Action flick 'Unstoppable' to film in Pittsburgh

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"Unstoppable" is back on track, bound for Pittsburgh, and counts Denzel Washington on board the action-thriller.

A source at 20th Century Fox confirmed to the Post-Gazette the studio is moving ahead with the project with the two-time Oscar winner. With "Warrior" pulling up stakes this week, the arrival of "Unstoppable" will make for almost non-stop work for the city's film crews.

The trade publication Variety first reported on its Web site that nearly two weeks after Mr. Washington formally withdrew from the Tony Scott picture, the actor and studio had come to terms and pre-production resumed in Pittsburgh.

The budget, which Fox reportedly wanted to hold to $90 million, and salaries for A-list director Mr. Scott and Mr. Washington were sticking points, but the issues were resolved, paving the way for the actor and director to work together for a fifth time.

Mr. Washington will appear alongside "Star Trek" breakout star Chris Pine in the story of an unmanned runaway train loaded with toxic cargo. Mr. Washington is a veteran engineer who jumps into the locomotive with a young conductor in a movie inspired by real events.

" 'Unstoppable' has a green light and we're very excited they're going to move forward with a project we've worked on for several years," Dawn Keezer, director of the Pittsburgh Film Office, said yesterday. "It will mean lots of jobs for lots of people through the end of the year."

It could be one of the largest productions to come to southwestern Pennsylvania, with filming from late summer through year's end. The movie also will shoot in Ohio, Central Pennsylvania, the state's northern tier and take advantage of the new and sprawling Mogul Mind Studios near the 31st Street Bridge in the Strip District.

"They are here because of the Pennsylvania film tax credit program, so it is our sincere hope it stays intact so we can continue to see this kind of economic impact in this region," Ms. Keezer said. The program, which offers incentives to film and TV producers, has been the subject of debate in Harrisburg as the commonwealth tries to hammer out a new budget.

20th Century Fox plans to be in Pennsylvania for 77 of its scheduled 95 shoot days, starting Aug. 31. It will hire 90 full-time and 75 part-time employees. In all, more than 10,000 hotel room nights will be needed in Pennsylvania.

"The arrival of this blockbuster will mean 300 hotel rooms a night for five weeks -- in the fall," said David Morris, executive director of Pennsylvania's Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau, which handles marketing for Cameron and surrounding counties. "This economic boost comes at the right time."

If, as expected, "Unstoppable" is not the only project in the Pittsburgh area this fall, the film office is confident there will be plenty of experienced workers to go around.

"Thankfully, we've more than doubled our crew base and we think everyone in the film industry will be fully employed through the end of the year," Ms. Keezer said. "It's a large production, there will be lots of hires."

Mr. Scott and Mr. Washington previously worked on "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3," "Deja Vu," "Man on Fire" and "Crimson Tide." Mr. Pine's profile is on the rise, thanks to his portrayal of James T. Kirk in "Star Trek."


Post-Gazette movie editor Barbara Vancheri can be reached at bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632.


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