First film foray: Natchez man joins film ‘Get On Up’
Denzel Fort spent his Thursday hanging out with a young James Brown.
But the Natchez native left all the talking, and signing, to the, “Godfather of Soul.”
“I was speechless the whole time,” Fort, who was cast as a stand-in during the first week of filming for a Brown biopic titled, “Get On Up,” said. “Here I am surrounded by all these famous people, but they’re so into their characters it was like I was really around the real people — not just actors in a movie.”
Fort, 22, works fulltime as a busboy at Planet Thailand and said he was ecstatic when he heard production officials had picked his hometown as the main location to film the movie.
“When I was younger, I always told my mom I was going to be a basketball player or a movie star,” Fort said. “I felt like this was my chance to get some good experience and see what it’s really like.”
Fort attended a casting call hosted by casting director Tammy Smith and eagerly awaited a phone call.
“The whole casting thing was the easiest part — it was the waiting that got to me,” Fort said, laughing. “I was so excited when they called.”
Fort’s role as a stand-in Thursday took him to Jefferson County where he worked alongside Chadwick Boseman, who portrayed Jackie Robinson in “42” and is playing Brown in “Get On Up.”
Movie officials began filming in Jefferson County Thursday for the portions of the movie that will show Brown’s upbringing. Apart from the stand-in role, Fort said he will also appear in two other scenes next week.
“I’m not nervous at all,” Fort said. “I’m ready.”
Smith said Fort is just one of hundreds of local residents who have already been cast as extras for a variety of scenes.
But even those numbers aren’t enough, Smith said, for some of the scenes in the movie.
“We still need a lot more people,” she said. “This movie covers all the spectrums, so I need people to help recreate lives from the 1930s all the way to the 1990s.”
In an effort to help streamline the casting process, Smith established office hours from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday on the second floor of the Natchez Council Chambers building at 115 S. Pearl St.
Those wanting to get involved in the movie can show up during those hours to fill out some basic information and have their picture taken.
Anyone unable to make it to the casting office but would still like to apply can also visit tammysmithcasting.com or visit the “Get On Up” casting Facebook page.
Extras are paid $64 for eight hours, with an eight-hour guarantee, and potential overtime for work after eight hours.
Smith said she is still in need of extras for a variety of scenes in the movie.
One will be a military scene filmed on Saturday, Dec. 7, where Smith will need black men, and some white men, ages 16 to 35 to play Vietnam soldiers in a military hanger for a Brown performance.
Anyone 15 and older is also needed for a variety of other scenes including concerts, church scenes, hotel scenes and even a scene at the White House.
“This is a fun opportunity to come and hopefully work on the movie for a day or two as an extra without a full-time commitment,” Smith said. “We understand some people have jobs they can’t get off from, so we did the military scene specifically on Saturday to help with that.”
Tate Taylor, who also directed the Academy Award-nominated film “The Help,” is directing the film. Chadwick Boseman, who portrayed Jackie Robinson in “42,” will play James Brown in “Get On Up.” Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, who both starred in “The Help,” also have roles in “Get On Up.”
Davis will be playing Brown’s mother, Susie Brown, and Spencer will be playing Aunt Honey, who was like a second mother to Brown.
Dan Aykroyd, Jill Scot and Craig Robinson will also star in the film.
Crews will continue filming in Natchez through Dec. 20 before taking a break for the holidays and picking back up from Jan. 6 through 24 in Jackson.
Smith will also host a casting call from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Mississippi Department of Education building at 359 N. West St. in Jackson.
The film will depict Brown’s life from when he was nearly 5 years old in 1938 until he was about 60 in 1993.