Project is latest to surround wrestlers with established thesps

Ed Harris and Amy Madigan have joined the cast of World Wrestling Entertainment’s family drama “Big Red.”

WWE star Randy Orton is featured in the film, set during the mid-1960s, about a bright 12-year-old boy whose English teacher (Harris) pairs him up on a project with the school’s biggest outcast and social pariah, Stanley (“Big Red”). When Andy watches Stanley fearlessly confront a school bully, a series of events is unleashed that changes the lives of the boys and their teacher.

Madigan will play the school’s principal, while Orton portrays the father of the bully who campaigns to get the teacher fired.

Chase Ellison (“Tooth Fairy”), Daniel Roebuck (“Final Destination”), Molly Parker (HBO’s “Deadwood”) and Mia Rose Frampton (ABC Family’s “Make It or Break It”) round out the cast.

WWE Studios’ executive president Mike Pavone will direct from his own script, with lensing skedded to begin in and around New Orleans next week. He will produce the pic with Denise Chamian.

The project is the third that WWE has greenlit to self-finance, produce and release through its distribution deal with Samuel Goldwyn Films, inked last month (Daily Variety, Jan. 19). The casting of Harris and Madigan also continues WWE’s latest strategy of surrounding its wrestlers with established actors, rather than having them completely carry a film.

WWE Studios has already wrapped comedy “Knucklehead,” with Mark Feuerstein and wrestler Paul “Big Show” Wight and “Legendary,” formerly known as “Brother’s Keeper,” that co-stars Patricia Clarkson, Danny Glover and wrestler John Cena. Both will unspool in theaters this year. WWE will produce nine films virtually back-to-back through 2012.

Harris most recently wrote, directed, produced and starred in the western “Appaloosa,” while Madigan recently had a recurring role on ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy.” The two are married.

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