By EDWARD HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Taylor Vandelicht doesn't have a whole lot of spare time on her hands.
The 13-year-old eighth-grader at Hannibal Middle School stays plenty busy throughout the school year playing softball, basketball and volleyball, and running track.
But she also maintains an active schedule portraying Mark Twain's Becky Thatcher character as one of the Hannibal Chamber of Commerce's Tom and Becky goodwill ambassadors who welcome visitors to the author's boyhood hometown.
But that's not all. Taylor also spends many weekends traveling to and from St. Louis to film scenes for a new movie, "Hercules: The Brave and the Bold."
Taylor has been cast in the feature-length film as a villainous goddess, Hestia, who is assigned to kill Hercules. However, the character instead falls in love with the hero, and Hestia will kill anyone who tries to come between them.
"I actually kill someone in probably all the scenes that I'm in," Taylor said. ‘It's great."
She's one of the youngest cast members with a speaking role. Like Taylor, most cast members play gods or goddesses. Most of them are kindhearted and good. But not Hestia.
"There's not many bad ones, but I'm one of them," Taylor said.
For example, she was recently filming a scene that originally called for several other characters to drag away and kill a girl with whom Hestia had been conversing. But after one key cast member failed to show up for that day's filming session, the director changed plans on the fly.
"They told me, ‘OK, you're going to break her neck instead,' " Taylor said. "So I had to shove her against a tree and act like I was breaking her neck."
The evil Hestia character is a far cry from the sweet and gentle Becky character Vandelicht plays on the streets of Hannibal. For that role, Taylor dons a frilly dress, pantaloons and bonnet while carrying an umbrella and miniature chalkboard bearing the words "I Love You."
Taylor was one of five girls selected as Becky ambassadors during last summer's National Tom Sawyer Days festival in Hannibal. Those girls, joined by five "Toms," serve as official greeters to people visiting America's Hometown.
Just last weekend, Taylor was among the Tom and Becky ambassadors who turned out to greet visitors arriving on the American Queen riverboat, which docked along Hannibal's riverfront. As part of that experience, she and her group got to tour the elaborate vessel and meet the captain.
Then later that morning, Taylor changed clothes, hopped in a car with her mother and headed down to St. Louis for another Hercules filming session.
She didn't get back home until late that night.
Taylor, daughter of Robert and Kim Vandelicht, has been interested in acting for much of her life. She has been appearing in various theater productions in Hannibal since she was 7, and she's been dancing publicly since she was 3.
She loves acting, which is why she jumped at the chance to appear in the Hercules movie. She initially signed up through an online casting service to be an extra. But when the director and production crew interviewed her, they decided she would be perfect for the Hestia role.
Taylor is glad she's getting to see what moviemaking is all about.
"It's not a huge movie, but it's still a lot of fun because you get a lot of experience," she said.
Taylor's father agrees the film project is an eye-opening experience not only for Taylor, but also the entire family. He said everyone realizes films are seldom shot in the Hannibal area, so if Taylor wanted to get some movie experience, she would likely have to go someplace like St. Louis.
"It's a great opportunity for children to get involved when they otherwise couldn't," he said.
Taylor said she doesn't know what type of career she might want to pursue after high school and college, but she hopes to remain involved somehow in the performing arts.
"I really like to perform, so I'd like to take this on further," she said.
As for her movie debut, "Hercules" is expected to wrap up early next year and will eventually be released on DVD. More information about the film project is available at herculesthebraveandthebold.yolasite.com/