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A Main Line real estate developer’s script about his Upper Darby hometown is now a Jeremy Piven movie

Greg Lingo tapped into his Upper Darby social network as the film was casting. Homegrown stars Jamie Kennedy and Cheri Oteri both have roles.

Jeremy Piven (right) with Bruce Dern (next to Piven) in a scene from "Last Call." The film, cowritten by Main Line real estate developer Greg Lingo, premieres March 19.
Jeremy Piven (right) with Bruce Dern (next to Piven) in a scene from "Last Call." The film, cowritten by Main Line real estate developer Greg Lingo, premieres March 19.Read moreCourtesy of IFC Films

Greg Lingo’s resume doesn’t exactly scream screenwriter. But besides his degree in civil and environmental engineering from Cornell and an MBA from Villanova, the veteran real estate developer has a wealth of stories about his Delaware County hometown, Upper Darby.

Or “Darby Heights,” as it’s known in Last Call, the movie opening Friday that Lingo, the president of Media-based Rockwell Development Group, cowrote with director Paolo Pilladi and that the developer largely bankrolled.

Last Call stars Jeremy Piven as an up-and-coming real estate developer who returns to the family bar and hometown he’d long ago fled and finds himself trading on old relationships to make a deal that would gentrify the neighborhood. The movie is Piven’s second theatrical release since he was accused by a number of women of past sexual misconduct, which he has vehemently denied.

Other stars include Bruce Dern, Taryn Manning (Orange Is the New Black), Zach McGowan (Shameless, Black Sails), Cathy Moriarty (Raging Bull), Jack McGee, and Upper Darby natives Jamie Kennedy and Cheri Oteri.

Kennedy, who last worked with Lingo when the two were in their teens, cutting grass and filling potholes in Upper Darby, said he never dreamed then that Lingo would someday write a movie he’d appear in. “I didn’t know I’d be an actor, I didn’t know what writing a movie was,” said the Scream star.

And though Kennedy said Bayonne, N.J., which doubles for his hometown in the movie, “makes Upper Darby look like Beverly Hills,” the people Lingo wrote “are all people I know, or a mix of people I know.”

» READ MORE: Greg Lingo swore he was done with Upper Darby. Then he realized he wasn't and wrote a movie.

Which makes sense, because as Lingo tells it, Last Call — originally called Crabs in a Bucket — grew out of stories he and other boyhood friends had about the “unique” place where they grew up. He spoke with The Inquirer about turning those stories into a script, assembling his dream cast, and why most of his Pennsylvania story had to be filmed in New Jersey (although they did shoot in Philly, too).

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Everyone in Los Angeles, whatever they do for a living, seems to have at least one screenplay in a drawer somewhere, I’m not sure the same is true of Main Line developers. Is writing and producing a movie something you’ve always wanted to do?

No, definitely not. It really came from sitting around, talking with two friends from my childhood, Billy Reilly and Mike Baughan [who share credit with Lingo for the story behind the script]. And we were kind of just laughing about all the inane situations, and great people, and unique stories that we thought we had.

It started out not as a quest to do a movie. It was, let’s write all these things down. And then we started putting it into a movie script format.

So where did you go from there?

We had a version of a script. But it wasn’t until I met with Paolo Pilladi — he was introduced as a friend of a friend — [that things began to develop]. He’s a director. He lives in South Philly, but he’s from West Philadelphia, so we were really just separated from where we grew up by Cobbs Creek Golf Course. And he knew a lot of the same types of people and had the same types of stories.

At the beginning of 2019, we had the script, and kept refining it. I had no idea if it was good, because I’m not from the industry. Paolo was able to introduce us to a couple of movie producers from New York, Rob Simmons and Ante Novakovic, along with one local [producer], DJ Dodd. We gave them the script. They loved it. And we said, “All right, well, let’s see if there are actors who would be interested in it.”

How did the cast come together?

It was probably sometime in June [of 2019], when the guys reported back to me that, hey, Taryn Manning has read the script, and she wants to be a part of it. I remember saying to my wife, “Hey, this is great. This is like a real actress. She’s in Orange Is the New Black.” We were a little bit shocked.

And then the following week, the guys called and said, “Hey, Bruce Dern’s in.” And now we have a legend. He had a very short window, three days at the end of September he could do it. So now we not only had a couple of strong actors, but we have a date that we have to hit this by. So my next call went to Jamie Kennedy. We had grown up together. He and I worked for the Upper Darby School District as kids, cutting grass. He was really excited to be [working] with both Taryn and Bruce Dern.

And then we really lucked out from a timing standpoint to be able to get Jeremy Piven for the main character. When we went to Jeremy, he was excited by not only working with Bruce Dern but also with Jamie, because Jeremy has a budding stand-up comedy career, and he knew that Jamie had strong chops in that respect.

After that, the pieces started falling into place. Really talented people wanted to be part of the project.

Including another local, Cheri Oteri.

I reached out to Cheri personally. A friend of a friend gave me her email address. And I just let her know that we had this talented group, I’m from Upper Darby, she’s from Upper Darby — we’re from the same parish, actually. So I was able to convince her to come along. I thought her character was needed to help round out Piven’s character.

You only filmed in Philadelphia for a couple of days, but I thought it looked like more.

I’m glad. People who want to be negative are going to say, well, I don’t know these specific locations. This is still a low-budget independent film. The producers had a good working knowledge of working in and around New York, and they had the cast, and the crew, and a lot of the supplemental cast we could get from New York pretty easily. And in addition to that, New Jersey has a favorable tax credit.

How did you end up in Bayonne?

We brought the producers down, we went to several bars in Upper Darby, I got them to really get a feel for the character and culture. Because I want the neighborhood to be a character in the movie. And after that tour, they said, “Hey, we think Bayonne, N.J., is a great replica for this.”

It was 10 minutes from New York for cast and crew, we were able to get people like Cathy Moriarty. [The Oscar nominee plays the grandmother of Manning’s character]. She was willing to do it if we picked her up every morning and brought her to the set. So that worked. She would have never driven all the way to Philly.

The tough thing [in Pennsylvania] is that the tax credits aren’t there for small productions. We did all the postproduction in Philadelphia, and we’re not able to get any kind of tax credit for it. It’s kind of frustrating.

How closely do you identify with Piven’s character?

I’m a real estate developer, he’s a real estate developer. His character is pieces of different people that I’ve met over the years. It’s not autobiographical, or biographical, necessarily.

I’ve had people, friends from childhood, call me saying, “Hey, remember that time we did this? I’m hoping that’s not in this movie.”

How do you think Delco will respond to “Last Call”?

I think they’re going to recognize the humor, and the friendships. And that’s really my goal, that this should be a fun comedy about friendship. Because there hasn’t been a lot of fun in the last year.

Opens Friday at Ritz Five and at Penn Cinema Riverfront 14+ IMAX in Wilmington. Available for streaming rental on iTunes, Amazon, GooglePlay, YouTube, Vudu, PlayStation, and Xbox, and On Demand for Comcast, Verizon Fios, DirecTV, and other platforms.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include context about allegations of past sexual misconduct that have been made and denied.