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Section of Brownsville gets Hollywood 'makeunder' for Gyllenhaal movie

| Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
Randy Jarosz | For Trib Total Media
Brownsville Road in Carrick was transformed into Birchhall Avenue and Sankey Avenue into Bronx Park E for the filming of South Paw starring Jake Gyllenhaall. Buildings were also given a facelift including a grocery store and a Wills gym.
Randy Jarosz | For Trib Total Media
Brownsville Road in Carrick was transformed into Birchhall Avenue and Sankey Avenue into Bronx Park E for the filming of South Paw starring Jake Gyllenhaall. Buildings were also given a facelift including a grocery store and a Wills gym.

Diehards waited on the front stoops of local businesses, surrounded by graffiti-covered walls, hoping to catch a glimpse of actor Jake Gyllenhaal — or anyone famous — as security lined the street.

A 1 12-block stretch of Brownsville Road, near the intersection of Sankey Avenue at the Carrick/Brentwood border, was transformed into a section of the Bronx over the last week, to serve as the set of “Southpaw,” starring Gyllenhaal and Rachel McAdams.

“We took a nice neighborhood and had the ability to downgrade it into a not-so-nice section of the Bronx,” said Scott Levine, unit publicist for the film.

To transform the area, businesses along Brownsville Road were tagged with fresh graffiti — all “easily removable,” Levine said.

Street signs and bus routes were changed. Brownsville Road became Birchall Avenue. Some scenes were shot inside Carrick Boxing, which was transformed into “Wills Gym.”

“People have been coming by and watching, and they seem to be having a good time,” Levine said. “The philosophy with all productions is to integrate yourself within the community.”

That's what they've done here, for the most part.

Gyllenhaal plays a boxer in the “Southpaw” who fights his way to the top, only to find his life around him is falling apart.

The movie was filmed at the Carrick/Brentwood site starting June 17 and was set to wrap up Wednesday. Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker, boxer Victor Ortiz and director Antoine Fuqua all were seen in the area.

“It's kind of surreal. You see all of these people walking around and how they've transformed the area. I've never been to New York, but that's kind of what I think it would be like,” said Kevin Mynahan, manager at Italian Village Pizza.

He said film crews bought more than $500 worth of pizzas from his shop July 17. Whitaker, too, came inside the shop for a chat.

Having the movie filmed along Brownsville Road already has been beneficial for local businesses, owners said.

Brentwood resident Kim Copeland, 32, said she's glad to see the increased business at her favorite shops. “Everybody's excited and going ‘woo-hoo' about the movie,” said Copeland, as she passed the filming area with children Kayleh and Seth by her side.

While some people stopped in the local shops, others sat for hours along the curb to watch the crews moving equipment.

Kenny Hinterlang, 51, kept the camera on his cellphone ready in case he saw a star.

He chatted with film crews and even got them to scribble his name and “Steelers” into the graffiti.

“It's exciting and something different than you normally see. You usually have shootings and police up here,” said Hinterland, who showed off photographs of Whitaker he captured on his cell phone.

In a neighborhood where All Seasons Fire Place owner Jim Hubenthal said actual graffiti was a problem in the past, residents worried this time it, too, was the real thing.

As they poured into the Italian Village at the corner of Sankey Avenue, or Bronx Park, with worries, Mynahan played along.

“I'd say, ‘Oh yeah, didn't you see the news? They caught 30 people up here,” he said before revealing the big movie secret.

All the graffiti will be removed, but Hubenthal still has concerns.

“I just hope this doesn't give people ideas that it's a great canvas for graffiti,” he said.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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