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Ben Stiller scouts SCI-Pittsburgh for Showtime miniseries

Megan Guza
| Tuesday, June 13, 2017, 12:07 p.m.
Ben Stiller (center) on a walk-through of SCI-Pittsburgh in June 2017
Ben Stiller (center) on a walk-through of SCI-Pittsburgh in June 2017

SCI-Pittsburgh hasn't officially closed yet, but its next use could already be in the works: as a backdrop for a Showtime miniseries by actor and producer Ben Stiller.

Stiller visited Western Pen on Saturday, according to the state Department of Corrections' Facebook page. Stiller and his crew explored various parts of the 135-year-old prison, including some of the original housing units built in 1882.

Stiller also walked through the commissary, maintenance shops and the basement of the old cell blocks and along the entire perimeter of an 11-1/2-acre enclosure known as The Wall.

"(Stiller) was extremely appreciative of the hospitality of the Pittsburgh staff in all areas of the facility," the Department of Corrections' Facebook post said. "He introduced himself as 'Ben' to our staff and asked about the closing and how it impacted them as he toured the facility. Upon his exit, (Stiller) was gracious enough to eagerly honor a request for a photo op with some of the Pittsburgh staff that were on-site."

The department said in January that closing the prison would save about $81 million. The last inmates were moved to other facilities May 19.

The department's Facebook post said Stiller's eight-hour, four-episode miniseries is called "Escape at Dannemora."

According to a June 2 article that appeared in the entertainment magazine Variety, the series will star Benicio del Toro, Patricia Arquette and Paul Dano.

It is based on the June 2015 prison break at the Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York that resulted in a multi-week manhunt for convicted murderers Richard Matt and David Sweat and cost the state more than $20 million.

Matt was shot and killed in New Jersey three weeks after the escape. Sweat was shot and taken into custody two days later. A female prison staffer had promised to help the two once they breached the maximum security facility, but backed out at the last minute. A male corrections officer helped the inmates smuggle tools and other contraband.

The closed SCI-Greensburg served as a backdrop for two productions in 2015. The Cinemax show "Banshee" filmed scenes at the Hempfield facility that summer, and film crews shot several scenes there that September for "Three Seconds," a film adaptation of a Swedish novel.

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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