Poland's Jeff Hochendoner finds Hollywood roles in the Steel City

By Guy D’Astolfo

‘My Bloody Valentine’ is his first horror film.

Jeff Hochendoner’s acting career is more alive than ever — even though the characters he plays keep getting killed.

The Poland resident had small roles in three major motion pictures that were filmed in 2008 — “My Bloody Valentine 3D,” “Hollywood and Wine” and “Mysteries of Pittsburgh” — and had a recurring role in the Spike TV miniseries “The Kill Point.” All of the projects were shot in the Pittsburgh area.

Hochendoner has been a professional actor and Screen Actors Guild member for 20 years. His reputation among casting directors for the Steel City’s burgeoning film industry keeps his phone ringing.

“My Bloody Valentine,” a remake of the 1981 horror film, was shot in 3-D in Kittanning and Tarentum, Pa., and will be released Friday. “Hollywood and Wine” is a comedy that will be released March 9. “The Kill Point” aired in 2007, while “Mysteries of Pittsburgh” will go straight to DVD.

When he’s not making movies, Hochendoner, 44, is a regional manager for Sidley Concrete of Youngstown.

He recently told The Vindicator about his life and film career over lunch.

“‘My Bloody Valentine’ is my first horror film,” said Hochendoner. “I was on the set for three weeks. My character [‘Red’] is integral to the plot, and they kept expanding the role because they liked what I was doing.”

Hochendoner did his own stunts in the Lionsgate film, which is directed by Patrick Lussier and stars Jensen Ackles, who plays Dean Winchester in the hit CW series “Supernatural.”

The film revolves around a man who returns to his hometown on the anniversary of a massacre and finds himself a suspect. To bring out the 3-D, “Valentine” viewers will be given spectacles that look like sunglasses.

“Hollywood and Wine” features a star-laden cast led by Kevin and John Farley, Pamela Anderson, Vivica Fox, Chazz Palminteri and a host of “Saturday Night Live” types: David Spade, Chris Kattan, Norm McDonald, Chris Parnell and Horatio Sanz.

After auditioning for “Hollywood,” Hochendoner got a callback notice before he even made it home.

“My phone rang on the drive home,” he said. “It was the casting director, asking me to turn around and come back and read for the part again. I did, and I wound up getting the part on the spot.”

While “Valentine” and “Hollywood” are two very different types of movies, for Hochendoner, there is a common thread: He gets killed in both films.

“Before ‘Kill Point,’ I had never been killed in a movie,” he said. “It was my first death on screen. I always wanted to die on screen. But now everyone wants to kill me!”

“Mysteries of Pittsburgh” played at the Sundance Film Festival, but did not find a distributor. The film stars British actress Sienna Miller.

Hochendoner’s acting career began immediately after he graduated from Kent State University in 1986. He moved to California and started doing stunt work in the 1988 movie “Glory Days.” A former football player (he played at his alma maters of Jackson-Milton High School, the University of Colorado and Kent State), Hochendoner found a niche in Hollywood as a double in football-related movies, including 1991’s “The Last Boy Scout.”

He lived in California for 10 years, before he and his wife, Michele (a Canfield native), began moving around, first to Ohio, then North Carolina, New Mexico and California. The couple returned to the Mahoning Valley six years ago. They have three children: Jacob, 19, a 2008 graduate of Poland Seminary High who is studying film and playing football at Oberlin College; Madalyn, 16; and Noah, 15.

“I consider myself fortunate that I can live here, where I can raise my kids and send them to a fantastic school system, and still do what I love to do,” said Hochendoner.

Happy though he may be, Hochendoner would welcome a return to full-time acting. He’s heard rumors of a new network series to be filmed in Pittsburgh, and the prospect has him excited. “I would be ecstatic to work in acting full-time,” he said.

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