Triangle producer brings Hollywood to town

bcain@newsobserver.comNovember 30, 2012 

  • Who’s that actor? Robert Davi: A prolific character actor who often plays cops or criminals. He played a drug lord in the James Bond film “License to Kill” and an FBI agent in the NBC crime series “Profiler.” Davi may be best known for playing Special Agent Johnson in “Die Hard.” Edie McClurg: Known for her role as the school secretary in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and as the wife of Herb Tarlek in “WKRP in Cincinnati.” McClurg was also the rental car agent berated by Steve Martin in “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.” John Diehl: Diehl is known for playing cops on “Miami Vice” and “The Shield,” and for his role as Major Charles Kawalsky in the film “Stargate.” Jason Burkey: Starred in the movie “October Baby” and appears in the Dierks Bentley music video “Tip It On Back.”
  • More information Uptone Pictures Some recent productions: “Destiny Road” follows three people as they struggle through challenges and in the end, learn about forgiveness, redemption and faith. Stars Daniel Zacapa, Zoe Myers, Daniel Samonas. “A Box for Rob” is a thriller about a young man with a dark past who is suspected of murder. Stars Mark Scarboro, Brett Gentile. “Don’t Pass Me By” looks at the lives of people who make decisions that will affect their lives forever. Stars C. Thomas Howell, Jeremy London, Keith David, Jake Busey. “Mar” is a documentary following the musical group Mar as they travel to Iceland to produce a record. Once in Iceland, they discover their investor has backed out and are left with difficult decisions. For more information, go to

— Hollywood has set up camp in the Triangle again. But this time, you won’t catch Gwyneth Paltrow types tweeting from trendy downtown eateries

“A Long Way Off,” a retelling of the prodigal son parable in a modern context, may not have the mega star power of the “Iron Man” sequel, but the film has a far more meaningful connection to the area.

The movie, now filming around Raleigh, is being made by Uptone Pictures of Wake Forest, a production company founded 14 years ago by Michael Davis.

Davis, a native of Brazil, is the producer and director of the movie. And the idea for “A Long Way Off” and its financial backing came from Gerald McGlothlin, owner of Raleigh-based publicity company Special Guests, Inc.

Uptone makes feature films and television programs that span a variety of genres, including relationship dramas, thrillers and movies with faith-based themes. A big recent success for Uptone is the film called “Destiny Road,” which was shot around Raleigh and Wake Forest last year.

“Destiny Road,” based on a Brazilian book called “Three Stories, One Destiny,” was released in Brazil on Nov. 2 with higher per-screen box office earnings there than the James Bond blockbuster “Skyfall.”

Davis said making “Destiny Road,” which he described as a “faith-based, life-driven character piece,” helped open doors for “A Long Way Off.”

“If you look across religions and across cultures, the story of the prodigal son is not unique to any religion,” Davis said. “I’ve always been drawn to that story because it’s universal, and stories that are universal can appeal to many different people on many different levels.”

The movie teams relative newcomer Jason Burkey with several veteran character actors: Robert Davi, known for his roles in “Die Hard” and “Profiler;” Edie McClurg, recognizable from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.” and John Diehl, who had roles on “Miami Vice,” “The Shield” and “A Time to Kill.”

It also features cameo appearances by Fox News host Sean Hannity, psychologist Dr. Bev Smallwood and political analyst Scott Rasmussen.

In the story, Burkey’s character is tired of living on the family farm where he must abide by his father’s rules. His father, played by Diehl, agrees to give him his inheritance and send him on his way — after he is counseled by various life trainers and experts. That’s where Hannity, Rasmussen and Smallwood come in.

The son heads off to the big city and enjoys a flamboyant lifestyle, but then loses everything and must head back home to his father’s farm.

The ‘big city’

The “big city” in “A Long Way Off” won’t be identified as Raleigh. Though Davis said he likes to give as much attention as possible to North Carolina towns where he shoots, Raleigh wasn’t quite big enough to fit the story.

“I believe in North Carolina, and I want to shoot a lot of movies here,” said Davis. “So as much as we can, I try to promote wherever we’re at. In ‘Destiny Road’ we prominently feature Wake Forest, and in ‘A Box for Rob,’ Concord, N.C., was written into the script.”

Davis, who is using locals as extras, did manage to sneak in one nod to the Triangle in “A Long Way Off” by way of a prop newspaper from The Wake Weekly.

Solas, Quail Ridge

The entirety of “A Long Way Off” will be shot in and around the Triangle, Davis said. So far, the crew has filmed at Solas nightclub and an apartment on Glenwood South, and at Quail Ridge Books on Wade Avenue. Producers also plan to shoot in downtown Raleigh’s Warehouse District, along Fayetteville Street and at some farms around Wakefield, Wake Forest and Bunn.

The projected 21-day shoot began on Nov. 25.

Davi has already filmed his Raleigh scenes, but Davis says McClurg will be in town for filming in early December.

It’s too early to say when “A Long Way Off” will be available for movie audiences, but release details should be clearer by summer.

Until then, movie fans will have to settle for catching glimpses of movie cameras and bright lights around town.

Cain: 919-829-4579

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