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‘Max Steel’ stops by Hoggard High

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The front lawn of Hoggard High School transformed into the scene of the live-action feature film “Max Steel” Saturday, May 3.

Actors Ben Winchell, playing Max McGrath, and Ana Villafañe, playing Sophia, filmed a scene in which Sophia nearly hits Max on his bicycle with her car.

Battling a first week of raining weather, the sun came out Saturday, allowing several hours of uninterrupted shooting time.

Producer Julia Pistol of Mattel said Wilmington was the first location scout for the film, and along with the tax incentives they were sold when they saw the Ideal Cement plant.

The crew will film in the cement plant for 17 of 25 days. Pistol said the location defines the story.

“What’s interesting about our film, as you can see here today, is it starts off as a very intimate, character-driven film, but it ends up as a major real Fanboy film with suits and aliens and explosions,” Pistol said. “We needed to find locations that would be both intimate and beautiful.”

Winchell and Villafañe, both from Atlanta, have walked the beach strand in Wrightsville Beach with plans to return soon.

It was Winchell’s childhood dream to play a superhero, and he is playing a character his brother grew up watching.

“It’s a huge step for me as an actor,” Winchell said. “…What it means for me as an actor is I feel like already, I’ve been a week in and I’ve grown so much. It was like a two-and-one-half month process beforehand where I had to train physically and mentally.”

He has stayed in Wrightsville Beach a couple of times before.

“I love Wrightsville Beach,” Winchell said. “When I found out we were shooting in Wilmington, I got super giddy, and then I was like, ‘Somebody tell me where we’re shooting, where we’re staying.’ They’re like, ‘Well, we’re staying in this area called Wrightsville Beach,’ and I was like, “Yes, I love Wrightsville Beach.’”

He said he plans to stay for an extra week to surf, skateboard and Jet Ski. During filming, he has to limit his off-set activities but will do about 40 percent of his stunts on-set.

Villafañe, who was born in Atlanta and raised in Miami, said this story is the first chapter of the “Max Steel” films.

“He is just discovering his powers,” Villafañe said. “…It’s the launching point for something a lot bigger.”

Andy Garcia was revealed as a cast member a few days earlier, and additional cast members will be announced soon.

Produced by Dolphin Films and Mattel, the film is scheduled for a January 2015 release through Open Road Films.

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