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The road to 'Gospel Hill' starts here

Corinne Biazzo of Rock Hill talks to Talent Link volunteer Ulysses West on Tuesday during a casting call for the film "Gospel Hill," which will film in York County.
Corinne Biazzo of Rock Hill talks to Talent Link volunteer Ulysses West on Tuesday during a casting call for the film "Gospel Hill," which will film in York County.

People have called Robert Hemingway "Hollywood" since high school.

At Tuesday's casting call for the movie "Gospel Hill," the former All-American wrestler decided to add some legitimate credentials to his nickname.

"They call me 'Hollywood.' That's why I'm here," the 41-year-old Rock Hill resident said as he smiled for a picture and filled out an application. "Sometimes, you gotta throw your hat in the bucket and see what happens."

Hemingway -- who earned his nickname for his show-stealing wrestling performances in high school and college -- hopes to pin down a new accomplishment as an extra in the movie being filmed in York County this summer.

The movie, starring Danny Glover, Angela Bassett and Julia Stiles, will begin filming later this month.

Hemingway and dozens of others with silver screen dreams gathered at Freedom Temple Ministries in Rock Hill on Tuesday to fill out applications and pitch their look and ability to casting director Vince Paul.

Paul said he needs to find about 500 extras to fill various roles in the movie about a Southern town haunted by sins committed during the civil rights movement. He said people of all ages, sizes and colors will be cast.

The movie will be shot all over York County, but Paul said exact locations and schedules are still changing. "But I can tell you there's gonna be a lot of stars here for the next 25 days," he said.

An extra's job isn't always glamorous, Paul said. Those selected will be asked to spend long days in the hot sun or stay out late working on a nighttime scene. Paul said many times extras are asked to repeat the same mundane actions for hours, such as walking in the scene's background or pretending to cheer in a crowd. And most won't even get paid. But the chance to see how a movie is crafted and possibly rub elbows with celebrities will be plenty of pay for most.

"That would be the long shot, but coolest part," said Mandy Daigle, 26, of Rock Hill.

Mandy and her husband, James, both Rock Hill school teachers, agreed the chance to be involved in a motion picture isn't something to pass up.

"We're both off all summer, so we have the time," said James, a fifth-grade teacher at Ebenezer Elementary School. "Plus, I teach civil rights to my class, and it would be cool to bring this experience into the classroom."

"Hollywood" Hemingway agreed the civil rights theme was extra incentive to get involved. He said other movies filmed in the area, including "The Patriot" and "Asylum" didn't carry the same social weight.

"This movie will be more powerful," he said, adding he'd like to be an extra in a protest scene. "We all hear the history, but do we know the history? Sometime in high school, you stop learning about the civil rights movement, but it's still here."

And for the next month, everyday folks in York County will help bring it to life.

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