Marcello Conte missed weeks of school in September and October as he gained a different type of education at the hands of some Hollywood masters.
The 14-year-old eighth grader at Middle Township Middle School and his mother, Beth, figured he would receive an education in acting by working with Susan Sarandon and Lea Thompson.
Conte, of Cape May Court House, has a role in the movie "Ping Pong Summer," which is set in 1985 in the beach town of Ocean City, Md., and stars the two famous actresses.
The Maryland beach town is where writer/director Michael Tully spent his childhood summers. Conte plays Radford "Rad" Miracle, a character inspired by Tully.
Conte said the chance to work on the film was too good an opportunity to worry about missing a few weeks of school.
"You might as well take that opportunity if it is thrown at you," said Conte.
Conte won the role through an audition. He'd acted in his classroom, but never on a stage. During the audition process, Conte met once with Mark "The Don" Vito, owner of Casba Comedy Club in Wildwood, to receive acting tips. Conte also met with the other actors in the film, participated in a full-cast reading and attended a "Ping Pong" boot camp before the first day of filming on Sept. 19.
In the movie, Sarandon, plays a crazy neighbor, who menaces everybody. Conte, however, was not frightened by the Academy Award-winning actress.
"She is a really great actor. She's a cool person too. On her last day, it was rainy. She let me stay in her trailer for a little bit. We were just like talking about some stuff. We were talking about where I live here in Cape May (County). She was saying that she has some family down here," Conte said. "When we were also in her trailer, we went over our lines five times."
Thompson, from the "Back to the Future" movies and "Caroline in the City" TV series, plays Conte's mother in the film.
"She's a really great person," said Conte, who added his father is played by John Hannah from "The Mummy" movies. "We were together a lot of the time, so we were talking about things, like how our characters were. A lot of our scenes together were in the house, so we were all just like crammed in together, so we were kind of like hanging out all of us really."
Conte will be seen in the movie riding roller coasters, playing ping pong, break dancing and beat boxing among other things. He needed help with his break dancing, which he received from Chris "Miss Chris" Fletcher, a dance instructor for the Cape May Dance Company.
"He got the footwork down pretty quick. The Worm wasn't quite an easy task. It's hard getting down there and doing The Worm when you have never done it, but he worked at it," said Fletcher, who met with Conte twice. "I think I was more excited about him being in the movie than he was."
Beth Conte, who was with her son during the filming, said it was her understanding the filmmakers will try to have "Ping Pong Summer" ready to be considered for acceptance in an upcoming Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.
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