Hollywood film ‘Fort McCoy’ features local acting

Movie focuses on family living as POWs during WWII

In just a few days, a movie based right in our own backyard will be lighting the big screen.

The movie “Fort McCoy” focuses on one family who moves to the Fort, which was being used to house German and Japanese prisoners of war during WWII.

The movie stars, is written, produced and directed by Kate Connor, who is known for roles in TV shows like “Mad Men” and “Lost”. The movie is actually based on the true story of Connor’s family. This movie is lined with big, famous Hollywood actors and actresses, and some of them are from right here in the Coulee Region.

“This story, unless I’m mistaken, this is one of the first times that this aspect of World War II has ever really been addressed on the big screen and that is what we did, have foreign POW’s housed in the United States of America during World War II from Germany, from Japan,” La Crosse resident Sean McDevitt said.

McDevitt is cast as Major Baxter, a foul-mouthed, hot-tempered former pastor who runs the pay office at Fort McCoy.

“I remember I was so terribly nervous that first day, but it worked because the character is supposed to be agitated, so I just used some of that honest nervous energy that I had going and just channeled it into the scene,” McDevitt said.

Phil Addis lives in La Cresent. He says he auditioned to be an extra, but a week later got a call asking him to play a bigger role alongside some big name stars.

“Working with Camryn Manheim as her husband was a great trip. She was so down to earth and she welcomed me literally with open arms. Eric Stoltz, he was wonderful to work with as well as everyone else,” Addis said.

Addis has no lines in the film, but it’s because his film wife Florie is quite the character.

“She’s a very vibrant character. You don’t say a lot unless your spoken to, just one of those wives if you will,” Addis said.

The now 12-year-old La Crosse boy Marty Backstrand plays the role of Lester Stirn, son of the main characters.

“I was only 5, but I was happy the whole way through. They gave me a toy pistol, they gave me a dog to play with, I was in heaven,” Backstrand said.

Backstrand said “Fort McCoy” was his first acting gig and he has some great memories from his days filming.

“Seymour Cassel teased me, teased me in it, and like right before the wedding scene he started teasing me, I kicked dirt on him. I was only 5, I kicked dirt on him. And my mom is like,’Oh my God we’re going to get fired,’ Seymour kicked dirt back at me,” Backstrand said.

“I’m going to be excited to see if I am in the movie,” La Cresent resident Sharon Markee said.

Markee is in the background of many scenes as an extra. She says the film itself will be great, but it will also bring some much deserved recognition to the Coulee Region.

“We have got such a talent pool in our area and I think if you come to La Crosse Community Theatre or any of the theaters you will see this talent. So it’s exciting that we had this and that we are going to get this recognition for the wonderful talent that La Crosse has,” Markee said.

The film was shot in 2008. Since then it has won multiple awards at film festivals.

It’s not just local actors featured in this movie, almost all of the movie was shot in the area. Places in Coon Valley, downtown La Crosse and of course at Fort McCoy near Sparta as well.

The film is premiering in La Crosse Thursday at the Marcus Theatre on Ward Avenue.