published Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Jackie Robinson movie '42' begins filming at Engel Stadium in Chattanooga

James McDougal, sitting among a group of dummies in the right field stands, sends a text message during a rain delay as filming gets under way Monday at Engel Stadium for the movie, "42."
James McDougal, sitting among a group of dummies in the right field stands, sends a text message during a rain delay as filming gets under way Monday at Engel Stadium for the movie, "42."
Photo by John Rawlston.
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Extras Still Needed

If you'd like to be an extra, go to beinthemovie42.com or call 1-800-913-8563 and follow the directions.

For Wayne Hickey Jr., landing a role as an umpire in the movie "42" is especially meaningful.

His father, Wayne Hickey Sr., was well-known as an umpire at high school and other baseball games for many years, and the elder Hickey played an umpire in "The Pete Gray Story," which was shot partially at Engel Stadium in 1985.

"I drove by his grave and had a little visit and told him I might be in this movie and that I could use a little help," Hickey Jr. said Monday. "I used to go up on the roof and watch him umpire here."

On Monday, Hickey joined about 200 crew members, several professional actors, dozens more featured extras and hundreds of volunteer extras -- along with hundreds of dummies dressed in their best '40s-era costumes -- filling Engel Stadium as "42" began filming here.

The Hollywood feature film recounts how Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in major league baseball in 1947 and stars Chadwick Boseman as Robinson and Harrison Ford as Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey.

Some scenes were shot in Birmingham, Ala., at Rickwood Field last week, and crews plan to be here through June 6.

Hickey said he had to shave his beard for his role and fellow umpire Gary Miller said he shaved off his mustache.

Miller was umpiring at second base Monday morning as a scene featuring actor Lucas Black as Dodger shortstop Pee Wee Reese was shot.

"They kept shooting it and the poor guy had to slide into second over and over," Miller said. "They did 17 takes. He was pretty beat up."

Felice Klein also earned a featured extra role and said she'll be on set for each day of shooting over the next two weeks.

"I gave up a trip to Florida to do this," she said. "My brother, who I lost, was a big baseball fan and I just wanted to do it."

Engel Stadium has been transformed over the last six or seven weeks with a giant green wall extending from the end of the stands all the way around. Through the magic of film, editors will be able to project everything from the Brooklyn skyline to various scoreboards from different old-time ballparks on the giant green screen.

"This is our version of Fenway's Big Green Monster, only it goes all the way around," said Ernie Malik, publicist for the film.

The infield also was moved, pushing home plate farther away from the backstop. New, temporary dugouts were constructed and the field has a fairly drastic slope along both edges as it would have at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn where the Dodgers played. Once filming ends, Engel will be returned to normal, according to Janna Jahn, executive director of The Engel Foundation.

Malik said scenes being shot Monday would represent the old Crosley Field in Cincinnati, while today's shots will represent the old Sportsman's Park in St. Louis. Later, Engel will be made to represent Ebbets Field and Shibe Park in Philadelphia.

More extras are needed to fill in the crowd shots, Malik said, and those interested should visit beinthemovie42.com to get more information. Throughout each day of shooting, prizes, including iPads and trips, will be raffled off to volunteer extras, according to Malik.

Shooting will take place today through Friday, May 29 through June 1 and June 4 and 6 before moving on to Atlanta and Macon, Ga.

The film is scheduled to be released next spring.

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about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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