It’s been a year since filmmakers visited McDowell County on a casting call looking for local folks interested in a movie featuring one of their own.
They came to acknowledge the hard work that transformed a young woman’s life from tragic to triumphant.
Filmmakers visited Welch to depict the life of former resident Jeannette Walls, who became a well-known journalist after moving away in high school and an unimaginable life fostered by her dysfunctional parents.
Her 2005 memoir and #1 New York Times best-seller is the basis for “The Glass Castle” movie which will be in theaters nationwide Aug. 11.
It features several well-known actors including Brie Larson, who plays Walls. Woody Harrelson, best known for his roles on Cheers and the Hunger Games film series, has been tapped to play her father, Welch native Rex Walls.
In the book, Walls was depicted as an alcoholic unable to provide for his family and who periodically deserts them. He was also the kind of man who encouraged his children to look at the stars and planets, especially during difficult times.
The title, “The Glass Castle,” comes from his promise to one day build the family their very own glass castle – right down to blueprints for the project.
That never happened.
In reality dreams were a far cry from the turbulent life and poverty – including near starvation, a lack of running water and even incest – the four youngsters endured while living in Welch. Eventually three of them helped one another escape to New York City.
In the movie, Naomi Watts portrays (mother) Rose Mary Walls,a free-spirited woman who taught only sporadically locally after the family moved East from Phoenix.
Eventually both parents followed their offspring to New York where they continued their unconventional lives, including stints as homeless squatters.
At one point early in the book, Walls recalls being on the way to an event in Manhattan and how it felt to see her mother rummaging through a garbage can on a nearby sidewalk.
Local filming was important to the movie’s authenticity, because it offered some insight into Walls’ family problems, the same problems that helped make her a strong person capable of reporting on others’ lives.
Vic Nystrom Stadium was the setting used last year to recreate a Welch High School football game and its bleachers quickly became a sea of the now-closed school’s colors maroon and white.
Mount View High (a consolidated school that replaced Welch) cheerleaders help get the crowd in the mood as the school’s football players took the field.
Some folks wore specially-made T-shirts that read “The Maroon Wave,” which was the name of the Welch High School newspaper where Walls first discovered her passion for journalism.
Earlier in the day, filming at the Welch Daily News office attracted an excited crowd.
Time spent in Welch was important, and helped shape her as a strong woman and journalist, Walls recently told People magazine.
Sharing those early, traumatic times has been cathartic especially since she hid her past for years.
Now she’s hoping others will be empowered about their own lives.
“I think that’s the magic of storytelling – if one person is willing to be brave and tell their story, then that allows other people to be honest. I think there’s incredible value in coming to terms with your story.”