Acting takes Natchezian from Spielberg to Snow Wonder

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Natchez &8212; Film is where Ritchie Montgomery always wanted to be. In recent years, both film and TV appearances are on the rise, and he could not be happier.

Furthermore, opportunities to work in Louisiana, where tax incentives are luring Hollywood filmmakers, has brought Montgomery nearer to home for a while. &8220;I&8217;m in Natchez around my family and friends, eating well. It&8217;s the best,&8221; he said.

On Sunday, his family and friends will see Montgomery in the CBS Sunday movie, &8220;Snow Wonder,&8221; airing at 7 p.m. central time. &8220;I play the station manager of a weather channel,&8221; he said. &8220;I&8217;m in five or six scenes.&8221;

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The show was filmed in New Orleans in July. &8220;Imagine. July in New Orleans and snow, a blizzard. I had the best job because I didn&8217;t even have to go outside.&8221;

&8220;Snow Wonder,&8221; based on a short story by Connie Willis, tells the story of people in different parts of the country, unconnected, but all affected by the strange weather. Stars include Mary Tyler Moore, Camryn Manheim and Eric Szmanda, among others.

&8220;I&8217;m excited about seeing it on Sunday,&8221; Montgomery said.

He is excited about his life, as well. His hair and an uncharacteristic moustache dyed jet black, he is working on &8220;Road House 2: Last Call,&8221; which was being filmed in New Orleans when Katrina struck. The production has moved to other Louisiana locations. &8220;I&8217;m this seedy character called Embry Davis,&8221; he said.

Earlier this year, movie-goers saw Montgomery play a highway patrol trooper in &8220;Dukes of Hazzard.&8221; He enjoyed that role and was one of only two in the movie who also had performed in the television series by the same name.

He played the role of Horace Logan in the TV miniseries &8220;Elvis.&8221; &8220;He was an actual fellow who was from Shreveport. He was the one who coined the phrase, &8216;Elvis has left the building,&8217;&8221; Montgomery said.

&8220;Come Early Morning,&8221; starring Ashley Judd, in which he plays Bob, the bartender, also a real person and whom he met in Little Rock, Ark., has been accepted at Sundance Film Festival in January. &8220;This is a big deal,&8221; he said. &8220;I&8217;m looking forward to the trip.&8221; Other recent movies in which he performs include &8220;Glorious Mail&8221; in 2005; &8220;Heart of the Storm&8221; in 2004; &8220;Catch Me If You Can&8221; in 2002; &8220;Monster&8217;s Ball&8221; in 2001, among many others.

He began his movie career in Natchez, when, shortly after moving to Los Angeles, he returned to his hometown to appear in &8220;Freedom Road&8221; in 1979 and &8220;Beulah Land&8221; in 1980.

Classmates and teachers at the military academy he attended in high school recognized his talent and encouraged him. &8220;And that&8217;s all I wanted to do &8212; act.&8221; He earned a bachelor&8217;s degree in fine arts from the University of Southern Mississippi before heading for Hollywood.

He is happy with the progression of his career, he said. One of the recent highlights was working with Steven Spielberg in &8220;Catch Me If You Can.&8221;

&8220;I&8217;ll just keep on looking, keep on working and someday find that one to knock out of the park.&8221;