Actor and Bethlehem native Daniel Roebuck puts his faith in film and the Lehigh Valley

Daniel Roebuck is a familiar face to most television and film enthusiasts. He has appeared in literally hundreds of films and television shows, including featured roles in such film classics as The Fugitive, U.S. Marshals, Halloween, and the cult favorite Bubba Ho-Tep.

On television he has been a series regular in mega hits like Lost, Matlock, and Nash Bridges.

Born and raised in Bethlehem, Roebuck returned to the Lehigh Valley this fall to shoot Lucky Louie, a feature film written by his daughter Grace, a Bethlehem Catholic grad, and produced by his nonprofit production company, A Channel of Peace.

The film is a comedy about a retired policeman who partners with a group of ex-convicts and a forensic psychology major to solve a 50-year old bank robbery. “I have been blessed to be working for 37 years,” Roebuck said. “I am on TV twice, three times a day. That platform has allowed me to do a lot for the Valley that I couldn’t do without it.”

Happy to shine a light on the Lehigh Valley through the films he makes, Roebuck plays a major role in growing a film industry here.

With A Channel of Peace, Roebuck is making “faith-filled” family entertainment, however, faith-filled does not have to always mean “Christian,” he said. “It means we acknowledge a Godly presence.” For Roebuck, it’s important that his films are well made, acknowledging that not all faith-based films are.

He cast accomplished actors for many of Lucky Louie’s key roles, including Basil Hoffman, who appeared in Academy Award-nominated films such as Ordinary People, All the President’s Men, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Stephanie Zimbalist, known for her starring role in the 80’s hit television show, Remington Steele; Marsha Dietlien, known for her work with director Ed Burns; and Duane Whitaker of Pulp Fiction and From Dusk till Dawn, also appear in the film. Madelyn Dundon, who played Grace in A Channel of Peace’s previous film, Getting Grace, returns as a main actor in Lucky Louie.

“I bring in cast and crew from Hollywood and New York,“ he said, “but I find a lot of talent right here.”

In addition to tapping local talent for acting and production, Roebuck offers on-set internships to area students looking to get their feet wet in the film industry. “We teach them the specific art of making a movie,” he said. “It requires artistic fire and technical knowledge. To make a movie right, you have to know how it’s truly done.”

Grace Roebuck, left, co-wrote and is directing Lucky Louie with her father, Daniel. “I have a front row seat as a director,” she said. PHOTO/PROVIDED

When asked how all of this is good for the Valley, Roebuck said, “If you’ve got Daniel Roebuck making two-hour commercials for the Lehigh Valley that are being seen all over the world, that kind of value is incomprehensible. It is an enormous gift for us to be able to give back.”

In fact, many local companies have seen a value in what Roebuck and his team are doing. Bethlehem’s St. Luke’s University Health Network, Orefield’s Jaindl Farms, Allentown’s A-Treat corporation and the Hotel Bethlehem, all have partnered with the filmmaker, providing shooting locales and other services. In return, the sponsors garner visibility in a nationally released film.

St. Luke’s also worked with Roebuck on Getting Grace, providing shooting locations at their hospice and hospital campus for the filming.

“That worked out great,” said Jan Concilio, vice president of patient care services for St. Luke’s. “We were thrilled to work with Danny again on Lucky Louie.”

Concilio said the health network provided the film’s cast and crew with COVID-19 testing and COVID-safety training and protocols, as well as provided filming locations. St. Luke’s will be recognizable in the film, Roebuck said. All filming was completed without interrupting patient care according to Concilio. And a few St. Luke’s employees even got to be extras in the film, she said.

“We admire Danny for continuing to honor his Bethlehem roots,” Concilio said. “We are proud to partner with him on this project.”

“We have an extraordinary love story with St. Lukes,” Roebuck said. “They have always been there for me. Their partnering with us on Getting Grace was such a lucky break. It made a huge difference.”

The pandemic was the impetus to get moving on the father/daughter project, Roebuck said. When a large Hollywood studio movie that Roebuck was cast in got pushed off for a year due to the pandemic, Roebuck approached his daughter.

“I said, ‘Let’s go make Lucky Louie,’” he said. “It wasn’t written until after Father’s Day and it’s not even Halloween and we have already come and shot it. We did this all within 4 months and that’s because I had great help, and great actors.”

Daniel Roebuck and daughter, Grace, co-wrote the Lucky Louie, a comedy they shot in Bethlehem. Roebuck, a seasoned actor, likes shooting his films in the Lehigh Valley, which he calls his “Eden.” PHOTO/PROVIDED

Grace Roebuck, a California State University of Northridge film graduate, didn’t just co-write the script for Lucky Louie with her Dad, she is also directing the film. She appreciates being able to learn from her father while they work together.
“I have a front row seat as a director,” she said. “He understands this craft so much more than I realized. This is a lot of work, and I’ve never seen him forget anything. To learn how to stay on my toes like he does…I would love to keep watching him and become even a quarter as good of a director as he is.”

Like Lucky Louie, Roebuck’s next film will be shot in the Lehigh Valley, too. The movie is called The Hail Mary and will star Roebuck as a football coach at an all-boys Catholic school. But first, he has to find the money to make it.

“Our hope is that we are not putting the burden solely on the Valley, even though this is our stage,” said Tammy Roebuck, Daniel’s wife and producer of Lucky Louie. “We are hoping that once Lucky Louie comes out from A Channel of peace, we will get more nationwide and worldwide understanding of our mission. We won’t be able to survive if we are solely dependent on the Valley to support us.”

For Roebuck, returning to the Lehigh Valley to make movies has been more pleasure than business.

“Eden for me is the Lehigh Valley,” he said. “It is the perfect place to plant a flag from which to grow a movement.”

Daniel Roebuck Hollywood actor and Bethlehem native to make next film in the Lehigh Valley

Hollywood actor and filmmaker Daniel Roebuck will shoot his second feature film in the Lehigh Valley this summer. 

Promotional poster for Daniel Roebuck’s newest film to be shot in the Lehigh Valley, “The Hail Mary.” -PHOTO/SUBMITTED

Roebuck, a Bethlehem native, announced plans for the filming of the feature film, “The Hail Mary,” during a press conference at the Roxy Theatre in Northampton on March 10.

The actor, known for his starring roles in the television shows Lost and Matlock, as well as films like “The Fugitive,” “Halloween,” and “The Late Shift,” directed, produced, and acted in his first feature film in the Lehigh Valley, “Getting Grace,” in 2017.

Roebuck hopes to make the Lehigh Valley a center for the film business in America.

“The Lehigh Valley has heart,” Roebuck said, “and it loves art.”

“ “Getting Grace” is on Hulu,” Roebuck said. “25 million people can watch this on Hulu and what are we gonna do? Show them how great the Lehigh Valley is. People are going to want to come to the Lehigh Valley and they are going to want to do business in the Lehigh Valley.”

Bill Hartin, CEO of FIFO, a filmmaker consortium focused on promoting filmmaking in the Lehigh Valley, added that the filming of “The Hail Mary” will have a positive economic impact on our area.  FIFO helps provide Roebuck with crew for his productions, and Hartin has seen the available filmmaking talent grow in the Lehigh Valley in the past several years, he said.

Hartin also explained how films bring revenue to the areas where they are made, by creating jobs and spending money on things like hotels, food, and equipment rentals.

Roebuck, whose films are faith based, has enlisted the sponsorship of area companies like Jaindl farms, St. Luke’s University Health Network, and Embassy bank for the making of this next movie, which will be a production of his nonprofit, A Channel of Peace.

Filming on “The Hail Mary” is expected to begin in July. The film will be released in 2021.