tv Tavis Smiley WHUT July 19, 2012 8:00am-8:30am EDT
ahoy tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. today a look of one of the most acclaimed close of the year so far, "beasts of the southern wild." tonight we will introduce you to the film's star, a bakery owner from new orleans, who almost ended up in the movie that won the top honors at the sundance film festival. goo >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where
walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. tavis: the likelihood of dwight henry starring in a critically acclaimed -- critically acclaimed film could not be one more remote. he not only survived hurricane katrina, but his fakery became one of the first to reopen after the store. the filmmakers out if he would be interested in starring in the movie. he said no.
movie. >> these stories are always fascinating to me how something comes together organically, and it ends up being such a success that it winds at sundance. it gets all kinds of a claim assets -- acclaim at cannes. it is your first time acting. wallace, the character she plays, the little girl, hush puppiey. your first time when acting and the director's first time at 29 years. all of this acclaim. what do you make of it? >> living in new orleans, we have to go through these things. living in new orleans we have to go through the possibility of evacuating, the possibility of
losing your homes, losing your loved ones, so living in new orleans we show a resilience cy. they refused to leave the things they love more than anything in life, so i brought a real honest to the movie being from the region. they tried to bring in outside professional actors to do this part, but it did not feel right, because they never went through these things we go through living in that region, so that was one thing that helped them choose me, because i go through a lot of these things living in that region. tavis: how did this happen to you? how did you end up in this role? >> that is a long story. tavis: i ain't got no where to
be. >> we own a bakery near where they did the casting, so all those people used to come to the bakery every morning and get go nuts and breakfast in the morning, and they used to put -- get donuts and breakfast in the morning, and they use to put fires in the bakery. --f lyers in the bakery. one day me and a producer were sitting in the bakery, and i decided to put in the number. i went back and forth with a dialogue with the actress, and i said, see you later, and i went back to the bakery, so about two weeks after that, michael call me back for another reading, because he said the director loved what he had seen in the reading and he wanted me to do another reading, so i did
another reading, and i said see you later again. i never thought i was going to get a part, and within that time i had moved my bakery from that location to a bigger location , and they were looking for me to give me the part, but no one knew where i was. they were asking neighbors of landlords. nobody knew where mr. henry was. tavis: if he could not find you, there are customers who could not find you. good night digress. >> -- i digress. >> i moved to a bigger location, and he said, you got the part. i said, thank you. he gave me the schedule. i had to move out of town and do
all these things. i cannot take it apart. i am sorry, but i cannot take it right now because i just opened my new business, and i cannot walk away from it like that. he said, we are going to try to give you a little time to work things out at the bakery, so he came back a couple weeks later and still did not have anything to work out. to make a long story short, i was flattered. i wanted to take apart, but i would not sacrifice of business i bill to pass on for my kids for a possible acting career. they had seen some things in me i did not see in myself, and the last time they came to me, they came to the bakery with all three producers, the director.
they even brought the accountant. the accountant said, this is the maximum we can give you, and they have so much confidence in me. i was able to do the film. it has been wonderful ever since. tavis: no, i am going to fast forward. we will talk about the film in a while, but from the beginning, and he is shooting a film now with some guy named brad pitt. i thought i would through that in there. he is on the set of another film he has to get back once he is through talking to me, so what you make of the fact that there is such a beautiful response and such acclaim on this project? >> it is a beautiful film that
means something. people can relate to people that are resilience and love the things they love. that is something they can relate to, so it is a good film people can love, and your whole family can see it and enjoy it. >> my producer came to me in preparation for this conversation. chris saw it first and said to me, you are going to love the film, but it is tough to watch. it was tough for him, because he had a tough time just processing the way people live in that kind of extreme poverty, and you mentioned early so many people are struggling every day trying to put their lives back online,
but this can be hard to watch. i think what gets you through it is reveling in the humanity of these people and that they love what they do, they love their lives, but that struggle is hard for people. >> being from new orleans, we are not like a lot of other places in the united states. we are different, and we are different in our resiliency, and the more things we go through, the tougher we get. just like people do not understand, sometimes when a hurricane comes, we have a hurricane party. it is the resiliency we have to show the storm we are not going to let you change our lives. we were partying before you came and decided to try to interrupt our lives, and we are going to keep on doing this. we are not going to let things
disrupt our lives. good >> when they first gave you what we call sides, you learn this technology. now you know these terms. at some point you see the entire script, and you got a chance to see what the story line was. what did the script say to you? what turned you on about what this movie was going to say? >> i want people to understand some of the things we go through living in that region,nd a lot of things we do not have to go through, because a lot of these things like the island we saw the movie on, they are protecting everything but that particular island, and certain things like that are man-made problems, and they did not build
levees to protect all whole problem. they build them to protect certain areas. at the time we were shooting, the bp oil spill happened. we had to move our boats because of another problem in the gulf of mexico, so i hope it creates an awareness so people can understand the things we are going through. tavis: he is not here. hopefully he is not watching for this one question. were you at all concerned about putting your theatrical future in the hands of the first-time feature film director? this guy is 29. >> he put his career in my hands. we put them in each other's hands, so at the bottom line, things worked out very well for both parties. >> tell me about hush puppy,
miss wallace. tell me about her. >> she is a great young actress with a bright future ahead of her. she is a very smart, very talented, and i would love to work with her again. she has been amazing. she was 5 years old when she auditioned for this movie. she was 6 when see started shooting. to see a 6-year-old do some of the things she has done in this film, and it is amazing. >> she lives in the new orleans area? >> she is home. tavis: i reference you are doing something which is -- with brad pitt. does that mean you are about to give the bakery up?
>> i started a new one, and i am developing a new thing called the hush puppy. tavis: that is called ground who expansion. -- called expansion. are you going to stick with it? >> i am going to ride the wave. we have so many things going on in louisiana, so it is not necessary for me to move out of town. it is shot right in louisiana, and 30 minutes away i can shoot back and forth. it is not like i have to pack my bags and moved to hollywood. we have got hollywood down
south. tavis: what did you make of the acting experience? while this film depicts life, what i love about new orleans is they are authentic. they are natural. they are as advertised. it is what you see is what you get. acting requires you to do this three, four, six, seven times until you try to give the so whatr what he walknts, do you make of trying to make this reverses the what you really are? >> when he did his interviews, he told me, he had seen some natural things in me. a lot of people go to school for three, four, five years, they take drama school or drama classes, but he has seen some
natural things that did not required tme to be able to go to school to do some of the things. they brought in professional actors to work with me at the bakery, so we tried to work on different acting skills, so they have a hard time catching up to me, because i was always tired from baking at night, and they always try to catch up with me in the morning, and they could not catch up with me. they were working until midnight, reading the script, working on different acting techniques, learning how i need to change the motion and different things i need to do to be able to perform this part. tavis: did your respect for actors go up? >> my respect is a tremendously hard, because i thought they had
an easy job, but it is not easy. tavis: which is harder, baking bread or acting? >> acting is hard. it requires a lot of determination. if you want to work on your craft and do it right, it takes a lot of focus, a lot of concentration. tavis: brad pitt has hung out a lot in new orleans and has a house down there, and they are cool people, but how do you stay cool when you end up in a brad pitt film? >> i keep myself rounded and keep myself in focus, but it is a tremendous experience going from the movie i just didn' ando be able to do a film on that same level is amazing, because a lot of times a lot of actors have to stay at the bottom doing different things, and for me to that iswn into a celfilm
getting all of the praise working with steve mcqueen and brad pitt, that has taken my career to another level, and it is amazing it has happened to me. it is like hitting the lottery. tavis: when did you first see it? >> my first time was at the sundance film festival. he did not want me to watch dailies. he explained he did not want me to critique myself. he did not want me to watch the dailies and look at myself on the screen and say, i need to do this different or that different, so he did not want me to watch that to critique myself, so my first time seeing it was at the sundance film festival, and i am sitting in the audience. they have 1500 people in the audience. i am nervous. my hands are sweating, and i do
not know how people are going to react. people are looking, and i am nervous, and when the film was over, 1500 people stood up and slap for about 10 minutes. they would not sit down. now they whistled and shouted. people were crying. it was unbelievable, and i needed some tissue, because it was unbelievable response we got from the sundance audience, and it was amazing. i had to get myself from being an emotional, because it was great, and at the time we got an even bigger response from cannes than sundance. they said sundance is great, but the audience at cannes is a
tough audience, and they do not like american films, and i am sitting and audience, and when the film got over, it was unbelievable the tremendous response we got from the french audience. they stood up for 15 minutes, applauded, whistled, shouted, through balloons in the air with amazement and joy at the phfilm. tavis: you have these disparate audiences. what do you think that all of these human beings have in common? >> they relate to love, resiliency, toughness, camaraderie, how these people stick together under the worst circumstances in the world. anybody can relate to these things, so they can relate to a lot of strength and love these people have.
tavis: do you have kids? you would do anything for your baby in the film. you got tough on her, and you got your own little trailer. how did you get into character in terms of a relationship with this for all -- with this girl? >> i have a 7-year-old. she was 6 years old when we started shooting. my daughter was 7 years old, so a lot of things are related to with my daughter as far as loving her, everything i do in life, the bakery i build, all of the business ventures i have, i am doing that to pass on to my kids to have a future for my kids, so when i am dead in have and i can look down and say i had something to pass on to my
kid, and that is the same energy are brought to the movie she is the most important person in the world to me. she does not have her mother. she is living in a region that is volatile and dangerous, and her dad is dying, so she needs to know how to do a lot of things to feed herself, close herself, because i know i am dying in the movie, so my ultimate passion in the movie is to teach her how to survive, and i tried to tell her these things with urgency, because it is urgent in the movie that she knows how to do these things because your daddy is not going to be there much longer, so throughout the course of the movie i am not being mean to her, because some people think i am being mean to her common-law but i passionately tried to emphasize with an urgency you know how to do these things because your dad is not going to be here much longer, just like if you had a child and you were
dying, the most important thing would be to make sure your daughter would be ok and would make it in the region. >> how are you treated on the streets of new orleans? >> people know me now. they really know me now. i am in all of these newspapers, and they have seen me in the film, and everybody knows me. i cannot walk down the street. >> the most important question is is it good for business? >> it is good for business. that is the only reason i am opening another one, to capitalize. i want people to -- i do not want people to forget about that. >> this is a great story. i love getting the chance to talk to a lot of great people.
>> you have always got to believe and the underdog. people did not expected to do as well as it did. it was low budget, but that is another thing. you have got to pull for a good heartfelt underdog story like that. you have to pull for the underdog. that is natural for our people to pull for the underdog. >> they are going to be talking about this for a while, so you might want to see it as soon as you again. it is called piece of the southern wild -- "beasts of the southern wild." also some more good food to add to your list, as if you need that when you go to new orleans. i am glad to have you on. that is our show for tonight. until next time, thanks for tuning in-house as always -- for tuning in as always.
keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. part onenext time for of our conversation with frank gehry. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> be more. >> be more.