Mark Wahlberg’s Catholic Priest Boxer Pic Takes Brutal Box Office Beating

Barely topping $100K this weekend, the Wahlberg-Gibson religious pugilist flick “Father Stu” was an epic bungle in the box office jungle
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Apparently, the Lord failed to intervene on behalf of Mark Wahlberg and Mel Gibson this weekend, as a swear-free cut of their April release Father Stu hit 1,000 theaters to earn just $125,000 at the box office.

While the true story of hell-raising amateur boxer turned Catholic priest Stuart Long didn’t exactly pack them in during spring’s Holy Week premiere, its curse-scrubbed, PG-13 version—semi-blasphemously retitled Father Stu: Reborn, and released for Christmas—brought in less than the collection plate of a midsized parish. As Matthew Belloni notes in Puck’s Monday newsletter, the film’s take of $110 per theater means 14 people at each venue paid to see the Wahlberg flick this weekend.

A faith-based work from two of Hollywood’s more problematic Catholic actors, Father Stu stars Wahlberg in the title role and Gibson as his abusive, alcoholic father. It also marks the directorial debut of writer Rosalind Ross, who’s reportedly dating Gibson.

“Father Stu’s journey from troublemaker to clergyman was inspiring to many, including me,” Wahlberg told Variety in January. “Rosey has done an incredible job capturing the essence of who he was and how he affected the people he met. I hope that with this film, we keep his spirit alive and continue his good works.”

Unlike many religions, Catholicism demands that its faithful perform good works, which Wahlberg has been attempting with Father Stu for the past six years. As the Oscar-nominated star of The Departed told Insider, he had been looking to tell a story that expressed his faith when he felt a personal resonance with the life of a wayward, foul-mouthed boxer who pursued the priesthood after a near-fatal motorcycle accident.

Although he is the successful producer of shows like Entourage and Boardwalk Empire, Wahlberg was unable to raise studio interest in Stu, so he took inspiration from a fellow traveler to self-fund it.

“I felt Mel had done it with The Passion, maybe I try it,” he said, referring to Gibson having put $30 million of his own money into the blood-soaked, all-Aramaic Biblical epic of Jesus’s crucifixion, The Passion of the Christ, which earned the cryptic Papal blurb “It is as it was” from John Paul II and charges of anti-Semitism from other corners.

“I cannot take credit for the movie’s success because this is God choosing me to make the film,” Wahlberg told Insider when the more adult version of Stu landed. “He knows finally I get to utilize all the talents and gifts that have been bestowed upon me for his greater good and to serve my part in his big picture.”

Recently, Wahlberg’s big picture has also included doing series of ads for the Catholic prayer app Hallow (along with scandal-dogged Brett Favre and The Passion of‘s own messiah and horrible Superman, Jim Caviezel), an appearance that prompted online chatter about the Boston-born actor’s alleged early dabbling in hate crime, as well as Wahlberg selling his $90 million Hollywood mansion to seek a better life for his kids in the apparently more family-friendly town of Las Vegas, where income tax is a venial sin.

One of a handful of timid celebs who fled L.A. and California during and shortly after the pandemic, the veteran Funky Bunch leader also explained in October that living in the heart of the entertainment industry wasn’t exactly doing wonders for his career.

“I moved to California many years ago to pursue acting,” he said, “and I’ve only made a couple of movies in the entire time that I was there.”

They say that when the Lord closes a door, he opens a new home in Sin City.


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