Mark Wahlberg talks faith, family and putting on 14kg for his new role


Mark Wahlberg stars in "Father Stu" (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/WireImage)
Mark Wahlberg stars in "Father Stu" (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/WireImage)
Mark Wahlberg is in Los Angeles to promote his latest film Father Stu, based on a true story about a boxer, Stu Long, who makes the unlikely decision to become a priest.

He grew up with an abusive father, Bill, played by Mel Gibson and his mother, Kathleen, is portrayed by Jacki Weaver.  It’s a heartfelt movie about redemption and reminds us that no matter our age, it’s never too late to turn your life around.  

At 50, Wahlberg is father of four ranging from 12 – 18 years old, and has been married to model, Rhea Durham, since 2009.  

One of the most successful actor-producers in Hollywood, Wahlberg has an estimated net worth of US$350 million (according to Forbes magazine)  He is the youngest of nine siblings, and was raised by his mother, a nurse and bank clerk, and his father, a delivery driver, who divorced when he was 11 years old.

Wahlberg is all too familiar with the idea of redemption.  You may remember, at the age of 16, he was sentenced to two years in prison (though only served 45 days) for attempted murder after he attacked an elderly Vietnamese man.  He turned his life around immediately following his attack.

Father Stu changes the course of his life and makes a lifestyle decision that his mother isn’t 100 percent supportive of – how did that dynamic resonate with you?

My mom was amazing in that as long as we were doing something positive and productive, she was happy. Both her and my dad were always proud of my success in business, but most importantly, they were really proud of my growth as a person.  They just wanted their kids to do well and to be good siblings and parents. So that’s what made her most proud. And I think it’s amazing because I kind of searched long and hard to find what my calling was and I really felt like I found that in film. 

While Stu was declining physically he gained in spirituality. How did you feel about that? 

I thought that was important. And as we kind of get older, we get weaker, we get less mobile, we have more knowledge and more understanding and experience of life, we say youth is wasted on the young, and it’s one of those things where you always wish you could go back and do things differently and we all would.  Unfortunately, you don’t get to do that. But it was just a big part of the story.

You put on nearly 14 kilos for the role.  That must be exhausting – both putting on and then losing it.

Yes.  I am definitely over the losing weight, gaining weight.  I gained the weight and I stayed in the character for nine months.  It was really important for the role and it was not fun. I had put on weight on my stomach but I had gotten a bug before that and then I got COVID after that, so it was just a nightmare.

This is not the first time you’ve played a boxer – it wasn’t that long ago that you did The Fighter. Was it easy to get back into it?

The boxing stuff was easy because I had done it for so long, so it was really second nature for me. So, worked on the choreography a little bit and then we kind of just threw it out the window.  We shot all the fights in one day, on the first day. And then so I was trying to be as lean and in shape as possible up until the first day. And then I was so excited thinking, ‘Now I can eat whatever I want!’. I said, ‘Okay, I have a plan to have seven thousand calories a day for the first two weeks and then eleven thousand calories a day for the final four weeks.’ And one was a lot of high protein and then starch and then a sodium to get bloated. But the first meal was the only good meal. And we were boxing all day and my guy was grilling up these porterhouse steaks outside the trailer, we brought this little barbecue. And he’s making them and we worked all day and then we were able to sit there and have this big, beautiful meal.  I had a steak and I had a baked potato and everything. I was so stuffed. And then when I went home, I laid down and there was a knock on my door and I’d be like ‘What the heck is going on?’ I’d get up and it would be, meal number two is ready! But then it was just depressing after that and then the whole thing was downhill.

Wahlberg poses with his wife at the Oscars where his co-star in 2010 film ‘The Fighter’, Christina Bale, wins an Academy Award.

Can you talk about how faith plays a part in your life?

It was one of those things where I was always just kind of working on me.  I had ambition, I wanted to build this company, I wanted to build this brand. And then it was like, ‘Okay well what am I going to do with it?’ I know God didn’t bless me in this way to forget about where I came from, even with all the stuff I do with the foundation [Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation].  It was like, the clock is ticking now.  It’s time to utilise the gifts that I have been given. And it’s funny because that’s how life is, God is not going to give you something you can’t handle and will always put in you in the right position at the right time. So I have always been a person of faith but I knew that, especially now, there’s so much emphasis on negativity and not enough on positivity that I really wanted to start to promote that kind of message and I wanted to get that out there.  I know what it’s like for people who feel like they have been written off and then they don’t have an opportunity or second chance at life.  I mean in real life, not in entertainment or things of that nature, but real life.

Your choice of parents played by Mel Gibson and Jacki Weaver, was interesting and Australian royalty in terms of the entertainment business.  

I knew that Mel had made “The Passion of the Christ” on his own.  And actually Mel was Bill Long’s (Father Stu’s father) first choice, second choice and third choice to play him in the film. And it’s odd because I’ve made a lot of movies about real people and it’s always very delicate.  People are usually very sensitive when it comes to it and Bill is the first person that I have ever met that was like, ‘Oh my gosh, Mel is so funny!’ Bill got a kick out of it, watching it for the first time with an audience.  And Jacki, she was just fantastic, she was also there for me even though she may not have known it, in a very difficult time when I had lost my mom. Always just looking at her she always gave me comfort and hope, she gave me a little hug. 

That must have been very difficult but faith helps during those times.  

Our time is our time and God knows when our time is and we don’t unfortunately. But that’s why I try to live every moment to the fullest and certainly I go through life with the attitude and gratitude and I have been very fortunate and very blessed and I know God is very real, certainly very real to me. So, I have had so many other things too that have happened in my life that I got to thank God for on a daily basis.



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