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Butler County residents part of Coen brother’s film cast

Sami Roth, center, throws up peace signs on the set of Drive-Away Dolls with director Ethan Coen in fall 2022. Submitted photo
Miss Butler County 2024 plays supporting role

One of the biggest steps in Sami Roth’s acting career came from a role not filmed in a studio in Hollywood, but in a location just up the road from Love’s Travel Stop in Worth Township.

Roth, who is Miss Butler County 2024, is playing a supporting role in “Drive-Away Dolls,” directed by Ethan Coen, creator of films including “The Big Lebowski,” “No Country for Old Men” and “Fargo.”

After auditioning for two speaking roles, Roth earned the supporting role at the recommendation of Coen, she said. Her two days of filming took place in a few locations in the fall 2022.

“Ethan Coen watched me, and I didn't get either, but he said he really likes me but wanted me on the soccer team,” Roth said. “Having a director that serious know my name is really cool.”

Roth plays a soccer player who is part of a team featured in a few scenes in the movie. She said she already spotted herself in one of the film’s trailers.

“Drive-Away Dolls” is an action comedy thriller starring Margaret Qualley, Geraldine Viswanathan and Beanie Feldstein, also featuring Pedro Pascal and Matt Damon. The film is Ethan Coen’s first film without his brother and longtime movie-making partner, Joel.

The production shot scenes in a few other Pittsburgh-area locales, which also featured Western Pennsylvanians in background and supporting roles. Another Butler County local, Gary Matassa Jr., a musician from Winfield Township, was referred by a friend to portray a drummer in the movie, for his ability to play the instrument.

Matassa traveled to the Carnegie area in the fall of 2022 to film a scene, and was called back for reshoots in early-2023.

“The first time was most of the day, the second time was a little quicker, about a half a day,” Matassa said. “Everybody on set was cool; I talked to the makeup and hair girl, the camera guys, everybody was super cool.”

According to Matassa, he filmed his parts for a scene taking place in a country club. Only a few other people were in the scene with him, Matassa said.

As a supporting player in the movie, Roth said she worked with several crew members on set, from stylists to an intimacy coordinator. The set was a comfortable environment to work in, according to Roth.

“I've been on a bunch of sets and I didn't feel a weird barrier,” Roth said. “The intimacy coordinator knew me by name myself. She would talk to us to make sure we were OK with everything.”

Matassa also said the set was a good working environment, and it was exciting to meet Coen, who directed some of his favorite films.

“Ethan Coen's set is remarkably wonderful,” Matassa said. “It was professional, really relaxed, everyone working together. Everybody is really excited when he comes to do a local shoot.”

Matassa and Roth each said they were invited to the film’s Pittsburgh premiere this week — another exciting event for both.

Having a Coen brother movie at the top of her resume for the past year or so has opened up doors for Roth in the acting world, earning attention from people casting in live productions and amusement parks. The career boost has been an exciting development for Roth, but she said just working on a movie with Ethan Coen was a milestone in itself.

“It has definitely been a big step for me not only my acting career and on stage,” Roth said. “The fact Ethan knows my name is just amazing.”

“Drive-Away Dolls” will be released Friday, Feb. 23, with some showings scheduled for Thursday.

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