Rather than chase a big name – like Taylor Lautner, who was circling the feature a couple of years ago – Dolphin Films have decided to go with a couple of relative unknowns for their “Max Steel” movie.
Ben Winchell (Disney’s “A.N.T. Farm,” “Necessary Roughness”) and Ana Villafañe (“Hiding,” “Los Americans”) have signed on to play the signature roles of Max McGrath™ and Sydney Gardner in “Max Steel,” the highly anticipated, live-action franchise feature film based on Mattel’s popular superhero property of the same name.
“Max Steel,” which is being produced by Dolphin Films and Mattel, is slated for a wide theatrical release by Open Road Films domestically and IM Global internationally in 2015. It’s being penned by Marvel Studios veteran Christopher Yost (“Thor: The Dark World”) and directed by award-winning director Stewart Hendler (“Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn,” “H+”).
“We couldn’t be more thrilled to introduce audiences worldwide to Ben Winchell and Ana Villafañe,” said Bill O’Dowd, CEO Dolphin Entertainment. “The Max Steel franchise fan base is extremely passionate about the lead characters of Max and Sydney, and we knew we needed to get the casting just right. Ben and Ana are extremely talented young actors, and we’re confident fans will fall in love with each of them the minute they hit the big screen.”
The high-octane story centers on teenager Max McGrath and his alien companion Steel, who combine special turbo-energy powers to become the superhero Max Steel™. The film provides audiences with the first new superhero in decades, bringing a positive and relatable hero to audiences of all ages, while combining action and adventure with teamwork, laughter and friendship.
The “Max Steel” film is positioned to capitalize on the global momentum around the Max Steel franchise. In Latin America, Max Steel has been a number one action figure* brand for more than 10 years and has generated year-over-year revenue growth in toys and consumer products. Mattel re-introduced the Max Steel franchise to the rest of the world at the 2013 Nuremberg Toy Fair to much fanfare, and has subsequently launched the brand in more than 150 countries with branded entertainment, toys, games and publishing. In a short time, the Max Steel brand has gained widespread appeal around the world, including influential markets such as the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Australia.
With offices in more than 40 countries, Mattel will partner with Open Road, IM Global and Dolphin Films to activate global marketing campaigns in support of the film with customized regional promotions.
“’Max Steel’ has a unique combination of success factors for independent distributors worldwide,” added O’Dowd. “’Max Steel’ is a tentpole film that launches a movie franchise, and brings the global marketing power of the world’s largest toy company in Mattel, a first-rate partnership with IM Global, and a top-quality story written for audiences of all ages by Marvel Studios veteran Christopher Yost.”
“Max Steel is an aspirational high school superhero supported by an action packed narrative that’s well suited for the world stage,” said Julia Pistor, producer, Max Steel. “The renowned creative team we have assembled, along with our partners at Dolphin and IM Global, are able to bring the origin story of Max Steel to the big screen for millions of fans around the world while also introducing new audiences to the courageous hero.”
The film will be sold through the strategic partnership between Dolphin Films International and IM Global during the European Film Market at the Berlin Film Festival, Feb. 6-16. In a special exclusive presentation, Dolphin Films International will co-present “Max Steel” with IM Global on Feb. 6.
A young rising star, Ben Winchell will take on the lead role of Max McGrath. A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Winchell began his acting career at the age of five in community theatre. At age 14, he was cast in the stage performance of “High School Musical 2” at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. Winchell is best known for his roles in the top-rated Lifetime Network movie “Pregnancy Pact,” as well as Dixon in season 3 of “A.N.T. Farm” (Disney) and Eric in season 2 of “Necessary Roughness” (TNT). Winchell is represented by The Gersh Agency, Stokes Management and Felker Tozcek Suddleson.
Ana Villafañe will play Max’s love interest, Sydney Gardner. An up-and-coming Latina actress and singer from Miami, Florida, Villafañe’s first foray into film was in the award-winning feature film “Magic City Memoirs,” executive produced by Andy Garcia. To further her film career, Villafañe moved to Los Angeles and quickly landed a role alongside Esai Morales and Lupe Ontiveros in “Los Americans,” an original series written and directed by Dennis Leoni and produced by Robert Townsend. Villafañe is best known for her starring turn in Anchor Bay’s 2012 release “Hiding,” playing a protected witness relocated from New York City to Montana, where she is caught in a high-school love triangle with Jeremy Sumpter (“Friday Night Lights,” “Peter Pan”) and Tyler Blackburn (“Ravenswood,” “Pretty Little Liars”). Villafañe is represented by Cindy Osbrink and Yasmine Pearl at Osbrink Talent Agency and Manny Arca at Dolphin Talent Management.
Additional casting announcements will be made in the coming weeks.