A cinematic farewell will be given later this year to a beloved landmark that lives in the memory of many Wellington residents.
Filming for the movie “Men of Granite” will take place at the old McCormick Middle School and other locations around the village.
Producer Valerie McCaffrey said the school, built in 1867, is an ideal location because it is one of the only schools in the country to feature a basketball court on a stage.
McCormick principal Craig Housum said the details of when and where the movie crew will film are still being ironed out because school will be back in session when the film crew plans to make its way to the village.
McCaffrey expects to spend about a week in Wellington. During that time residents may have the opportunity to step onto the film as extras.
She described the film as a 1940s period piece. It’s a true story about first-generation American boys whose parents immigrated to the states from Eastern Europe. The boys grew up playing basketball together but were discriminated against and got no play time on the high school team.
The boys were eventually given the opportunity to prove their skills and go on to win the 1940 state championship.
“The basketball game and them winning made them become legit and people looked at them different,” McCaffrey said. “It began to blur the racial tension between the very rich caucasians and the Eastern Europeans who were very poor.”
Sophia Prather, the teacher who brought the boys together, will be played by Shirley MacLaine. The role of high school basketball coach Byron Bozarth was initially given to William Hurt but he recently backed out to accept a TV series.
The intended message of the film is that we all come from somewhere.
“I think this is a lost generation in American history and it hasn’t been shown how terrible people had it and how hard they had to work to survive in this country,” McCaffrey said. “I want us to remember how America was built and the kind of people who came here and helped structure this country.”
McCaffrey pointed out that America will always have immigrants and the issues back then aren’t very different from the issues the country faces today.
The story takes place in Granite City, Ill., and McCaffrey initially wanting to film there, but she is pleased with the locations she and her crew found.
“I have to say we found incredible locations,” she said. “We would have never found the stage with the basketball court still there. It didn’t exists in Illinois.”
She’s also glad the film will somewhat preserve and eulogize the old McCormick building.
Housum said it’s an exciting time for McCormick and the district. He believes the movie is a great way to keep the old building timeless even after it’s gone.
“I think it’s a wonderful way to have a wonderful remembrance of the district and the school,” he said.
McCaffrey said the team working on the film has just finished prep work, which includes recreating everything from the basketball uniforms to the cheerleading uniforms and even the socks the boys wore.
She said filming will also take place in Cleveland and other parts of Ohio. She expects all of the filming to take about five weeks and hopes to release the film sometime next spring or early summer.
Kelsey Leyva can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @TWE_Kelsey Leyva on Twitter.
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