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Cue Quecreek: Somerset sees action again as filming of miner movie begins

Saturday, September 21, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

SIPESVILLE -- On the set of most TV or movie productions, lead actors get the most attention from extras and onlookers.

Actress Marisa Ryan, left, poses with her real-life counterpart, Leslie Mayhugh, on the set of the unnamed movie about the Quecreek miners. (Martha Rial, Post-Gazette photos)

But when miner Blaine Mayhugh and his wife, Leslie, showed up on the set of ABC's upcoming film about the rescue of the nine Quecreek miners, all eyes turned to them.

An extra pulled out his disposable camera and snapped a picture of the pair. Earlier, Leslie posed for a photo with actress Marisa Ryan, who plays her in the film. After the photo, the extras broke into applause.

"She came to my house the other night," Leslie Mayhugh said of Ryan. "It was cool. She's nice."

Blaine hasn't yet met the actor who will portray him.

"I want to see what I look like," he said.

ABC's untitled Quecreek movie is expected to air during November sweeps, possibly under the "Wonderful World of Disney" banner.

Executive producer Larry Sanitsky said the film will tell the story behind the rescue that viewers already watched on TV.

"It's not the rescue story, which is a great story, but we only have two hours, so we're limiting it to the point of view of the miners and their families," Sanitsky said. "The miners haven't spoken about what happened below ground in detail. I think America wondered what it was like, and this will be the first opportunity to see it. This is the first real inside look as the wives told it."

Scenes told from the wives' point of view are much of what will film in the Somerset area. Yesterday morning, the cast and crew tackled scene No. 84 inside the same Sipesville Fire Hall where the real families waited for word.

As the phone rings, exhausted family members look up in fear and expectation. John Weir (Gareth Williams), who acted as mining company liaison for the families, answers the call.

"The drill broke through," he says. "And they heard nine taps, sounded like church bells. They're alive -- all nine are alive!"

Amidst cheers and hugs, the family members gathered in the small, crowded room exhale sighs of relief.

Then the cast and crew do it again. And again. And again from different angles, with close-ups on each miner's family.

Actress Kathleen McHenry, of New York City, plays the role of miner's wife Sandy Popernack and Trevor Misplay, 9, of Allison Park, plays son Lucas in a scene at the Sipesville Fire Department in Somerset County.

"How they put all the little cuts together and have a full picture, that's cool," Leslie Mayhugh said, watching alongside her husband.

Sally Shroyer, president of the ladies auxiliary, was in the room during the crisis and she was there again yesterday as an extra.

"It's a lot more organized than it truly was," she said. "We had cots in the middle of the floor."

Shroyer said the movie crew has been courteous and is getting most of the details right, although the tablecloths were changed from white to blue because white wouldn't look good on camera.

"They said we can keep them, and that's a great plus," she said. "We haven't bought ourselves tablecloths in 20 years."

The film, which could cost up to $9 million, will film in Somerset for 11 days. Production was originally set to start yesterday, but began Thursday. Earlier, producers shot scenes of WTAE anchor/reporter Wendy Bell playing a television reporter who covered the ordeal, which Bell actually did.

Director David Frankel, a veteran of HBO's "From the Earth to the Moon" and "Band of Brothers," said the fast turnaround from the event to the filming of a movie about it may be unprecedented.

"Short of shooting it for CNN, I don't think anyone has made a film so quick," he said. "The oddity is seeing the real people one day and directing the actors who play them the next day."

Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Post questions or comments to http://www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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