April 1, 2015 | by Brooke Alexander
Brace Yourself: McConaughey is Coming

Mark your calendars for May 14 because Matthew McConaughey and “The Hunger Games” director Gary Ross are coming to Lafayette to film “The Free State of Jones.

Before filming comes to Lafayette though, it will first take place in New Orleans from March 27 to April 2. Then in Greensburg, Louisiana, on May 7. For the final shoots, the crew will be in Clinton May 21-22, May 26- 27, and May 30.

Producers have been in Lafayette for the past month casting for extras for the film; about 7,000 people have applied to audition for the parts. The film makers need a cast of extras who are men and amputees to play the soldiers fighting with Newt Knight, the main character played by McConaughey. The extras will be paid $101.50 for 12 hours of filming.

Ryan Duhon, 29, of Lafayette, made it past all rounds of the auditions and will play one of the soldiers fighting with Knight. Duhon said the part is a starting point for him to become an actor and he is planning to move to California to pursue his dream next year.

The $65 million film will hit theaters next March. Set during the Civil War, the film tells the story of Knight, a defiant Southern farmer, and his armed rebellion against the Confederacy. Opposed to both slavery and secession, Knight launched an uprising of poor white farmers that led Jones County, Mississippi, to secede from the Confederacy, creating “The Free State of Jones.”

His post-war marriage to a former slave, Rachel Knight, effectively established the region’s first mixed-race community. Knight continued his fight into the post war period, resisting Ku Klux Klan activity through Reconstruction. His rebellion distinguished Knight as a compelling and controversial figure of defiance long beyond the war.

Here are some photos of McConaughey and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who plays Rachel in the film, in costume during the shooting of some of the early scenes:

“The Free State of Jones” isn’t the only film coming to our area; “Deepwater Horizon,” directed by Peter Berg and starring Mark Walhburg and Gina Rodriguez, will be shot around the New Orleans area this coming May.

The movie is based on the BP oil spill, also known as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, in the Gulf of Mexico that happened on April 20, 2010. The film chronicles the workers of the Deepwater Horizon and the moments of bravery to survive what would become one of the biggest man-made disasters in world history. The movie is scheduled to hit theaters Sept. 30, 2016.

Jerome Gaspard, 58, worked on an environmental response team at the site for 187 days. He said that kind of disaster happens about every 20 or 30 years.

“I believe the movie would be an educational tool to the non-oilfield population who has no education of the drilling process for oil in the Gulf of Mexico, only if the true facts of human error or mechanical failure is shown to be the cause of such a costly disaster because of the taking a short cut to achieve profitability in the value of dollars made by BP,” Gaspard said.

Gaspard said he will watch the movie once it hits theaters in hopes that the movie industry will view the oil patch and the environmental issues that happened after the incident.

A casting call  for “Deepwater Horizon” is out for any experienced oil field workers of any gender who are at least 18 years old. Interested persons can apply to audition for the film by sending an email to with a photo of themself,  contact information and the jobs worked in the oil field listed.

Chris Stelly, executive director of Louisiana Entertainment, said the budget for the film is about $156 million. About $118 million of that budget will be covered by state tax credits, Stelly said.

In case you need reminding, here’s what the fire looked like after the explosion:

What does this mean for Lafayette and the rest of southern Louisiana? Stelly said that a 2013 spending impact study showed that the movie industry spent more than $1 billion in the state in 2012. Over $700 million went to Louisiana household earnings.

University of Louisiana at Lafayette alumna Jasmine Latiolais works as an assistant for the producer of “NCIS: New Orleans.” She said she has seen a positive impact in New Orleans from the show, including a lot of jobs.

“With ‘NCIS: New Orleans’ alone, on a given film day, we hire drivers, hair stylists, a catering company, we hold four to five hotel rooms for writers and directors for each episode, and we employ local van services, electricians, construction workers, and cleaning crews,” she said.

Many films have been shot in Louisiana over the years. Here a few of the most famous:

Hi! I am Brooke, a New Iberia native, and I'm a Junior. Writing has always been my passion but getting older made me realize Journalism was the best path for me. My favorite things to be caught up on is politics along with what has just been released on Netflix. If I learned anything in life it would be from my doctor, Who. So who better to sum up what my purpose for writing is then a doctor himself. “There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, where the sea is asleep and the rivers dream; people made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there's danger, somewhere there's injustice, and somewhere else the tea is getting cold. Come on, Ace, we've got work to do.” -Seventh Doctor, Doctor Who

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