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Monday, June 11, 2007

On the set with Denzel Washington

It is ironic that Uptown Shopping Center UPS owner Preston Friedley — who has gotten his share of bad press in the past — is playing a newspaper photographer in "The Great Debaters."

And, getting direction from Oscar winning actor Denzel Washington, who plays the lead and directs the movie about a Wiley College, Marshall, Texas, debate team.

Friedley has shot three days in downtown Mansfield and scheduled to work again July 5.

"It is not a speaking party, but I am very visible in taking pictures throughout the scene," said Friedley.

And, Washington has personally given him instructions, using either his name or referring to him as "photographer," Friedley.

The day Friedley reported to the set for a fitting, a crew member asked him if he could handle a 1935-era camera with a flashbulb that was hot and had to be changed four times in less than two minutes. ("I guess I got the part because I could handle a flashbulb!" quipped Friedley.)

The crew member ran through it with him and then said, "This guy will tell you what to do."

"This guy" was Washington.

He told Friedley that he would take four pictures in a certain time frame and ran through the procedure with him a couple of times.

During one scene, Friedley was standing between actors Forest Whitaker and John Heard and moved.

Washington came out and said, "Preston, I want you to stand right here. Don’t step too far out. I want to see you, not just the camera. Stay very tight and take photos."

And he marked the spot between the two actors where he wanted the local to position himself.

And, John Heard, who plays the sheriff does talk directly to him. At one point, Heard says, "Stop taking those photos and get out of here."

"I am called a ‘featured actor’ in the movie," said Friedley.

So, see, you never know when you show up at an open casting call — like Friedley did — what part you might land.

... Friedley has started a "Wall of Fame" in the UPS store, asking any actors who stop by to mail something to sign their name. Roger Bart shipped an antique lamp to his apartment in New York and Ed Harris also shipped some things as did Donna McKechnie. Although she didn’t come in herself, Diane Keaton sent a box to Woody Allen.

...Gary Jones of Mansfield, watched Denzel Washington as he worked to get a building ready for the shoot. "They were getting it all together," said Jones.


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