Charleston Daily Mail

used by permission

Cameras rolling on Marshall movie

Actors, crews shooting
in Huntington for 3 weeks

Matthew Thompson
Daily Mail staff

Monday April 03, 2006

HUNTINGTON -- Location shooting was under way today for the long-awaited film about aftermath of the 1970 Marshall University plane crash.

Buildup for the Warner Bros. film starring Matthew McConaughey as former head football coach Jack Lengyel has made Huntington abuzz with excitement.

Crews and actors are expected to be in Huntington for three weeks. The film also features "Lost" and "Party of Five" actor Matthew Fox and recent Academy Award nominated actor David Strathairn.

The film is being directed by Joseph McGinty Nichol, also known as McG, who helmed the "Charlie's Angels" film series.

Ernie Malik, the film's publicist, said the production crew has been inundated with positive response since the film was announced in January.

"This appears to be one of the biggest things to Huntington," Malik said. "I have heard so many comments from the public about how excited they are for us to be here. Let me just say that we're honored."

On Nov. 14, 1970, on the way back from a loss to East Carolina University, Marshall's charter plane crashed while trying to land during a rainy night at Tri-State Airport in Huntington. The crash claimed the lives 75 people, including 35 football players.

The team rebuilt the following season behind new head coach Lengyel, who took the Marshall position after leaving Wooster College in Ohio.

Malik has been a publicist for dozens of movies including the "Home Alone" series and the recent holiday blockbuster "The Chronicles of Narnia."

Malik said this film would be similar to his experience on the 2004 high school football drama "Friday Night Lights." The film, starring Billy Bob Thornton, was also based on a true story and shot on location in Odessa, Texas, where the film took place.

Malik said the Keith-Albee Theater on Fourth Avenue would be one location that would make an appearance in the movie.

Built in 1928, the Keith-Albee served as downtown Huntington's movie theater up until last January when it was turned over to the Marshall University Foundation. Malik said the theater's colorful and aged fašade is perfect for a film taking place 36 years ago.

"The exterior is almost out of a movie itself," Malik said.

Malik said the theater would be a part of a scene involving Marshall co-captain Nate Ruffin attending a movie on the night the plane crashed. Ruffin, who was sidelined by an arm injury, was among a handful of Thundering Herd players who did not make the trip.

Emily Morse, a representative for the Keith-Albee Theatre, said officials are happy to be hosting part of the film's production. Morse said employees have been working hard to make sure the theater is in top shape for when filming occurs.

"We've been here day to day taking calls, making sure they have all they need," Morse said.

Morse said, though, if the production crew wants to make any cosmetic changes to the theater, university officials must approve of them first.

Morse said it's unknown when filming would begin at the theatre.

One Huntington landmark that missed a chance for a spot in the film was Jim's Steak and Spaghetti House on Fifth Avenue.

The 68-year-old eating establishment was at one point sought out for a scene that took place in a diner, said Jim's manager Jimmie Carder.

Carder has managed the restaurant since her father, Jim Tweel, died last year of heart failure at age 89.

Carder, 65, said she spoke with production officials about hosting the scene, but said they decided to film it at another production site in Atlanta.

"We believe this place is unique to the town, so it was disappointing when we didn't get the part," Carder said. "We were willing to close down for two weeks if they wanted us to."

Still, Carder is hopeful that the crew will come in and taste what the restaurant has to offer. Carder said she would like to see McConaughey come in and sign a picture to frame on Jim's walls, where photographs already honor past presidents and entertainment stars.

Carder said she holds no hard feelings for not being in the movie.

"It's Hollywood and that's the most exciting thing," Carder said. "Marshall will get good press and so will the town. What more can you say?"