Underwood to direct film here

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Blair Underwood, a Carnegie Mellon University graduate, is back in Pittsburgh, this time to direct his first feature film.

Blair Underwood -- His movie is set on the North Side.
Click photo for larger image.

The actor is in town preparing to make "The Bridge to Nowhere," a crime drama starring Ving Rhames, along with Mt. Lebanon native Daniel London (recently seen in fest favorite "Old Joy") and others still to be announced. Principal photography will start March 26 and is expected to last about four weeks.

The movie is about a group of 20-something North Siders in dead-end jobs who are always scheming to make extra money, producer Mike Wittlin said yesterday. They cook up an idea that involves prostitutes, but their resulting pimp and drug business takes off and gets out of hand.

Rhames, who has 10 projects in various stages of production, will play a mentor to the North Side newcomers. The movie, written by Chris Gutierrez, is budgeted at just under $2 million and it will feature Pittsburgh as Pittsburgh.

"The Bridge to Nowhere" will represent Underwood's most ambitious directing project -- his credits so far include music videos and a 30-minute short called "The Second Coming."

The 42-year-old Underwood, who found success early with such projects as "L.A. Law," is often cast as the male romantic lead. He starred in "Something New" opposite Sanaa Lathan a year ago, and more recently, he played a teacher on "The New Adventures of Old Christine" and is working on an HBO series, "In Treatment."

Smithfield Street Productions, named for the Downtown home of the first Nickelodeon, has set up shop in Green Tree and is still nailing down locations. Expect to spot crews in the Woods Run area of the North Side, along a bridge or two (although the title also is symbolic) and elsewhere around the city.

"Everybody's been wonderful, the city of Pittsburgh, the mayor's office, Dan Onorato. Dawn Keezer bent over backward to help us out. We're Pittsburgh guys, we're loving this," Wittlin said. He and fellow producer Brian Hartman, from Shadyside, expect to create 100 jobs with their production.

Nancy Mosser Casting is handling local actors and (come mid-March) extras. Call 412-434-1666 for more information.

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


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