Local players add extra authenticity to movie about lacrosse
Hollywood crews and stars - from Adam Sandler to Mark Wahlberg - have worked on movies north of Boston this summer, but a smaller budget independent film that has transformed the grounds of the Topsfield Fair into a set that looks like an Indian reservation could become more than a historical footnote. It is the first major film set for theatrical release about lacrosse.
“The movie is a love letter to lacrosse,’’ said producer Mitchell Peck, who formerly played high school lacrosse in Richmond, Va.
Peck and J. Todd Harris, who also serves as the film’s producer, are hoping it brings increased exposure to lacrosse, already one of the fastest growing sports in the country. Harris said the $8 million film is being funded by lacrosse aficionados and supporters. It is scheduled to be released next year.
The film, “Crooked Arrows,’’ focuses on a Native American lacrosse team that competes against better-trained prep schools. The independent film stars Brandon Routh (“Superman’’) and Gil Birmingham (“Twilight’’), and TV and film actors Chelsea Ricketts and Crystal Allen.
Dozens of Massachusetts high school and college lacrosse players serve as extras in the film, and will be on hand this Saturday at St. John’s Prep in Danvers, when the film’s climactic scenes will be shot - a championship game featuring the Crooked Arrows.
The film’s producers have contacted area high school and youth coaches and leagues to recruit families and lacrosse players to fill the stands as extras.
Peck said extras who will take part in the Aug. 13 filming should register on the crookedarrows.com website. Filming begins at 7 a.m., and lunch will be provided. He also said shirts, lacrosse sticks, and other memorabilia from the movie will be given away during the filming. Dom Starsia, who has won four NCAA national championships as the University of Virginia lacrosse coach, will be filmed in the stands. Other lacrosse mentors will be in the stands that day, including Brown lacrosse head coach Lars Tiffany and Harvard lacrosse head coach Chris Wojcik.
For weeks, Winchester’s John Wallace has arrived in the early morning hours in Topsfield, where he has served as the goalie of one of the prep school teams. In real life Wallace is the goalie on the Endicott College lacrosse team in Beverly. On occasion, the scenes have been so competitive Wallace has reverted to his natural play and made a save when he was supposed to allow a goal.
Wallace, who is 21, hopes the film will help boost popularity for the sport the same way other Hollywood movies have helped youth sports. “Hopefully it will expand lacrosse, and get some of the kids who know about the sport more interested,’’ he said, on a recent day at the Governor’s Academy in Byfield, where the crew filmed several scenes on the lacrosse field.
As the crew shifted its large cameras around the field, Lanny Ellis gripped his lacrosse stick and waited for his name to be called for a scene. Ellis, who is 22, and was formerly an All-American on the Billerica High School lacrosse team, now plays for Salisbury University in Maryland.
Ellis does not have a speaking part but says he is grateful for the experience to be part of a movie and to play with some of lacrosse’s elite stars - including several from Iroquois tribes in New York State. Like Wallace, the goalie, he is unfamiliar with his role in the movie - to allow his opponents to get the best of him.
“It’s all choreographed,’’ Ellis said. “I mostly have been playing defense, and getting burned - allowing people to run by me. And that’s not normal.’’
Steven A. Rosenberg can be reached at email@example.com.