TERRE HAUTE —
Yes, it really was Jesse Ventura — the former Minnesota governor — walking the halls of the Ohio Building Monday.
And not far behind was Tom Sizemore, an actor and veteran of such major films as “Black Hawk Down” and “Saving Private Ryan.”
The two celebrities were at the Ohio Building to shoot scenes for the movie “The Drunk,” currently being filmed in Terre Haute by Tanoos Fleschner productions.
Ventura, who has been a U.S. Navy SEAL and a professional wrestler, portrays an Indiana governor whose term is ending, while Sizemore portrays Bruce Frye, a corrupt prosecutor running for Indiana governor.
Terre Haute natives William Tanoos and Paul Fleschner co-wrote the film and are co-directing and acting in it.
In a media interview, Ventura said, “I found the role interesting and I accepted it, so here I am in Terre Haute … I play a governor [in the movie] and I think I have the experience to take that role, having been one.”
The film-makers sent his Los Angeles management a copy of the script, and it was Ventura’s understanding “the role was more or less written with me in mind,” he said.
The fact that the movie is being filmed in Terre Haute and was written by Terre Haute natives — with Eugene Debs as inspiration — gives it authenticity and a Midwestern flair, Ventura said.
Sizemore said he read the script and saw there was “real talent behind it.” He also likes to help young filmmakers get their big break.
In the movie, Tanoos portrays Joe Debs, the fictional, hard-drinking grandson of legendary labor leader and Terre Haute native, Eugene V. Debs. (Debs had no such grandson).
In the modern-day plot, Joe Debs gets arrested for drunken driving. When he discovers Frye is trying to put him in jail for political reasons, he decides to run against Frye for governor.
About 5 p.m. Monday, Tanoos and Ventura did several takes of a scene in which Ventura, as Indiana governor, tries to encourage and offer advice to Joe Debs (Tanoos), who appears discouraged about his candidacy.
As the scene was being shot, Don Moffitt stood in a hallway, watching and waiting. The Terre Haute native — also the retired president and board chairman of CNF Inc. — has a role in the film as a political “kingmaker,” he said.
Moffitt, longtime friends with members of the Nasser and Tanoos families, was asked to play the role of a political boss, he said.
“It’s another adventure for me,” said the 79-year-old Moffitt, who normally calls Hawaii and California home.
Moffitt already had an opportunity to meet Ventura and Sizemore, and as part of the movie, they went to a golf course. Moffitt and Sizemore plan to meet up in Hawaii, where Sizemore has signed up for a recurring role this fall on the new “Hawaii: Five-0” series.
“I love Sizemore. He’s the greatest guy,” Moffitt said. He characterized Ventura as “probably one of the most interesting men I’ve met.”
This is the fourth week of filming, William Tanoos said. Filming has gone “very well,” although it’s been hectic. There have been long hours, and it’s been demanding physically and mentally, “but it’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had,” Tanoos said.
The political movie has light-hearted moments, but a very serious message. Many local people are appearing as extras.
Commenting on the casting of Sizemore and Ventura, Paul Fleschner said, “It’s been a privilege to work with such talented people in the entertainment industry.”
Over the weekend, Tanoos and Fleschner rehearsed with Sizemore, who has worked with famous directors, including Steven Spielberg, and famous actors, such as Robert DeNiro
As they heard Sizemore’s anecdotes, Tanoos and Fleschner at times would just look at each other. “We feel very fortunate and very grateful to work with a guy with such immense talent, who also has worked with some legendary names. We can draw a lot from his experience,” Tanoos said.
Downstairs in the Ohio Building, several people awaited their opportunity to play an extra in the movie.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or email@example.com.
Want to be in a movie?
“The Drunk” still needs extras — lots of extras — for a debate scene between Eugene Debs’ fictional grandson Joe Debs (played by Terre Hautean William Tanoos) and corrupt politician Bruce Frye (played by Hollywood veteran actor Tom Sizemore). Joe and Frye are opponents in the 2012 race for Indiana governor.
Producers say they need 800 people to serve as extras for the scene, and so far, about 300 have confirmed. So, they need about another 500 people.
Extras will portray the debate audience.
The scene will be filmed Friday in Woodrow Wilson Middle School’s gymnasium. Extras should arrive at the school’s front doors by 9:30 a.m. They should expect to stay for the entire filming session, which should conclude by 3 p.m. but could extend a few hours later.
People interested in becoming an extra in the movie should send an email with their name and phone number to firstname.lastname@example.org. Producers will verify a prospective extra’s interest with an RSVP.