Sound technician dies after falling on set of Mister Rogers movie in Mt. Lebanon
A 61-year-old man from Pittsburgh’s Lincoln Place neighborhood died from injuries he sustained Thursday night when he fell off a balcony in Mt. Lebanon during a break in filming the new movie about legendary children’s television host Fred Rogers, “You Are My Friend,” the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office said.
The office identified the man as James M. Emswiller.
Mt. Lebanon police said Emswiller fell a couple of stories to the ground from the balcony at an apartment building in the 700 block of Shady Drive East. He was taken by medics to UPMC Mercy in critical condition, where he died roughly an hour after the incident, officials said.
Mt. Lebanon police Chief Aaron Lauth said Emswiller may have suffered a medical event prior to falling over the brick wall surrounding the balcony.
The incident happened about 7:30 p.m. No one reported seeing Emswiller fall, but people did hear him hit the ground, the chief said.
“This is a devastating tragedy and the studio is investigating the matter. Our thoughts and prayers are with Jim’s loved ones, friends, and colleagues,” Sony’s TriStar Pictures division said in a statement.
Emswiller was involved in the sound production of the movie, which was shooting a scene Thursday night.
His IMDb page credits him as a sound mixer for an Untitled Mr. Rogers/Tom Hanks Project.
Film star Tom Hanks, who is playing Rogers in the movie, was at the site and later left.
Emswiller’s credits include sound work on the Pittsburgh-filmed movies “Jack Reacher,” “Abduction” and “Concussion.” He won an Emmy Award in 2015 for his work on the TV movie “Bessie,” which told the story of legendary blues performer Bessie Smith, his IMDb page said.
Rogers, a Latrobe native, was known worldwide for his television program, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” which was produced at WQED-TV studios in Pittsburgh and aired from 1968 to 2001. Rogers died in in 2003.
The new movie is about the experience of Tom Junod, a journalist who profiled Rogers in an article for Esquire magazine in 1998. The movie is about the bond that developed between the two men.
The movie being filmed in Pittsburgh is described by TriStar as a “heart-warming story, a cynical journalist begrudgingly accepts an assignment to write a profile piece on the beloved icon and finds his perspective on life transformed.”
Staff writer Madasyn Czebiniak contributed. Bret Gibson and Joe Napsha are a Tribune-Review staff writers. You can contact Bret at email@example.com and Joe at 724-836-5252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.