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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Denzel Washington comes calling

Cindy and Marshall Jones were hosts for Denzel Washington and other Hollywood celebs while they filmed "The Great Debaters" on the property.
Actor Denzel Washington felt right at home at the Jones Lake House. It is owned by Marshall Jones and members of his family.
Step through the gate and you travel from Texas into Louisiana
Times photos by Paul L. Schuetze
Remember the opening scene of "The Great Debaters?
"The "juke joint" that seemed about to fall down?

Star debater Henry Lowe’s house, looking like a shack on the outside, but filled with classics inside?

The emotionally-charged and riveting lynch scene that had a lot of reviewers talking?

They were all shot during 10 days of filming on the Caddo Lake property owned by oilman/lawyer Marshall Jones and other members of his family. (Interesting note: you drive through Texas to get there, but as you approach the gate, there is a green-and-white sign, "Tex-La State Line." You step through the gate. You are in Louisiana.)

Jones talked about the filming Saturday during a party at The Jones Lake House and in an interview Monday.

The Jones property has been in the family many years, but the house, built recently over two and a half years, was inspired by Western architect and looks like something out of the mountains of Montana or Colorado, not a camp house on Caddo Lake. (See photos above.)

The road to Washington all started with a phone call from David J. Bomba, "The Great Debaters" production designer, who told Jones they had heard how pretty the property was.

Subsequently, Jones chatted with Washington a couple of times who then came up and spent several hours with the Shreveporter in a boat paddling around the lake.

"He got a list of 20 possible scenes. He was always asking questions. He was very polite and the nicest, smartest man I have ever met," said Jones.
"Several of the really emotional scenes, like the lynch mob scene, were filmed up here," said Jones.

The movie company built a shabby, campy building for "the juke joint" on the edge of the lake and the cabin elsewhere for lead debater Henry Lowe, played by Nate Parker.

"It looks like a one-room shack, but inside is filled with classic books and copies of classic art work," said Jones of Lowe’s place.

Washington also filmed the lynch scene here. The film was produced by Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions and some of her representatives were there for those takes.

"It was (considered) a secret project because it was very controversial during the shooting. He didn’t want anyone else to see it. It was very politically/racially charged scene about a lynching in the 1930s," said Jones.

Washington brought Jones and some others "inside the ropes" to look over his shoulder while he watched cameras. "He went out of his way to show us what was going on," said Jones.

"There must have been 125 to 150 brought in from California and he filmed here over about 10 days," said Jones.

Although the lake house was not featured in the movie, Washington and others felt right at home there.
Marshall hosted several social gatherings for them, including Academy Award winning actor Forest Whitaker.
(Which is unusual among the Hollywood types, who ordinarily don’t socialize with those whose houses they rent, according to some of those involved in other films.)

"I hosted several meals for them," said Jones.

And, Jones was able to introduce his new friends to some local pals. They included: Al and Melinda Jones, Jimmy and Ann Marston and Judge James Stewart of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.

"At one time, there were five Academy Award winners sitting in the living room!" said Jimmy Marston.


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