Producer/Comedy Actor Ritchie Montgomery By Jamie O’Quinn
Animated and larger than life describes both the quick witted personality and intriguing Hollywood career of Fayette, Mississippi native, Ole Miss alumni and the University of Southern Mississippi graduate, Ritchie Montgomery. Having acted in over 70 films and videos such as “In the Electric Mist“ and “The Great Debaters”, he also performed in numerous television show, Lifetime movies and commercials.
Making his acting debut in 1979 in the TV movie “Freedom Road” and then the television mini-series “Beulah Land,“ he moved briefly to New York City and finally to Hollywood where he remained for the next 27 years working with producers such as Steven Spielberg, Tommy Lee Jones, Denzel Washington and Billy Bob Thornton. While attending the New Orleans Jazzfest two and a half years ago, Montgomery received a call from his agent about making a movie in Louisiana which sparked his return to the south where he now maintains permanent residences in both Natchez, Mississippi, and Hollywood.
I caught up with Montgomery at this home in Natchez where he was enjoying a juicy Smith County watermelon while learning lines for an upcoming audition.
Q: You just completed three movies, two for release in 2008 and one for December 2009. Tell me about them.
A: I’ve probably done 25 movies in Louisiana since I moved back. I just wrapped up a movie called “Cirque de Freak” and another titled “Soul Man” with Bernie Mac and Samuel L. Jackson. I’m really excited about doing my first animated Disney movie “The Princess and the Frog” in which I play Reggie the Cajun Frog Hunter. It’s to be released in December 2009.
Q: “The Princess and the Frog” is directed by Ron Clements and John Musker who also directed “The Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin“. Tell me about your initial reading for the movie.
A: The casting director called me to read the part of a lightning bug. Since animation is exactly what it sounds like, I started buzzing and flopping around. They then asked if I would mind reading for the part of a mosquito so I buzzed around, shook my behind and sang a song I made up on the spot.
Q: You got a call back, didn’t you?
A: Lo and behold, I did get a call back for the part of Reggie the Cajun Frog Hunter. I went to New Orleans and read for the part with Clements and Musker there. Before I left I asked if there was a possibility my character might be able to sing a song. They said “Ritchie, can you carry a tune?” I looked them square in the eyes and said (with Cajun accent) “Hoooh, I don’t know, how much do he weigh?”. They fell out and gave me the job.
Q: The animation process is totally different from the usual movie filming, isn’t it?
A: The most exciting thing about animation is you can be really creative and let your imagination run wild. At Disney they put two cameras on you, one on your face and the other on your whole body. They shoot you while you perform the lines and give the film to the animators so they can incorporate it into the animation scene.
They are doing the animation for “The Frog and the Princess” the old-fashioned way without the use of computers. By drawing all the scenes by hand, it takes the animator one week to draw one character for each 15 seconds on the big screen.
Q: I know you’ve done some serious roles and numerous comedy ones. Haven’t you also stepped off into the role of producer for a movie called “State”?
A: Yes, “State” is based on a true story. In addition to the role of producer, I also play the part of the softball team coach in the movie. We are currently raising money for the project.
Montgomery says if you want to tell him “hello” you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hollywood South is a syndicated column.
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