By TAHREE LANE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Toledoan Madge Levinson has a two-scene, one-sentence part in Whip It, a new movie about the plucky women on a roller-derby team.
Directed by Drew Barrymore, the dramedy's cast is anchored by Juno's Ellen Page portraying a high school misfit whose mother enrolls her in beauty pageants even though she'd rather wear combat boots.
Sporting blue hair, Levinson, 85, rides a bus when Page's character sits next to her in both scenes. First, Page eyes Levinson's hairdo and says "Nice hair." Levinson replies: "Thanks honey, I do it myself."
In the second bus scene, Page holds Levinson's yarn as she knits, indicating that they've become friends.
Achieving blue hair, only the second time Levinson has dyed her hair, "took four rinses till it finally took." When she was 65, she dyed her hair brown to portray a 45-year-old woman for a local show at the Village Players.
It was a one-day shoot for Levinson in Birmingham, Mich. in summer, 2008. "I even had a name - Helen - in the credits."
She won parts in two other Michigan-made films that summer.
In Gran Torino, starring Clint Eastwood, she played a woman leaving the Eastwood character's wife's wake. Her daily pay as an extra was $75 for three hot July days in gritty Highland Park, an enclave inside Detroit. It was mostly spent waiting, she said.
A more significant role was as Sigourney Weaver's ornery mother in Prayers for Bobby, a 90-minute made-for-television drama based on a true story about the family of a young man who felt trapped by his homosexuality and committed suicide. It was nominated for an Emmy award.
Since then, she's auditioned several times, and is scheduled for an Oct. 19 shoot in Michigan for an indie film, Highland Park. A slew of movies have been shot in Michigan in the last few years after the state offered special tax breaks.
Levinson said she was invited to Whip It's Michigan premier two weeks ago but was unable to go because she was appearing in Hats! The Musical at the Toledo Repertoire Theatre.
"I couldn't. One doesn't do things like that," she said of her commitment to Hats!
Her next Toledo performance will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 30 at the Toledo Museum of Art in Mystery in the Cloister, with North Coast Theatre.
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