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Premiere of movie filmed in Middletown features local girl

This will be a big week for a Middletown girl as her first movie role will have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Rhyan Hanavan, 9, was cast in the movie “Donnybrook,” which filmed last fall at various locations in Butler County and Cincinnati, including downtown Middletown.

MORE: Middletown’s Central Avenue a location for movie shoot

The film was selected in early August to be screened at the Toronto film festival, which runs from Thursday through Sept. 16.

Betsy Hanavan, Rhyan’s mother, said when her daughter was cast for the role, the director had no idea she lived in Middletown nor did they know Middletown had filming locations.

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“It was totally coincidental,” Betsy Hanavan said. “That was a nice surprise because many of the scenes were filmed where we lived.”

Rhyan Hanavan, 9, of Middletown, had a role in the movie “Donnybrook,” which will premiere this week at the Toronto International Film Festival. (CONTRIBUTED/JASMINE DAVIS)

Rhyan is one of two children in the movie whose father is being played by actor Jamie Bell. In the film, Rhyan had about 40 lines and was in five scenes, according to her mother.

Betsy Hanavan said the family will be travelling to Toronto to watch the premiere on Friday, and no one knows to what extent Rhyan will be in the film until they see it.

“I think this is exciting as it has ties to Middletown with many scenes filming her on local streets and with local businesses being used,” Betsy Hanavan said. “Personally, we’re excited to see the finished product with Rhyan being in the movie.”

MORE: Do you remember these movies that came to Butler County for filming?

A fourth-grader at St. John XXIII Elementary School, Rhyan became interested in acting after seeing some commercial work of a family friend.

“After seeing some of that boy’s (commercial) work through this agency, Rhyan said, ‘Mommy, I want to do that,’” Betsy Hanavan said.

Rhyan signed with a talent agency in 2017 and has done two commercials, her mother said. Rhyan went through a Cincinnati-based casting director to get the part in the movie. 

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Rhyan said she was “excited” about the upcoming film opening.

“I was kind of surprised, like, ‘wow, this is really happening,’” she said. “It was amazing because you only get this chance once in a lifetime.”

She said her friends at St. John XXIII “thought it was cool” that she was going to be in a movie and everyone has congratulated her.

Rhyan said her filming experience on “Donnybrook” was fun and that everyone was nice to her, even the cook who brought her strawberries and made pancakes for her.

A portion of Central Avenue in downtown Middletown was used last October as a location for the filming of the movie “Donnybrook.” (ED RICHTER/2017)

“I’ve heard that the cast and directors could be mean, but I had the best director (Tim Sutton),” she said. “He was so much fun and it was a great experience for me.”

“Donnybrook” is writer-director Tim Sutton’s fourth feature film and stars Frank Grillo, Margaret Qualley, James Badge Dale and Jamie Bell, according to the Toronto International Film Festival.

The drama tells the story of two men — an ex-Marine who struggles to provide for his family and a violent drug dealer with an undefeated fighting record — who are determined to compete in the Donnybrook, a legendary, bare-knuckle cage fight with a cash prize of $100,000, according to the Toronto International Film Festival website.

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