Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

October 13, 2013

'Moving Mountains'

Area man has role in upcoming movie

Lee Ward
The Independent

PAINTSVILLE — A man from the region will appear in a movie called “Moving Mountains.”

Rick Roberts of Paintsville will play the role of a coal company official.

“My character is a coal company official who has a contempt more or less for those locals who surround the mining area. I’m sort of ruthless,” he explained. “In the old days, I would be deemed ‘the heavy,' the bad guy ala Jack Palance. I just studied my lines and used good facial expressions while delivering them. I had a great acting coach in David Silverthorn from Wilmington Actors Group in North Carolina.”

Written by Penny Loeb, “Moving Mountains” is the true story of a woman's struggle to overcome the might of a billion dollar coal company, the massive governmental bureaucracy that is bent on protecting it and the many difficulties in her own life. When a coal mining operation causes the wells in her community to go dry, Trish takes them, leading her into a struggle with the most powerful forces in her state. The results of this struggle lead to historic changes in the way coal mining is done and propels Trish into the forefront of the environmental struggles our country is still grappling with today.

Loeb said she doesn’t know when the movie will air or where.

“We just finished editing and submitted it to Sundance today,” she said. “One chance in 1,000, but we’ve got to try.”

Loeb said she’s a few months away from selling it.

Roberts said “Moving Mountains” is his 15th movie. He also has appeared in the CBS movie “Kentucky Woman” starring Cheryl Ladd and Ned Beatty in 1982 and the movie “Stateside,” in which he played the role of a Russian guard. He also appeared in “A Cut Above: The Legend of Larry Roberts.”

On television, he has been in “Surface” and “One Tree Hill.”

In “Moving Mountains,” he has significant screen time.

“This movie, I’m on the screen an average of every 10 minutes, or 13 solid scenes,” he said. “I had nothing cut and most of my scenes are with the star, Theresa Russell.”

Roberts auditioned about a year ago in Charleston, along with three fellow actors from the area. He said his wife, Lisa, also appears in the movie as a social worker in scenes with Russell. Aleister Trusty, Roberts’ stepson, also has a role.

The movie was shot in Pie, Charleston, Martinsburg and Shepherdstown, W.Va.

“Moving Mountains” is based on the story of Patricia Bragg, who moved to Pie with her coal miner husband, Dewey, in 1976.

“When I moved there, I didn’t know a soul, but they threw me a shower and 70 people came,” Bragg said. “Every single person brought me a present and was so sweet and genuine in welcoming me. They really cared about helping me settle in.”

In the mid-1990s, Bragg tood a stand against mountaintop removal mining.

“Our wells were drying up and for a community that has no infrastructure and no public water and sewage, that’s a big deal,” she said. “We were totally without water and that’s a panicky situation. Forty-nine wells were just dry as a bone and we were devastated.”

She said as the wife of a coal miner, she never opposed mining, but wanted to see that mine companies maintain the areas where damage was being done.

“It was all about irresponsible mining that was hurting us all. Not only did we not have drinkable water, but people were coming down with sicknesses and rashes that traced back to mine contamination,” she said.

Through hard work and determination, Bragg was able to get state mining officials to force the coal company to provide new wells, but that wasn’t the end for her, despite threats against her life. She decided to join a lawsuit with local attorney Joe Lovett to halt mountaintop removal mining in their community. In the case that ended up being Bragg v. Robertson, federal judge Charles Haden II ruled to temporarily halt the practice. That judgment was later overturned.

LEE WARD can be reached at lward@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2661.