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Vandergrift's architecture lures big-budget film

| Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Frederick Law Olmstead, meet Stephen Spielberg.

That, of course won't exactly happen, since the legendary architect who designed Vandergrift died decades ago. But his stamp on the borough has lured the legendary filmmaker's production company, DreamWorks Studios, to town.

Mike Fantasia, a location manager with DreamWorks, said Monday the film company will be setting up shop in Vandergrift to film "I Am Number Four."

"We have about 20 locations where we'll be filming within 50 miles of Pittsburgh," Fantasia said.

But Vandergrift will take a back seat to none of them.

"It's our 'hero town' — it's the main town in the movie," Fantasia said.

He said that there also may be other locations in the Alle-Kiski Valley used, such as New Kensington and Hyde Park.

Fantasia, who said he's been in the area for about seven weeks, appeared Monday night with his associate, Don Martino, before borough council to inform it of DreamWorks' plans.

He received permission to start working in earnest with merchants, property owners, police and local officials to coordinate the film crew's activities and needs.

As for when the filming will begin, Fantasia said: "I'm not exactly sure. Right now it's scheduled for the last week of May and the beginning of June." He added that could change, however.

Borough Manager Steve DelleDonne said Olmstead definitely played a role in getting DreamWorks attention.

"He (Fantasia) said there was a woman in the company who knew about Vandergrift and it being designed by Olmstead," he said. "So they came here to see it, and they fell in love with the curved streets."

"It provided the best setting for the movie, based on the script," Fantasia said. "The fact that Frederick Law Olmstead designed the town gives it a very unique look."

He said the entire movie will be filmed in the Pittsburgh area, and the production budget is "millions of dollars."

As for the impact on the local economy, Fantasia said, "We're going to be buying food locally; we're going to be renting 150 hotel rooms for weeks at a time; we'll be renting cars.

"We're coming here with a lot, and we're going to leave all of it behind."

Additional Information:

About the film

The movie 'I Am Number Four,' which will be filming in Vandergrift, is a film geared to teens and people in their early 20s, according to Mike Fantasia, location manager for DreamWorks Studios.

According to the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) and the DreamWorks Web site, the movie is based on an unpublished novel by James Frey and Jobie Hughes and is the first in a proposed four-book series. It is set to be published by HarperCollins Children's Books.

The plot of 'I Am Number 4' centers on a group of nine aliens who escape their planet just before it is annihilated by a rival species. They arrive on Earth with their guardians, still hunted by the enemy that destroyed their planet. The nine are numbered and -- thanks to the protection of a charm -- they can only be killed in numeric order; the first three are dead.

Number Four, the story's protagonist, passes himself off as a high school student living in the town of Paradise, Ohio, for which the filmmakers will use Vandergrift.,

The script is being written by the team of Al Gough and Miles Millar, who created the long-running television series, 'Smallville.' Their other writing credits include 'Shanghai Noon,' 'Spider-Man 2,' and 'The Mummy: The Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.'

According to IMDB, the film is being produced by Michael Bay, who produced and directed the 'Transformers' movies. Stephen Spielberg will be the executive producer.

IMDB reports that D.J. Caruso, who directed the films 'Eagle Eye' and 'Disturbia' has been chosen to direct the film.

Alex Pettyfer, a 20-year-old British actor, has been signed to play the lead role, according to IMDB.

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