narrative and realistic characters. Such is the impact of the movie that everyone wonders whether it is inspired by a real person’s life. Are you curious to find that out as well? Let’s see for ourselves!

Is Father Stu Based on a True Story?

Yes, ‘Father Stu’ is based on a true story. The biographical movie portrays the dynamic life of Father Stuart Long, a former boxer who turned to Catholicism and became a priest. Born on July 26, 1963, in Seattle, Washington, he developed an interest in football and boxing while studying at Carroll College in Helena, Montana. Long went on to win the Golden Gloves heavyweight title for Montana in 1985, which was followed by a runner-up position in 1986.

However, a painful jaw surgery led Long to quit boxing and move to Los Angeles to try his hand at acting. There, he did a few commercials and small roles as an extra, including a CBS movie where he plays a negative role. After some bad experiences with casting directors and talent acquisition agents, Long decided to exit the film industry. In addition, he worked at a bar in a comedy club at night while auditioning for roles during the daytime.

Later, Long took up a job at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, where he worked as the manager for seven years. During that time, he got into a massive motorcycle accident while riding home one day, wherein he was hit by a car and run over by another. After nearly escaping death, his outlook toward life and God began to change. Long’s then-girlfriend Cindy was a Catholic who attended church, and the couple lived together in an apartment. When he expressed his intent to marry her, she said that he would first have to be baptized as a Roman Catholic to do so.

Thus, Long enrolled in Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) and attended classes for one and a half years. However, he underwent a sudden mental transition the moment he was baptized in the late 1990s. In an interview, he shared, “When I was baptized, at the very moment the priest is pouring the water over my head, I didn’t hear the voice of God or see a big banner come down from the sky or anything, I just knew that I was gonna be a priest.” His sudden decision surprised his girlfriend and family, but they all came around eventually.

Image Credit: Duas Ouvi – Twice I heard/YouTube

After resigning from the museum in 1998, Long taught at a Catholic school for three years and then worked with Capuchin Friars in economically challenged areas of New York. Following this, he obtained a Master’s degree in philosophy from Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, and received his priestly formation at the Mount Angel Seminary, Oregon.

Unfortunately, Long underwent a tumor removal surgery on his hip around that time, after which he got diagnosed with inclusion body myositis (IBM), a rare and incurable autoimmune disease. When he was finally ordained as a priest in 2007 at the Cathedral of Saint Helena in Montana, Long depended on crutches to even walk. Post ordination, he served at the Little Flower Parish in Browning for two years, followed by a brief stay in the city of Anaconda.

In 2010, Long eventually shifted to the Big Sky Care Center in Helena and ministered in the nursing home and parishes with the help of his father, Bill Long. After four years of devoted service to God and the community, he passed away in the early hours of June 9, 2014. He was buried at the Resurrection Cemetery in Helena. According to Long, his medical condition was the best thing that happened to him.

“The struggles of this disease helped me and help others to learn the way that we should have been living all along. And sometimes, with people like me, there’s an extreme example, we need things like this to be able to make those changes and decisions in our life that are gonna help us to become better people, to become the people that God has created us to be when he sent us to this planet,” Long further added in the video interview. His life inspired many around him and deeply moved actor-producer Mark Wahlberg, who then decided to make the movie.

Wahlberg first heard Long’s story at a restaurant from two priests from Good Shepherd Parish, Los Angeles, including Father Ed Kohler, who was a close friend of the late priest. It impacted the actor so much that he set out to create the movie with his own finances. In an interview, he shared, “I just found it to be so inspiring and so comforting, so I really couldn’t find a reason to not want to make the film.” The actor and producer also divulged that the movie influenced his own life and committed him to doing God’s work.

Moreover, Wahlberg feels that ‘Father Stu’ is the most important movie in his career as it draws parallels with his own struggles and journey. In another interview, he shared that Father Stuart Long’s story chose him and that he continues to inspire him even today. He stated that Father Stu earned tough grace through his suffering and work, which teaches one the importance of redemption and second chances.

Wahlberg not just underwent a severe physical transformation for the movie but also made it a point to portray the character as authentically as possible. Hence, we can say that ‘Father Stu’ is a fitting tribute to the courageous Father Stuart Long and his kind deeds, resilience, and amazing spirit.

Read More: Where Was Father Stu Filmed?