Playing the favorite, the big-screen feature “Lay the Favorite” — based on Beth Raymer’s sports-betting memoir — launches production Wednesday in Las Vegas.
Rebecca Hall (“The Town,” “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”) plays Raymer, while Bruce Willis takes on the role of Dink Heimowitz, Raymer’s mentor in the sports-betting game. And local actor Rusty Meyers has been cast as one of Dink’s gambling buddies. Calling the shots: veteran director Stephen Frears (“Dangerous Liaisons,” “The Queen”) .
Reacting to Raymer’s book, Frears described it as “strange as hell, wildly affectionate and very, very funny.
“It is a world filled with scoundrels, thieves, and gamblers. It is a world we all recognize, where everyone is looking to somehow come out on top while doing what they love. The book is wise and has a relish for life that is a treat.”
As for filming sites, “Lay the Favorite” ranks as an all-around-the-town production, with scheduled locations ranging from Caesars Palace and the Rio to Bally’s sports book. Among the expected downtown stops: the Fremont Street Experience, the Golden Nugget, Ogden Mart and the roof of the Funk House — playing the demanding role of a rooftop at the Pandora Court Motel. The actual motel is in Louisiana; after this week’s five-day location visit, “Lay the Favorite” moves to New Orleans for a 25-day shoot.
Road trip: The documentary “Bailout 2011” also starts shooting Wednesday at locations from the Strip to Fremont Street Experience to the Double Down Saloon.
The movie follows Chicago attorney John Titus — accompanied by musician Sergio Mayora, journalist Nicole Erhardt , comedian John Fox and unemployed sidekick Ruben Castillo — as they journey in a Winnebago from Las Vegas to Chicago, with stops in Phoenix, Roswell, N.M., Dallas, St. Louis and Louisville (in time for the Kentucky Derby).
Titus is funding the trek from the mortgage payments he’s skipped since his bank failed to deliver a copy of his promissory note, explains director Sean Fahey. Instead, “Vegas is the chance for him” to give himself a bailout, Fahey explains. “Vegas is such a great backdrop for one last hurrah.”
Along the way, the documentary will talk with those impacted by bank foreclosures and other economic problems . “There are a lot of good people who love Las Vegas and are wishing for the good days to come back.”
Short take: Local filmmaker (and graveyard-shift dealer) Scott Buzz is completing an eight-day shoot this week on “The Bath Ring,” a fictional short featuring writer-producer Crystal Dawne (author of “Heaven on Planet Earth: HOPE”) and Greg Norman Jr., son of golfer Greg Norman, who “flew out from Florida to be a part of the project,” Buzz notes. Locations include the Psychic Eye bookstore, the Pink boutique at Boca Park, Sunset Park, Southern Highlands, Rhodes Ranch and a local realty office.
Reality check: It’s food for thought as the Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race” and the Cooking Channel’s “Foodography” are expected in town, along with the SITV cable channel’s “Model Latina 2011” competition. Also on the schedule: Spike’s “Repo Games” and Bravo’s “Millionaire Matchmaker,” which planned to shoot a one-day interview over the weekend.
Coming attractions: After eight years of “Bullshit!” on Showtime, Rio headliners Penn & Teller are ready for a new series — and a new outlet.
“Penn & Teller’s Secrets of the Universe,” which will air on the Discovery Channel, will explore such mind-boggling questions as “Can you lift a 5,000-pound car with human hair?” and “What happens to Teller when he’s lowered into a tank of piranhas?” On each program, however, P&T will feature one fabrication along with the factual segments — and viewers will have to “Guess the Lie.”
The show is expected to begin production in Las Vegas in early June; as always, stay tuned to Shooting Stars for more details.
Carol Cling’s Shooting Stars column appears Mondays. Contact her at (702) 383-0272 or ccling@reviewjournal. com.