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Taylor Firth lands role of Lexi in Ice Castles remake

Taylor Firth and co-star Rob Mayes.
Taylor Firth and co-star Rob Mayes. (courtesy Pattie Firth)

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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to icenetwork.com
(03/16/2009) - icenetwork.com's behind-the-scenes reporters, Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins take us backstage at the filming of the remake of Ice Castles, and preview the 2009 World Championships.

Ice Castles Redux

We were bemused when we heard that a remake of the popular 1978 movie Ice Castles was on the way. We were thrilled when we heard that the producers had cast an actual competitive skater in the lead role of Lexi [new spelling for this version]: senior lady Taylor Firth. Taylor finished 13th at the 2009 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships in January.

We caught up with Taylor on Sunday, the day before filming was to start in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

"I am so pumped!" she enthused.

Taylor told us the new movie is being produced by Sony Pictures and directed by Donald Wrye, who also directed the original. The role of Nick Peterson, Lexi's boyfriend, will be played by Rob Mayes. Morgan Kelly will play Aiden Reynolds, Lexi's coach.

"It was originally going to be a TV movie," Taylor told us, "But I think that is changing [to a theatrical release]."

So, how did she get cast?

"I got home from nationals," said Taylor, "And about a week and a half later, my coaches [Kirk Wyse and Lenel van den Berg] went through their spam e-mails and found an e-mail asking if I was interested in auditioning for this role. I was like, 'HECK YES!'"

A script arrived the next day, and Taylor had to make a video of herself reading a few scenes. "My stomach flipped, and my mind went like 100 mph," said Taylor. "I did what they said and sent out a video the next day. Obviously, it was very rough. I've had no acting experience in my life! I wasn't really expecting anything exciting to come of it at all."

Another week and a half later, Taylor got a call asking for another tape. She talked to the director ("a totally awesome guy"), who gave her some tips. The second tape went out on Tuesday, Feb. 10. The next day, the producers called and asked Taylor to go to Toronto, on Friday, Feb. 13, to do an on-ice audition.

"I was so thrilled," said Taylor. "It went really well. I met the director, David Wilson and Sandra Bezic. It was kind of intimidating, with all of them watching just me, but they were all so cool."

A couple of other girls were also auditioning at this point, although Taylor didn't see them.

"They actually had already hired another girl for the role," she told us, "But she wasn't a skater. They wanted to find someone who could skate. I guess they kind of liked me!"

While she was in Toronto, Taylor also did an acting audition, "which pretty much started with the director telling me that I can't act. I read a scene where I had to cry and have a bad break-up on the phone with Nick, a scene where my coach Aiden freaks out on me because I do a triple instead of a double, and one where I was blind and Nick was trying to help me."

Over the weekend, concerns arose because Taylor won't turn 18 until April 30 this year. "There were a lot of issues as to how many hours a day I could work and how would I do school. We were kind of getting the idea that I wasn't going to get hired. But, on that next Tuesday, I got a call saying that I got the role of Lexi, and on Wednesday I got a call saying that I had to be in Toronto the next day. I started calling anyone I could think of! I was so excited."

Taylor watched the original movie four times in a week. She says the new version will have basically the same plot as the original, in which Lexie, a champion skater, loses her sight in an accident but manages to return to competition with the help of her boyfriend Nick. Taylor says that the movie will be modernized; for instance, it will use the current International Judging System.

In Toronto, Taylor spent a busy week taking acting lessons, learning choreography and getting fitted for costumes. Then it was on to Halifax to prepare to shoot on location, at seven different rinks, as well as outdoors on a pond. For the next two weeks, she'll be working 10 hours a day, and then there will be another week or two of eight-hour days. Her mom Pattie has gone with her, and she'll be there the whole time; Taylor's father will also come for a week.

We asked Juliana Cannarozzo, who was one of the stars of Ice Princess, as well as a top ladies skater, if she had any advice for Taylor.

"I think just to enjoy every minute of it! It was such a great experience for me. Zoey was the best character to play. I don't think Lexi is anything like my character was, but, if Taylor needs any rocker chick advice, I'm here! I think she is going to have an amazing time! Best of luck to her! I can't wait to see the movie."

We'll check in with Taylor again after the filming is done and find out what happened. We can't wait to see the movie either!

To live and skate in L.A.

But back to real-life competition. U.S. Figure Skating's teleconferences on March 11 yielded a few nuggets in advance of the upcoming 2009 World Figure Skating Championships.

Keauna McLaughlin is excited, naturally, that the competition will be in her hometown. "A lot of people I've known my whole life haven't ever seen me compete," she said. "I know there will be so many people I know and love in the crowd. I mad my friends get seats right by the ice so after we skate and I can go over and hug them."

Rockne Brubaker revealed that he has been having blade issues all season. He switched to new blades several months ago, and finally went back to his old blades just a few weeks ago. "I'm jumping a lot better," he said. "I feel more comfortable on this blade. The rocker is different. To be honest with you, I don't even know why I tried the other blade."

Asked about Jessica Dubé and Bryce Davison, Rockne said, "You never get the feeling they're hoping you're going to fall on a jump. We've become great friends with them."

Both Keauna and Rockne seem very aware that they're younger than many of their competitors and that this will be their first world championships. "We're still the babies of the bunch!" said Keauna. "It's going to be an educational experience."

Next up, Jeremy Abbott got cagey about the quad. "I'm still working on it," he said. "As far as my strategy for worlds goes... it's a secret!"

Jeremy is excited to be heading to Los Angeles. "To say I'm pleased with the season so far would be an understatement. It's a great feeling to go into Worlds having actually qualified!"

Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto had a lot to say about their season, limited by Ben's back injury. Everyone wanted to know how he was doing. "I'm very close to 100 percent," he said. "Let's just say I'm 100 percent."

Told that Scott Moir had been practicing with sandbags while Tessa Virtue was off the ice following surgery, Tanith laughed. "I didn't use any sandbags!" she said. "I don't have to lift Ben so I didn't have to do that."

"When I got back it was like skating with a racehorse," said Ben. "She was so strong... I felt like a rodeo cowboy sometimes, just trying to hang on."

Tanith and Ben said they are very happy that their good friends Meryl Davis and Charlie White stepped up and won the U.S. title in their absence. "Charlie texted me when we withdrew from nationals," said Tanith, "And said, 'what are we going to do without you?' And I said, 'You're going to win!'"

We'll be bringing you all the backstage news we can find live from LA next week. Until then,
Sarah and Drew
SarahandDrewBlog@gmail.com