Tag Archives: Alexa Vega

Inspirational High School Football Movie Part of Stephen Lang’s Flurry of Pre-‘Avatar’ Action

Stephen LangStephen Lang admits that one of his first thoughts upon reading the script for “23 Blast” — about a high school football player who goes blind, then manages to return to his team — was “‘This can’t be true.’ But it is! It is true.”

The film, opening Friday (10/24), has the esteemed “Avatar” and “Gods and Generals” actor/playwright in the real life role of Coach Willard Farris. It was Coach Farris who had the audacious idea of putting football-loving young Travis Freeman back into action after he became completely sightless. He turned him from a “gazelle” into a “pitbull” by moving him into the position of center.

Recounts Lang, “My agent said ‘I want to send you a script for a football movie that Dylan Baker is going to direct,’ and I was immediately intrigued because I’ve known Dylan for years as a very, very fine actor. And I thought that was exciting.” Once he read “23 Blast,” Lang realized, “‘This is actually a very delicate film. It would be a simple thing to slip into a cloying kind of sentimentality.’ But, in a way, you know, that’s not my problem. I can only be responsible for what I do.”

He went ahead and made the movie on the story’s actual location in the hamlet of Corbin, Kentucky. The youthful cast includes Alexa Vega (“Spy Kids”), Mark Hapka (“Criminal Minds”), Max Adler (“Glee”) and Bram Hoover — with stalwart support from elder actors including Timothy Busfield, Fred Thompson, and Baker himself.

Then, “Cut to several months later and I went to see it, and I was absolutely thrilled because there was an authentic, simple honesty to the film; not one time in the movie did it ever get syrupy or sentimental,” Lang declares. “It delighted me, and it filled me with admiration for Dylan and for the editors and the production team. You know, it could have gone another way, but I thought he elicited lovely performances from a cast of really, really vibrant and fine young actors. I thought the old pros did their jobs just great.”

“23 Blast” is one of a flurry of diverse projects Lang has taken on before battening down to reprise his role as Colonel Miles Quaritch in James Cameron’s three “Avatar” sequels — all of which are to be made simultaneously. Besides the inspirational sports flick, he was in the recent Stephen King “The Good Marriage,” and next month, he’s taking his Beyond Glory solo show on the road with plans to perform in “eight or nine states.”

Speaking of the consuming experience of making “Avatar,” he notes, “I’ve already been there once — and now instead of one ‘Avatar,’ we’re doing three! I’m thinking for the next couple of years, probably beyond that, it’s going to really dominate my life. So it’s good to be able to get other stuff done and exercise my chops before I plunge into that — something I’m really looking forward to plunging into.”

The excitement in his voice is palpable, in fact. “It’s great stuff. Sometimes it comes easily, but sometimes it doesn’t come easily because there’s so much technical wizardry that has to occur simultaneously in the ‘Avatar’ world, and it’s kind of one foot in front of the other, working scene after scene,” he says. “We’re looking forward to the whole process. We know that not only do we regard it as an extraordinary thing — which we did when we were making the first one — the world has expectations as well. We better be good.”

Meanwhile, he’s looking forward to the unveiling of “23 Blast.” Certainly, coming in the wake of month after month of player scandals that have rocked both the professional and high school football establishments, the story comes as a breath of fresh air.

Lang tells us that a classmate of his happens to be director of public relations for the NFL. “She’s coming to see the film and she is so looking forward to it,” he notes with a smile. “She says, ‘I just want to see something about football in a positive light.'”

Despite the recent spate of negative stories, Lang believes that football “is a very venerable institution. What is that line — ‘When sorrows come, they come in battalions.’ I think there’ve been battalions of sorrows, but still, it is a great, great game.” He pauses, then can’t resist adding with a laugh, “It’s not baseball, but that’s just my opinion.”

Both Freeman and Farris were on the set a number of times during production of “23 Blast.” “We filmed in Corbin and Corbin is a small town,” points out Lang. “It was very nice to meet them. I think the fairest thing to say about what I did — it’s a creation. But I’m not going to say ‘loosely based’ — it was based on this man, Coach Farris, who is clearly a good man. Obviously, without the coach being part of the whole thing, it never would have happened.

“It was terrific having the folks around,” he adds. “They weren’t there on a daily basis. There was never a feeling of ‘I wish they would get out of the way.’ I never felt that at all. I think they’re all quite pleased. What was a very significant event in the history of this town, and of course, high school football. Aside from Travis, high school football is a very important element in that town in terms of a sense of community. So to be able to have his story told, I think, is a really important thing. Everybody was extremely supportive.”

He enjoyed portraying the Coach. “Very often the coach in this type of film is a real hard ass kind of guy, a bit of a drill instructor, real tough. And I think that Farris has that; he stands strong, but there’s also this side where you’ve got heart, and he cares about his people. It’s immensely helpful,” notes Lang, “that the first time you see the coach, he’s coaching six year old boys.”

Heidi-Lauren Reconciliation? Don’t Believe It Says Spencer’s Sis

Stephanie Pratt

Stephanie Pratt

“The Hills” star Lauren Conrad, who’s had an infamous ongoing feud with former friend Heidi Montag and her now-husband Spencer Pratt, was pictured in US Weekly attending their wedding, but…Spencer’s sister Stephanie tells us there’s still no reconciliation.

“At the beginning of this season, I was trying to take Heidi places with us and it took a toll on my friendship with Lauren.  She was like, ‘Stephanie, I don’t want to be friends with her.’  I think it’s all over, though.  I think they just know they can’t be friends,” says Pratt, who also stars on the MTV reality show, which is heading towards its May 31 finale.

At least some good came out of the wedding.  Stephanie, who caught the wrath of Spencer for being friends with Lauren, tells us their sibling relationship has definitely improved.  “Last season was awful for me.  I was crying all the time because Spencer was being mean to me and Heidi wasn’t talking to me, because she always does what Spencer does.  But Spencer’s been super nice to me ever since he’s gotten married.  I think now that they’re very secure in their relationship, they’ve both been really happy and nice to everyone.”

For now, the cast is regrouping since Lauren announced she would not be returning to the show.  “She has a boyfriend, she has a great life, and she wants to keep it private.  It was a little shocking she decided to leave, but she’s been on TV for six years.  I think it’s definitely going to change the show a lot.  She was kind of like our voice of reason.  I feel like it’s going to be really chaotic now,” claims Pratt, who can next be seen hosting the MTV Movie Awards pre-show along with Lo Bosworth.  The Awards are set for May 31.

“We’ll be doing live hits.  I really want to meet the cast of ‘Twilight.’  I’m a big fan of the books.  It was a good escape when things were going bad on the show.”

FAMILY AFFAIR: With Shaun Cassidy writing and producing the upcoming ABC Family Channel show “Ruby and the Rockits” – starring David and Patrick Cassidy as former teen idols and Alexa Vega as David’s daughter – can Cassidy matriarch Shirley Jones be far behind?  “The plan is to write Shirley in as Grandma,” according to Jones’ husband Marty Ingels.  He tells us that the July 21-debuting show is well stocked with Cassidy family members behind the scenes as well as in front of the cameras.  There’s Shaun, of course.  “He has one project after another,” Marty says.  “Walt Disney’s old office is his office…All of Shirley’s children are successful.

“Ryan is doing the sets.  Shaun’s daughter Caitlin is doing the makeup.  Don’t talk to me, I’m invisible,” he adds.  “How can you not write in the old Jewish guy in the other room?  They don’t like me.”

Long-standing family friction aside, Marty says the half-hour show is “hysterical. David Cassidy is back with his hair thinning.  Patrick has a used car agency.”

Meanwhile, Shirley is looking forward to a string of concert dates with Florence Henderson.  Yes, “The Partridge Family” and “The Brady Bunch” mothers onstage together for the first time.  “At first Shirley wasn’t terribly excited, but it’s interesting, the two of them together, buddies singing and taking shots at each other.  These kind of theme concerts are doing very well.  They open in November in Indianapolis .”

SEIZING THE DAYS:  “Southland” actor Kevin Alejandro is certainly making the most of his hiatus from the NBC cop drama.  After wrapping production on the show, “My wife and I went to Hawaii for 7, 8 days,” he says.  Then he left for Atlanta , where he’s been shooting a guest star part on Lifetime’s forthcoming “Drop Dead Diva.” And once he’s done with that, “on the 28th, we’re going to Costa Rica for 10 days, surfing with friends.”  He’ll also be working out and pampering himself.  “I want to be in the best shape I can be before starting shooting again.  This is my break and it’s time to do it,” he says.  “Southland” goes back before the cameras in mid-July.

HAIR TODAY: Casting forces have been interviewing hairstylists to fill the post of assistant to a celebrity hairstylist on a forthcoming reality competition/elimination show.  They want someone over-the-top who can add color to the proceedings, and we don’t mean the kind from a bottle.  “Think Tim Gunn to Heidi Klum,” say casting notices.

With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster