An enthusiastic team crashed through a paper “Saints” banner, sprinting out onto the gymnasium floor at Bethlehem Catholic High School Friday, punctuated by loud cheers from the crowd and thundering drums from members of the Liberty High School Grenadier Band.
Each member of the squad stepped forward for an introduction as Becahi cheerleaders pumped up the crowd of about a hundred.
“I had to go to Hollywood to become a movie star,” said actor/director Daniel Roebuck to the crowd. “My dream is to find movie stars here.”
This was no ordinary high school pep rally. Roebuck was at his alma mater Friday to kick off, in dramatic fashion, production on his third independent film, “The Hail Mary,” which is scheduled to begin shooting July 20 at sites around the Lehigh Valley.
The event at Bethlehem Catholic was part press conference, part pep rally (maybe more pep rally) but it was all typical Roebuck — full of humor and love for the Lehigh Valley.
The 58-year-old actor grew up in Bethlehem and has had a Hollywood career that’s spanned more than three decades. Roebuck has appeared in numerous hit movies, most notably the 1993 classic “The Fugitive,” and a long list of TV shows including “Lost,” “Matlock,” “NCIS,” “Law & Order” and “Criminal Minds.”
Roebuck used Friday’s event as an opportunity to introduce the cast of “The Hail Mary,” which will be shot largely at the former Mary Immaculate seminary in the Cherryville section of Lehigh Township as well as Liberty High School in Bethlehem.
“The Hail Mary” will center around an all-boys Catholic school led by a cantankerous Sister of St. Joseph — a Catholic religious order of women with 7,000 members in the United States. In the film, the sister meets a man (to be played by Roebuck) who needs one more shot at redemption, so she cons him into creating a football team at her school for boys with behavioral issues.
Roebuck, in addition to starring in the movie, will serve as its director and is also the film’s writer and producer.
While he continues as a Hollywood actor, he is passionate about the Lehigh Valley, so much so he started a nonprofit entertainment company here last year, A Channel of Peace. The nonprofit production company seeks to provide faith-based family entertainment. “The Hail Mary” will be the second film under “A Channel of Peace.” The first, “Lucky Louie,” was shot last fall in several Lehigh Valley locales, including downtown Bangor, and is currently in post-production. His first film, 2017′s “Getting Grace” was also shot entirely in the Lehigh Valley.
Roebuck worked on casting for “The Hail Mary” last month with longtime friend Rody Gilkeson, president of the Pennsylvania Playhouse.
Most of the actors that will work on “The Hail Mary” are from the Lehigh Valley, including 25 football players and a dozen women playing religious sisters.
The female actors that will portray the sisters in the movie are playing saints on earth, Roebuck said.
“This is my love letter to them as well as the Lehigh Valley,” said Roebuck of the film.
Roebuck also used the event to promote the work of his nonprofit, A Channel of Peace. He asked the audience to reach out to the community to find folks who can donate food and drinks for the cast as well as other equipment.
“At A Channel of Peace we make faith-based movies that entertain you first and make you think second,” Roebuck said. “We aren’t telling you what to believe but maybe believe in something bigger than this moment.”