OCEAN CITY – The stars of Ping-Pong Summer took the time this week to sit down and take in the scenery while they introduced themselves to the media.< ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office">
The conference was held at the Hilton with select cast and crew of the independent movie now being filmed in Ocean City.
“I can’t tell you how proud we are to have all you here in Ocean City overlooking the Atlantic Ocean … and we are proud of [writer/director] Michael [Tully] being so determined over the course of the last two years to make sure he got to make this movie here in Ocean City where it was written about and where he wanted it to be, and what a great compliment for our community,” Mayor Rick Meehan said to kick the conference off.
Ping-Pong Summer is described by producers as the original Karate Kid meets National Lampoon’s Vacation meets Wild Style.
It is a comedy based in the mid-1980s in Ocean City with a soundtrack and style to match. The plot follows a teen-age boy vacationing in Ocean City who is obsessed with Ping-Pong and hip-hop.
Tully first started working on the script his senior year in high school and has been working on it for the last 20 years. He vacationed regularly with his family in Ocean City growing up.
Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon, who has starred in Dead Man Walking and Thelma and Louise, among other flicks, Lea Thompson, known for her lead role in Back to the Future and television series Caroline in the City, and John Hannah, who starred in The Mummy and television series Spartacus, have committed to the film, among many others.
“This is really exciting, we are in the middle of production right now and things are going really great,” producer George Rush said.
Tully said the mixture of the cast and the good weather so far has the movie well under way and he is excited to be in Ocean City.
“I am really enjoying the script and as long as we don’t get in the way of it I think it will be a great film,” Hannah said.
Thompson, who plays Mrs. Miracle, explained that her sister lives in Baltimore but has never been to Ocean City so she had to do a movie here so her sister could visit and “see the glory” of the town.
“It has been really exciting to get to know this town and appreciate it in all of its intricacies,” she said. “We are really happy to be here, and we really feel your support and appreciate that. It is really a lovely thing to be making a movie and have people acknowledge it and have fun with it.”
Sarandon, who plays Randi Jammer, said she has been to Ocean City before while she attended school in Washington D.C. She had just arrived and said she was able to visit the neighboring town of Berlin so far but is looking forward to spending more time in Ocean City.
“I am really happy to be here and be back, and everyone has been really sweet,” she said. “I think you will be really happy that you have been so generous because the script is a really sweet and generous story, and it is a nice way to present what you have here that is so special, and I hope we do it justice.”
Before the young members of the cast was introduced, producer Michael Gottwald explained that when he first met Tully to discuss Ping-Pong Summer the initial goal was to find kids from the area to cast and tell the story.
“Only they could give it the genuine flavor that it needed and bring their personality to the part,” he said. “We enacted a plan to scour all of Maryland and Virginia, there about, to find our stars and we did. We came out with some awesome kids.”
Helena Seabrook plays Michelle Miracle, who is the sister of the main character, She is from Maryland and is enjoying her first time in Ocean City.
“There was a flyer in my school for auditions for the movie so I was like ‘ok’, and that is why I am here,” she said. “It has been really fun filming, the script is really funny, and all of the actors are fun to work with.”
Marcello Conte plays Rad Miracle, the main character, and said he just fell into the role through an audition.
“I never thought I would get the role for it but I guess it turned out that I did … it has been really fun,” he said. “A year ago I never thought I would be in a movie with Susan Sarandon, Lea Thompson, John Hannah, and all of these other great actors.”
Myles Massey plays Teddy Fryy, who is Rad’s best friend, He is from Frederick, Md.
“I never thought I would have gotten this role, I really wasn’t going for it,” he said. “I showed up at a library because my mom wanted me to go get a book … and Michael [Tully] was there and asked me to try out for the movie … everything went well and now here I am sitting in front of you guys.”
Joseph McCaughtry plays Lyle Ace, who is the villain. He is from southern Maryland.
“I kept thinking the whole time that all these other people are going to get the part, I am not going to get this, there is no way … I definitely got the part and I have been flipping out ever since,” he said. “It is a wonderful opportunity … it is amazing to be here with and to see all these great actors.”
Andrew Riddle plays Dale Lyons, who is Lyle Ace’s sidekick. He is from northern Virginia and also didn’t expect to get the part.
“It is like a family here, the cast and the crew, it is really amazing and an awesome experience,” he said.
Emmi Shockley plays the lead Staci Summers, who is Rad’s summer crush. She is from Ocean City and said she is fulfilling a dream to be playing in a movie in her home town.
“It is really exciting because this is my town that I love and I love acting,” she said.
Maddi Howard plays Rhonda, who is Staci Summers’ cousin. From Severna Park, Md., she felt like she was the youngest one at the auditions but was happy to hear she made the cut. Her favorite part of the movie so far is the matching purple track suits the cast has received.
With the film set in 1985, Tully said the crew really hasn’t had any trouble portraying the film in that time period.
“A lot of these locations where we are shooting are preserved and are from 1985 … I used to think the more specific you were the less universal the film would be and now I really believe the more specific you are the more universal it will be,” Tully explained of identifying Ocean City businesses and landmarks in the movie. “So the more specific we are to Ocean City I think the more the film will resonate with people who have lived here, have been here, or have never even heard of it.”
As far as the characters representing the 80’s, Conte joked it mostly has to do with the wardrobe. He added besides playing ping pong in his basement with his mom growing up he really didn’t know much about the techniques, and the cast ended up going through a couple days of ping pong boot camp to get the game down.
“It’s not about taking them through a crash course of the 80’s because then you are changing who they are right now, their personalities,” Tully said. “It is really about changing swag, and some vocabulary, and you still have these kids that are alive right now, but you’re changing the wardrobe.”
Sarandon, who has committed to the film for a minimal fee, explained that she has a franchise of ping pong clubs that are restaurants and bars, and her colleagues, the Duplass Brothers, brought the script to her highly recommending Tully.
“I think something really unique can come about with it so why not,” she said.
Thompson said her favorite part so far was filming a crab feast.
“Just that experience of sitting with a bunch of dead co-stars,” she joked. “To be in front of the ocean and doing that in that wonderful location was really fun.”
Hannah added that Ocean City’s beach is amazing.
“I don’t think I have seen a longer more beautiful beach,” he said. “I have been fortunate getting outside a little bit and getting out to Assateague, which is most stunning location.”