John Kiesewetter reports:
Emilio Estevez returned to Lebanon Raceway on Tuesday, starting a three-month pre-production for his “Johnny Longshot” family movie.
Filming begins in early August at the Lebanon harness-racing track on the Warren County fairgrounds. “They’ve been great. They’ve been very, very cooperative,” Estevez said.
Estevez, 50, will star and direct from his script about an aging jockey making a comeback at a harness-racing driver.
He set the story in Cincinnati, and plans to use many locations – including Great American Ball Park, a Kroger’s Marketplace and Turfway Park – scouted by Kristen Erwin, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Film Commission.
Before announcing the film here in October, and accepting a $3.8 million Ohio Motion Picture tax credit, Estevez had toured River Downs racetrack – which was demolished in January.
“That wasn’t a surprise. They were talking about it last year,” he said. So opening scenes of Estevez’s character, John West, as a jockey will be filmed at Turfway.
Estevez will be ride in a two-wheel sulky at Lebanon, possibly Scioto Downs near Columbus, and at New Jersey’s Meadowlands Racetrack. He’ll film the ending first, at the Meadowlands’ $1.2 million Hambletonian Stakes on Aug. 3.
“We’ll shoot the big race in New Jersey, and get back here as quickly as possible and shoot all of August and into September. The bulk of it is in Lebanon,” he said.
Many Lebanon Raceway drivers also could appear in the family movie, which Estevez compares to the three “Mighty Ducks” films in which he played Coach Gordon Bombay.
“There are seven races in Ohio (in the film), and in any given race, up to 10 drivers. There could be hundreds of harness drivers when it’s all said and done,” he said. They’re counted in an estimated 1,500 local “Johnny Longshot” acting, background extras and production crew jobs, including some speaking roles, he said.
“The idea is to cast as many locals are possible, and to use them in a lot of speaking roles. We want to give an opportunity to Cincinnatians,” he said. Major roles to be filled are West’s wife, son and agent; a trainer; and “the bad guy,” he said.
Erwin was pleased to hear that Estevez will hire locals as production designer, cinematographer and other key positions, unlike other feature films shot here.
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