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Rosalind Ross talks making ‘Father Stu’ with Mark Wahlberg and Mel Gibson – Press Telegram

Stuart Long was an English college student, who later won the Montana Heavyweight Gold Glove title at the age of 22 before a reconstructive jaw surgery forced him to end his dream of becoming a boxer. So Long moved to Los Angeles to become an actor: he had no experience, only charisma and determination.

Long got some roles in commercials but was disillusioned with the industry and became manager of the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. But his life was diverted again when he almost died while riding his motorcycle from work. This near-death experience changed his view of religion and he was baptized as a Roman Catholic to marry the woman he loved.

But they never married. When Long was baptized, he felt called by God to the priesthood and renewed his life, teaching in Catholic schools in Mission Hills and then in New York before earning a master’s degree in philosophy. Along the way, Long discovered that he had an ALS-like illness, which stole her body and would end her life. Still, Long never lost his desire to help others while he lived.

If this sounds like a Hollywood movie, first of all, you should know that it’s all true. Second, you should know that Hollywood, specifically Mark Wahlberg, agrees. Wahlberg spent years trying to develop the film, and eventually led Rosalind Ross to write and direct “Father Stu.”

Ross is known in celebrity culture for having a relationship with Mel Gibson, but has established his good faith writing in the industry with “Barbarian” (which is being developed for production) and other screenplays. This is his directorial debut and also features Gibson as Long’s father, whose relationship with Long shapes the film.

Ross spoke on the phone recently about the film, developing the film with Wahlberg and working with Gibson. This interview was edited for extension and clarity.

Father Mark Wahlberg had been developing this project for years. How did you end up with that?

I wrote two other screenplays in which Mark was attached to star, one of which was a blind presentation and another that we developed together for Paramount. So one day he told me this story. I don’t know why then or why in general.

Q. Did you read what you already had or did you start from scratch?

I was sent a draft earlier. I skimmed it, or actually said I skimmed it. I don’t like to read what other people have written, I prefer to look at a blank canvas. Writing is a personal journey and I have to find in my head the voice of the character; when you read someone else’s interpretation of the character muddy the waters

Q. What did you call the story?

This is a young man looking for a purpose, looking for light in the dark. That’s something I can relate to and I think a lot of people can. Telling a story about a person who finds what he is looking for seemed like a beautiful and important opportunity.

Q. Is this a film about religious faith or individual redemption?

I think it’s the last one. Sure, there is an element of faith, but it is about someone finding personal salvation as much as someone who finds salvation-salvation. I just wanted to show the deep journey this character has gone through. The ending is bittersweet, but I find it incredibly encouraging because it achieves its ultimate victory in healing its own family. But it is subtle.

Q. How do you balance the narrative with the representation of real people?

I had access to Stuart Long’s father and his best friend at the seminary, but I did a lot of personal interpretations and took liberties: with these real stories there is always a delicate balance. You also have to be entertained, so you have to increase the reality, and I think that’s fine.

But I took my tonal track from the man himself: from the stories I heard, he took his diagnosis calmly and with dignity. And he was able to laugh at himself. Part of what was so inspiring was that he had such a beautiful view of suffering, and he didn’t want people to feel sorry for him. It inspired so many other people to look at their lives and their suffering in a completely different way and that was a real gift. So that’s from the character’s DNA.

Q. Did you think of Mel Gibson all the time for the role of father? Was he looking over your shoulder reading the script and saying, “I can do it”?

I didn’t let him read anything until it was over, but I had it in mind. Mark and I talked about it, but Mel had a lot going on at the time. Then I gave him the script to read on a plane; I sat on the other side of the hall looking at him and when he was finished he was crying so I thought, “Okay, I got it.”

Q. Were you concerned that viewers, watching him scream angrily on the road, were distracted by real-life connections?

If they do, that’s their problem, not mine.

Q. This is your first time directing and you had an Oscar-winning director at home and on set with you. Did you discuss the process with him?

Mel was a mentor and was there if I needed her advice, but she let me have the space to figure it out on my own and make my own mistakes. It would be silly not to choose his brain, but I have a very different style and identity to him as a filmmaker and it was important for me to make this journey only as an artist.

Q. What did you learn about direction on that trip?

Sometimes the best thing to do is just get out of the way; that was true both for me when dealing with the actors and for the actors when dealing with how to play the character. Thinking too much is often a barrier to portraying someone in a naturalistic or compelling way.

It was also important to build trust: Mark and I had a relationship before we started filming, and we were on the same page, so there were a few times when we didn’t really agree on how I was performing a scene.

Q. What did you learn from yourself?

As a writer, I’m so used to being in my own head and I’m so comfortable with that, so the idea of ​​having to be around people all the time and lead them was daunting. But I learned that I could do it. I’ve learned that I can be extroverted when I need to.

Rosalind Ross talks making ‘Father Stu’ with Mark Wahlberg and Mel Gibson – Press Telegram Source link Rosalind Ross talks making ‘Father Stu’ with Mark Wahlberg and Mel Gibson – Press Telegram

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