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The Suburbanite
  • 'Underdogs' football saga is filming in Stark County

  • For three weeks, a feature film about high-school football titled “Underdogs” has been shooting all over Stark County, with 1984 Lake High School graduate Doug Dearth in the director’s chair.

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  • For three weeks, a feature film about high-school football titled “Underdogs” has been shooting all over Stark County, with 1984 Lake High School graduate Doug Dearth in the director’s chair.
    Last week, top-billed actor D.B. Sweeney and pop singer Natalie Imbruglia shot a scene at downtown Canton bar the Imperial Room.
    The rising young stars of “Underdog,” Logan Huffman and Charlie Carver (as rival cross-town high-school quarterbacks) and Maddie Hasson (as the cheerleader who comes between them) shot a scene together outside the Twistee Treat ice cream stand in Massillon.  
    On Wednesday night, Sirpilla Stadium, home of the St. Thomas Aquinas High School football team, was the scene of an all-night game shoot using about 800 local extras in the stands and local athletes as football players.
    A farmhouse called the Tea House at Fieldcrest of North Canton is serving as the family home of Huffman’s “underdog” character. Judge Edward Elum portrayed himself in a scene filmed at his Massillon courtroom.
    Upcoming shooting locations over the next two weeks include The Repository, Hoover, St. Thomas Aquinas and Central Catholic high schools and WHBC.
    COMMUNITY SUPPORT
    “We’re an independent film, and everybody’s been pitching in,” said Dearth, who directed the award-winning 2011 documentary feature “9000 Needles.”
    “The community support has been so wonderful,” Beth Dearth said. “Everyone has been so welcoming and excited about this.”
    Best known for his leading role in ABC-TV’s “V,” Huffman, 22, clearly loves shooting a low-budget indie picture in the Midwest.
    “Right now, some of the greatest stuff is being created independently,” he said. “Big studios are killing everything. It’s all big, bland action movies. This is a heart and soul film we’re making here. This is going to be a (darn) good movie.”
    His character Bobby, the film’s hero, is one of the have-nots.
    “His family’s been hurt by the economy like everyone else. I represent the guy who’s on the edge of giving up,” Huffman said. “In this (’Underdog’) community, football is how people pull themselves together in rough times.”
    With a chuckle, he adds, “We’re fighting for football, man!”
    CRACKER BARREL GLAMOUR
    Asked about the experience of shooting her first feature film in Canton, 17-year-old actress Maddie Hasson answered with playful sarcasm.
    “It’s really glamorous,” she said. “I’m staying at the (national-chain hotel), and I’ve been eating at Cracker Barrel.”
    With the entire cast lodging at the same hotel, “it’s been like summer camp. We’ve been hanging out pretty much every day,” she said.
    Her “Underdog” castmates are “wonderful people, funny and down-to-earth. You never know what you’re going to get from L.A.,” said the actress, who played the lead in the Fox TV series “The Finder” and has a guest role next season on “Grimm.”
    Page 2 of 2 - “I play Renee, a sweet, small-town cheerleader who’s not supposed to be falling for the rival high-school quarterback,” Hasson said. “There’s a lot of passion. It’s really sweet. I think it’s going to be great.”
    Director Dearth knew Huffman and Hasson were the top contenders for their roles from their very first auditions in Los Angeles.
    “When Logan walked in, I knew right away, ‘There’s our Bobby.’ He has this great young passion mixed with angst and energy he’s still learning to control,” Dearth said.
    “Then Maddie came in,” he recalled. “She’s gorgeous in person and on camera. She embodies Renee’s innocence, and she’s also wise beyond her years.”
    A RECOGNIZABLE CAST
    Portraying the quarterback for the wealthy high school’s powerhouse football team is Charlie Carver, who played Felicity Huffman’s son Porter Scavo on TV’s “Desperate Housewives” for four seasons.
    “All the girls love him, and he’s a really strong actor,” Dearth said.
    Playing Bobby’s dad is William Mapother, who had a pivotal role in the film “In the Bedroom” and played Ethan Rom on TV’s cult hit “Lost.” (He’s also Tom Cruise’s cousin.)
    As for D.B. Sweeney, who plays gruff coach Vince DeAntonio, Dearth said, “I’ve know D.B. for a few years, and he’s someone I had in mind when we were working on the script. He’s played a lot of athletes in his films.”
    In “The Cutting Edge,” Sweeney was a hockey player. In “Eight Men Out” he was Shoeless Joe.
    Natalie Imbruglia, who scored a huge international hit in 1997 with “Torn,” “has become a fine actress,” Dearth said. “She’s playing the bartender at a local watering hole who ends up having a nice relationship with our coach. My casting director mentioned her, and she’s doing a fine job.”
    “Underdogs” contains about 38 speaking roles, the majority of them cast in Ohio. Aside from the aforementioned quarterbacks, “all of our football teams are local kids just out of high school,” Dearth said. “Over 100 kids came out, and we narrowed it to about 40. We held three days of training camp.”
    HOPES FOR ‘UNDERDOGS’
    The director hopes to have “Underdogs” ready for release by early 2013. His plan is to screen the film at several film festivals and hopefully secure a theatrical release for it.
    “I’d like to have a premiere right here in Ohio, and hopefully bring some of the actors back for it,” he said. “Maybe at the Palace.”
    For more details about “Underdogs,” visit www.underdogsthemovie.com.

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