Monessen fighter puts in knockout performance in ‘Southpaw’
Former boxer Mark Shrader has long been known for his skills in the ring.
Turns out, the mixed martial arts trainer can act, too.
The lifelong Monessen resident will step back into the ring — this time on the big screen — in the boxing film, “Southpaw.”
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, “Southpaw,” which was shot in and around Pittsburgh last summer, will be released Friday.
The movie, directed by Pittsburgh native Antoine Fuqua, focuses on Billy “The Great” Hope (Gyllenhaal), a troubled boxing champion whose life is spiraling downward until a washed up former boxer (Forest Whitaker) takes him under his wing.
Rachel McAdams and 50 Cent also star in the film.
Shrader, 40, was cast as Doc Field, one of Gyllenhaal’s trainers in the film. His work in the film earned him membership in the Screen Actors Guild, which represents film and television principal and background performers.
“Southpaw” isn’t Shrader’s first film. He appeared alongside Tom Hardy in the 2011 mixed martial arts movie “Warrior,” and in a short film starring Kurt Angle.
Shrader said he learned about the opportunity to be in “Southpaw” from his close friend Jimmy Cevetic, who owns a boxing gym in Pittsburgh.
“He said there was a casting director at his gym and they’d like to meet you,” Shrader said. “When I walked into his gym the next day, I said, ‘Your star is here, who do I need to see?”
Shrader said the casting director “chuckled,” but appeared to like his easygoing humor and confidence.
“They called me the next day and asked me to audition for a role,” he said.
Shrader said he and several other men auditioned for the speaking role of Field, a boxing trainer and ring corner man.
“Being a corner man is basically my life,” said Shrader, who owns and operates Mark Shrader’s Mixed Martial Arts Academy in Washington, Pa. He trains and attends many competitions with his students.
Shrader spent two weeks at Indiana University of Pennsylvania last summer shooting scenes in “Southpaw.”
The aspiring actor said he wasn’t nervous working with some of Hollywood’s biggest names and praised the cast members for their hard work ethic.
He said McAdams was always joking around and was “super cool to hang out with” on the set. Shrader said he also enjoyed hanging out with 50 Cent as he worked in his mobile recording studio, and meeting boxer Victor Ortiz.
He was most impressed with Gyllenhaal, who chose to stay on the set after his scenes were finished each day.
“I said to him one night, ‘Jake, why don’t you go get some sleep? It’s 2:30 a.m.,’” Shrader said. “He said, ‘That’s not who I am. I’m going to be here until you guys wrap up.’”
Shrader said he also filmed scenes at the Omni William Penn Hotel in Downtown Pittsburgh, which was transformed to look like the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
“I got a lot of screen time and I’m pretty excited,” Shrader said.
Shrader said the cast appreciated his genuine and friendly personality, which he attributes to his small-town upbringing.
A 1992 Monessen High School graduate, Shrader has three children, Reid, 18, Mara, 13, and Emma, 10. He is the son of Mark and Melanie Shrader, both of Monessen.
Shrader said that during his time in “Southpaw,” he made connections in the film industry that he’s hoping will open more doors. He already got a call from an industry insider informing him movie stars Adam Sandler and David Spade will be coming to Pittsburgh for a film.
“I had such an amazing time working in ‘Southpaw,’ and I’m excited to see what the future will bring,” he said.
Stacy Wolford is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-684-2640 or [email protected].