Movie News & Reviews

How did a Lexington high school senior find herself in Josh Hutcherson’s new movie?

Sophia Mitchell is a student at Paul Laurence Dunbar. She was a stand-in for the production of “Tragedy Girls,” a film in which Josh Hutcherson appears.
Sophia Mitchell is a student at Paul Laurence Dunbar. She was a stand-in for the production of “Tragedy Girls,” a film in which Josh Hutcherson appears. Photo provided

Sophia Mitchell will never forget how she met Kentucky-born movie star Josh Hutcherson.

“So I had to sit next to him in this field — I can’t say exactly what’s happening — but we were in this field and I had to lean over him and I was like, ‘I don’t know? Do I look at him?’” Mitchell said with a laugh. “Because they were fixing his leg into the ground to make it look like he has a broken leg. I don’t know what to do.

“And so he was just talking and super chill about it. He’s like, ‘Hi, I bet this isn’t how you thought you’d meet me.’ I was like, ‘No, it’s not.’”

Mitchell, a senior at Paul Laurence Dunbar, spent last summer working as a a stand-in for Brianna Hildebrand’s character, Sadie Cunningham, in the upcoming independent horror-comedy “Tragedy Girls,” directed by Tyler MacIntyre. The film, about two high school girls who murder people and become social-media sensations by using their platform, @TragedyGirls, to report on those murders to the clueless public, had a 94 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 18 reviews as of Monday afternoon.

It was on the set of that production that Mitchell met Hutcherson, a Union native who’s best known for his role as Peeta Mellark in “The Hunger Games” quadrilogy. His character in the movie, Toby, ironically shares Sophia’s surname.

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Mitchell was a stand-in for Brianna Hildebrand, above, in “Tragedy Girls,” and she had a small part. Richard Shotwell AP

Mitchell had never before worked in film or TV but learned of an opportunity to audition for a stand-in role via Images Model and Talent Agency. Auditions were held in Springfield, where the movie was filmed, with about 1,000 people over a two-day span. During the audition, Mitchell was asked whether she would do stand-in work for the film, which would mean substituting for Hildebrand for technical setup to help streamline the production.

She was all for it. Filming lasted about 22 days, 14 of which Mitchell was on set. A few of those extended well into the evening.

“I did four all-nighters — 5:45 until 4 in the morning,” said Mitchell, who had to balance her film schedule with her commitment to soccer. She was a starting defender each of the past two seasons at Paul Laurence Dunbar (the Bulldogs were knocked out of the playoffs last week).

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Paul Laurence Dunbar’s Sophia Mitchell and Tates Creek’s MacKenzie Puteet battled for the ball during a 43rd District Tournament semifinal soccer game at on Oct. 11. Tates Creek beat Dunbar 3-2 on penalty kicks. Alex Slitz aslitz@herald-leader.com

Mitchell and Jenna Day, who won Miss Kentucky in 2013 and was a stand-in for another character, were so well-received by those working on the production that they were given brief speaking roles in the movie, which came complete with their own trailers on set. Mitchell’s character in the film is named “Tracy,” whom she described as “one of the popular girls” trying to be seen with the social-media murderers.

Mitchell plans to stay in-state for college and has recently toured Bellarmine and Transylvania universities and the University of Kentucky. Soccer has long been a part of her life, and a successful one too — she has won five Kentucky State Cup club championships with Lexington F.C. She would enjoy the challenge of playing in college if she’s able.

She wouldn’t mind spending more long nights on a movie set, either — with or without Hutcherson around.

“I had a lot of fun,” she said. “It was a great experience and I’d love to do something like that again.”

“Tragedy Girls” opens Oct. 20 in New York and Los Angeles. There are currently no scheduled screenings in Lexington.

Josh Moore: 859-231-1307, @HLpreps

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Sophia Mitchell, a Paul Laurence Dunbar senior, had modeled but had never worked in TV or film before working on “Tragedy Girls.” Photo provided

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