SHOOTING STARS: Las Vegas’ boxing-mecca status continues with ‘Shaq Vs.’

  Shaquille O’Neal always has been a standout athlete. (Considering the fact Shaq’s more than 7 feet tall, it hardly could be any other way.)
  Before O’Neal, pictured at right, returns to NBA duties next month, however, he’s demonstrating his versatility in the new ABC reality series “Shaq Vs.”
  And for the show’s two-day visit today and Tuesday, the focus will be on (what else?) boxing, as O’Neal takes on retired “Golden Boy” Oscar De La Hoya, who’s won titles in a variety of weight designations, from lightweight to welterweight to middleweight. (But never at anything approaching O’Neal’s 300-plus pounds.)
  The show’s premise finds O’Neal challenging other stars in their respective sports, from baseball slugger Albert Pujols (last week’s opponent in St. Louis) to Olympic swimming champ Michael Phelps (next week’s target in Baltimore).
  But “when you think about boxing, you think about Vegas,” notes Joe Hipps, TV production executive for Media Rights Capital, one of the companies behind the show.
  In addition to tracking the boxing-ring battle between O’Neal and De La Hoya, the hourlong episode will be “showcasing Vegas,” Hipps says. “We plan to do stuff on the Strip with Shaquille.”
  Along with such obligatory boxing-match elements as training sessions, a news conference and “maybe even a weigh-in,” the show’s two-day visit will culminate in an actual bout outside on the Strip, in front of the show’s location headquarters, Planet Hollywood.
  And though the itinerary’s specifics hadn’t been finalized at deadline, Hipps expects the two-day shoot to include “iconic Vegas images.”
  Double feature: Two feature films also focus on Las Vegas this week.
  The cross-country odyssey “Sweet Little Lies” plans to visit locations ranging from downtown to the outskirts of town, along with local motels, residences and a pawnshop.
  The drama, directed by William J. Saunders, follows a Kansas teen (played by Caitlyn Kinnenun) heading to Las Vegas to find the father she’s never known, accompanied by a fragile friend (Joseph Montes).
  “Sweet Little Lies” was scheduled to kick off its fourth week of production Saturday, following stops in Kansas City, Mo., the Kansas towns of Topeka and Liberal and another Las Vegas — the one in New Mexico.
  The production comes to Las Vegas for two weeks following a few days shooting the wide open spaces of Utah’s Monument Valley.
  “The biggest reason we are here in Las Vegas, other than this is where our story ends, is because Vegas has it all,” producer Justin Begnaud explains. “Excellent rates on hotels, great food, helpful administrative folks, and, best of all, most of the locations we are using are very friendly and free!”
  Overall, “I don’t think we could find another town which encompasses everything we need,” he concludes.
  And while it’s a long way from St. Petersburg, Russia, to Las Vegas, that’s the route traveled by the feature “Shadows in White Nights,” which is expected here this week for a four-day shoot, following principal production in Russia. According to Russian news reports, Christian Slater, pictured, stars as the American husband of a Russian ballerina (played by real-life dancer Sofia Arzhakovskaya). Slater’s a made-in-Vegas veteran, with credits from “Very Bad Things” and “3,000 Miles to Graceland” to the upcoming “Dolan’s Cadillac.”
  Expected shots include a Strip limousine cruise and the iconic Welcome to Las Vegas sign.
  Reality check: Leftfield Productions’ reality series “Happily Ever Faster,” based at Las Vegas’ own Chapel of the Flowers wedding chapel, continues production through the first week in September, according to Leftfield owner Brent Montgomery.
  Montgomery’s also hoping another Leftfield reality series, History’s “Pawn Stars,” will be picked up for an additional 13 episodes following its successful debut.
  And Leftfield’s far from finished with Las Vegas’ reality-TV potential. The production company may even open a Las Vegas office in hopes of developing additional series focusing on local family-owned businesses.
  TV channels are always looking for reality shows based somewhere other than the usual New York-Los Angeles-Chicago locations, he says.
  “With Vegas, you have the entire country,” because “it’s such a melting pot,” Montgomery comments. In addition, “Vegas seems to draw big characters with big dreams,” making it “ripe for a lot of reality shows.”
  To that end, if you (or someone you know) might have as the focus of a reality-TV series, e-mail Montgomery at leftfieldlasvegas@gmail.com.
  Coming attraction: Speaking of reality series, a new ABC competition titled “Face of Vegas” is expected to begin production here in a few weeks. As always, stay tuned to Shooting Stars for more details.
 

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