Courthouse to be featured in upcoming movie

‘Southpaw’ film production moves to Washington County

July 28, 2014
Actor Jake Gyllenhaal sits in the audience during the welterweight title boxing fight between Amir Khan and Luis Collazo earlier this year in Las Vegas. Gyllenhaal was in Washington Monday to film part of his new boxing movie, “Southpaw.” - Associated Press

Charles Hoyes has waited the last 37 years for his passion and hometown to collide.

On Monday, Hoyes spent the day exchanging lines with actor Jake Gyllenhaal as the pair filmed several scenes for the upcoming movie “Southpaw” at Washington County Courthouse.

According to unit publicist Scott Levine, “Southpaw” tells the story of boxer Billy Hope (played by Gyllenhaal) as he makes his way to the top of the sport. But instead of glory, Hope finds his life falling apart around him.

The movie includes several “important” courtroom scenes, Levine said. Washington County President Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca permitted crews and Gyllenhaal to use her courtroom, two jury deliberation rooms and the downstairs jury lounge. Despite the additional influx of people and security, court proceedings were conducted without interruption, O’Dell Seneca said.

Hoyes, who grew up in Washington and graduated from Trinity High School, said he plays the role of Gyllenhaal’s lawyer. While he couldn’t provide additional details about the film, which does not yet have a release date, Hoyes gushed about working with Gyllenhaal.

“He’s a fantastic actor to work with,” the Thousand Oaks, Calif., actor said. “I’m just playing off of him.”

Hoyes said he auditioned for the role a while back but learned only Wednesday that he got the part.

“I wasn’t sure if they were going to change the role or not,” he said.

Mary Helicke, chief clerk for the Washington County commissioners, said the commissioners were contacted this summer about using the courthouse. The commissioners deferred to O’Dell Seneca, who was more than willing to “show it off.”

The production company was charged a $1,000 fee, which will go toward a future restoration project, Helicke said.

Levine said Washington was the perfect location.

“The courtroom is beautiful. Plus, the location allowed us to accomplish all of our needs,” he said.

Those needs included parking for crew members and space for equipment, convenient restaurants and easy access.

“Southpaw” started filming this summer. The film crew spent two weeks in Indiana, Pa., before moving on to Pittsburgh and surrounding areas. Crew members were given access to the courthouse over the weekend so they could prepare for Monday’s shoot.

“The area is pretty accommodating,” Levine said.

This isn’t the first time cameras have visited the courthouse. In April, PCN filmed a documentary there, and O’Dell Seneca said a handful of movies and television projects used the courthouse as their backdrop.

“We’re used to it,” O’Dell Seneca said.

While court staff may be accustomed to the commotion, Hoyes is still in awe that everything came together.

“It’s really cool to work in your own town. My mother was so excited. She wanted to call the paper,” he said. “I’m just tickled to death that I have the chance to work in my hometown.”

Francesca Sacco joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in November 2013, and covers the Washington County Courthouse and education. Prior to working with the Observer-Reporter, Francesca was a staff writer with a Gannett paper in Ohio. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor’s degree in print and broadcast journalism.

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