Every autumn, Hollywood trades in superheroes and TV-to-movie reboots for serious pictures with Oscar pedigrees.
This year, at least three movies with Academy Award aspirations showcase Lehigh Valley-connected artists.
Steven Spielberg’s “The Post” features the costume designs of Bangor-area resident Ann Roth; Todd Haynes’ “Wonderstruck” stars Allentown’s Oakes Fegley; and Woody Allen’s “Wonder Wheel” boasts production design by former Easton resident Santo Loquasto.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to local people showcasing their artistry on the big screen:’s Read on for a rundown of how the Lehigh Valley will be influencing a handful of coming feature films: offerings.
Jay Feather: The Bethlehem-born cinematographer who has worked on TV series such as “Veep” and “Billions” worked as a “B” camera operator on “Change In the Air,” an indie drama about a young woman (Rachel Brosnahan) who shakes up the residents of a sleepy suburban neighborhood. The cast includes Macy Gray, Mary Beth Hurt, Olympia Dukakis, M. Emmet Walsh and Aidan Quinn.
Oakes Fegley: Allentown’s Fegley aced the starring role in Disney’s “Pete’s Dragon” last year. He keeps his winning streak alive with a series of movies, including “Wonderstruck” (Oct. 20), the story of a young deaf boy who, following the death of his mother (Michelle Williams), travels to New York to try to track down the father he never knew. There’s also a parallel story about a young girl (Millicent Simmonds) in the 1920s who also travels to New York. Julianne Moore co-stars in the drama, which is based on a 2011 best-seller by Brian Selznick. Fegley also plays supporting roles in “When The Moon Was Twice As Big” (November), in which a 50-year-old man (Paul Hickert) flashes back to his days as a youth (Turner Maxwell) when he dreamed of being a space explorer; Zeke Zelker’s long-gestating, Allentown-shot “Billboard,” which is loosely based on the Valley’s billboard-sitting contest launched by WSAN in 1982; and “The Truth About Lies” (Oct. 27), a romantic comedy about a man (Fran Kranz) who loses his job and apartment and is forced to move back in with his mother (Colleen Camp).
Dwayne Johnson: For his third movie of the year following “Fate of the Furious” and “Baywatch,” the Freedom High School grad stars in “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” (Dec. 20), a remake of the Robin Williams comedy. In this version, four teenagers discover an old video game console and soon find themselves trapped in the bodies of their avatars. “Dangerous animal encounters and tropical peril ensues,” as Entertainment Weekly says. Johnson shares the screen with Philadelphia native Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Nick Jonas and Karen Gillan.
Dan Kuchar: Born in Bethlehem, Kuchar has worked as an assistant art director on scores of features including “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and “Mr. Popper’s Penguins.” His latest movie is “The Greatest Showman” (Dec. 25), an original musical that’s inspired by the life of P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman). The cast of this ambitious outing includes Zac Efron and Michelle Williams.
Christopher Lennertz: After scoring “Baywatch” starring Dwayne Johnson, the Easton-raised musician composed music for “Pitch Perfect 3” (Dec. 22), which finds the now-separated Bellas (Anna Kendrick, Hailee Steinfeld, Brittany Snow, Rebel Wilson) reuniting for one last singing competition at an overseas USO tour. Made on relatively small budgets, the first two “Pitch Perfect” films earned $403 million at the box-office.
Santo Loquasto: Early word on Woody Allen’s “Wonder Wheel” (Dec. 1) has been very good and that is, at least in part, a tribute to the Easton-raised production designer. Set in the 1950s on Coney Island, “Wonder Wheel” revolves around a woman (Kate Winslet) who has grown weary of her life as the wife of a carousel operator (James Belushi.) She spots a lifeguard (Justin Timberlake) and falls hard for him but is thrown for a loop when her husband’s daughter (Juno Temple) resurfaces and also sets her sights on Timberlake. Loquasto has worked on every one of Allen’s American-shot movies since 1980’s “Radio Days,” including last year’s acclaimed “Cafe Society,” in which the designer helped Allen re-create Hollywood in the 1930s.
Elizabeth Marvel: A native of the tiny Berks County town of Mohnton, this reliable character actress scores one of her meatiest roles in “The Meyerowitz Stories” (Oct. 13), the Noah Baumbach-directed saga of an estranged family (Marvel, Adam Sandler) gathering in New York for an event celebrating the artistic work of their father (Dustin Hoffman). Sigourney Weaver, Emma Thompson, Ben Stiller and Adam Driver offer support.
Jillian Murray: Growing up in Wyomissing, down the street from Taylor Swift, isn’t Murray’s only claim to fame. She’s a regular on the CBS series “Code Black” and plays a key role in “Dark Ascension” (Dec. 7), a horror thriller that takes off from the premise that the gates of heaven and hell have been broken, disrupting the afterlife in a major way. One group of new arrivals must find a way to put things right to prevent evil from triumphing over good. Sean Young and Bruce Campbell co-star.
Heather Parry: Premiering Sept. 22 on Netflix, “Gaga: Five Foot Two” goes behind the scenes with pop provocateur Lady Gaga in the months leading up to the release of her latest album and the unveiling of her Super Bowl halftime show. Parry, who was born and raised in Macungie, produced the feature film for Live Nation.
Daniel Roebuck: When the Bethlehem native decided to make his directorial debut with “Getting Grace,” he came home not only to shoot the movie but also to cast his leading lady. The dramedy is about the friendship that develops between a fatally ill teenager (Madelyn Dundon, a graduate of Bethlehem Catholic) and a funeral home owner (Roebuck). “Getting Grace” recently premiered at the Northeast Film Festival in Teaneck, N.J.
Ann Roth: At 85, the veteran of more than 100 feature films, is having another busy year. The Bangor-area resident designed the costumes for “The Post” (Dec. 22), which focuses on the battle between the Washington Post, run by publisher Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) and editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), and Richard Nixon over the publication of the Pentagon Papers. The supporting cast includes Sarah Paulson, Alison Brie, Jesse Plemons and Carrie Coon. She also was costume designer on two as-yet-unscheduled films: “The Yellow Birds,” an Iraq war drama starring Jason Patric, Tye Sheridan, Toni Collette, Alden Ehrenreich, Jennifer Aniston and Jack Huston; and “The Seagull,” a big-screen adaptation of the Chekhov play starring Saoirse Ronan, Elisabeth Moss, Corey Stoll, Annette Bening and Mare Winningham.
Amanda Seyfried: It looks like the Allentown native’s second film of 2017 — following “The Last Word” with Shirley MacLaine — is going to be a hit with critics. Following the premiere of “First Reformed” at the Venice Film Festival, Variety’s Owen Gleiberman praised writer/director Paul Schrader’s visionary thriller, saying that the filmmaker “pours all his obsessions, from Robert Bresson to pulp violence into a grindhouse art film you can't stop watching.” Ethan Hawke anchors the film as a small-town priest who is guilt-ridden over the death of his son in Iraq when he becomes involved with a parishioner (Seyfried) who asks for his guidance in dealing with her unhinged husband (Philip Ettinger).
Amy Taylor: Since leaving DreamWorks for Industrial Light and Magic, the Phillipsburg-raised f/x artist has been on a roll, working on big movies like “Doctor Strange” and “The Mummy.” This fall, her handiwork enlivens “Thor: Ragnarok” (Nov. 3) which pits the Marvel hero (Chris Hemsworth) against former ally the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Benedict Cumberbatch and Anthony Hopkins round out the cast.
Holland Taylor: Raised in Allentown, this veteran character actress (“Two and a Half Men”) plays a key role in “Kepler’s Dream” (Oct. 6), a drama about a youngster who, reeling from her mother’s (Kelly Lynch) cancer diagnosis, is sent to New Mexico to live temporarily with her grandmother (Taylor). Once out West, the 11-year-old tries to track down a rare book that could help her understand her fractured family.
Addison Timlin: Since scoring critical raves for her turn as a goth-girl-turned-nun in “Little Sister,” the Quakertown native has starred in a handful of offerings from “Fallen” to the upcoming “When I’m A Moth,” in which she plays a young Hillary Clinton. First up is “Submission,” a comedy about a writing professor (Stanley Tucci) who, as his life is falling apart, finds himself drawn to a talented student (Timlin). Janeane Garofalo and Kyra Sedgwick co-star.
Amy Longsdorf is a freelance writer.