Al Pacino in Natchez filming ‘The Ritual’ at St. Mary Basilica

Published 1:54 pm Tuesday, January 23, 2024

NATCHEZ — It’s not every day that a Natchez man gets to be a stand-in for Al Pacino.

For the next three weeks or so, that’s exactly what Rusty Jenkins, a local celebrity in his own right, is doing.

Pacino and about 50 others are in Natchez filming “The Ritual,” a sci-fi movie of sorts, Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson confirmed on Tuesday.

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“Most of the filming is being done at St. Mary (Basilica),” Gibson said. Filming began on Sunday.

Jenkins said Tuesday morning he was told the filming would last for about three weeks.

Jenkins said Leigh Anne Mason, who has worked with Natchez Little Theater, is helping coordinate local parts of the film.

“Leigh Anne said they needed someone close to Al Pacino’s age, his same height, with gray hair and he has facial stubble and I have stubble on my face. Leigh Anne called and asked if I wanted to do it and I told her, ‘Sure I want to do it!’ ” Jenkins said.

He met Pacino on Monday night when filming started.

“I don’t see much of him. I stand there and when all the camera angles are right, he comes out and does his scene, then goes back to his RV. You know he’s going on 84,” Jenkins said. “He was very nice. He came out and said, ‘I want to meet my stand in.’ We shook hands and said it as a pleasure to meet me. I told him the pleasure was all mine.”

Jenkins said what he has done so far is do a lot of sitting and reading.

“This is a slow business. It takes a long time to get a scene set up. If you’re in a hurry, this isn’t going to work. I will read a book and then go stand where they want me when they are ready for me,” he said.

Directing the movie is David Midell, who made his feature film debut in 2014 with “NightLights,” according to thecinemaholic.com. He also directed “The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain.”

“The Ritual” is a true story about Emma Schmidt, who allegedly experienced frightening blackouts, aversions to holy objects and other afflictions, according to thecinemaholic.com. After traditional psychiatric treatments didn’t work, a priest recommended Schmidt undergo an exorcism in a secluded convent in rural Earling, Iowa, the website reported. Pacino is assumedly playing the role of the priest who conducts the exorcism.