The movie is based on J.D. Vance’s 2016 bestselling book, “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis.” Vance, a Marine veteran of the Iraq War and a graduate of Middletown High School, Ohio State University and Yale Law School, wrote about his life and how he overcame socioeconomic struggles and Appalachian roots to obtain his education and a career as a venture capitalist.
Some of the movie was filmed in Middletown and on the Harrison Street neighborhood where Vance grew up. There are scenes that show AK Steel. Throughout the filming, Howard was spotted several times in Middletown businesses, including having lunch at Triple Moon Coffee Shop on Central Avenue and picking up a prescription at a local pharmacy.
As a adult, Vance is played by Gabriel Basso. Vance’s mother Bev, played by Amy Adams, struggles with addiction and his foul-mouthed Mamaw is played by Glenn Close. The movie portrays Vance’s Mamaw as the strongest influence of his life.
Basso said he hadn’t worked for eight years but once he read the script he “really felt that the message that family was important. I was drawn to the story, the family and the themes it tells about perseverance.”
In 2017, Vance left California and moved back to Ohio and now lives in Cincinnati. That same year he founded “Our Ohio Renewal,” a non-profit committed to tackling the opioid crisis.