Independent film role puts New Orleans baker in spotlight
BY MICHAEL SMITH World Scene Writer
Friday, July 27, 2012
7/27/12 at 5:26 AM
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For Mr. Henry, it all began with a buttermilk drop.
The buttermilk drop is a cross between a cake doughnut and a pound cake. It's a round ball pastry, with a creamy glaze on top. It's absolutely delicious, or so think the people of New Orleans who frequent the Buttermilk Drop Bakery & Cafe for Mr. Henry's specialty product, along with his king cakes and raisin squares.
That would be Dwight Henry, the baker and chef who operates the Buttermilk Drop when he's not acting. That's the place where everyone knows his name, and it's Mr. Henry.
"I knew the filmmakers because there's a casting agency across the street from the bakery, and they used to come over in the mornings to get breakfast and doughnuts and things, and they put fliers in the bakery asking people to audition for an upcoming movie," Henry said.
He was calling from Boston, where he was promoting "Beasts of the Southern Wild," the art-house hit with awards buzz and a baker in a lead role. The movie opens Friday in Tulsa at AMC Southroads 20.
A couple of weeks after seeing the flier, he amused himself by auditioning. When he got a "callback" asking him to read again, he worried that "this might get serious," he said. He was in the process of moving his business to a new location.
It turns out the producers had been looking for Henry for a couple of weeks to offer him the part - such is the world of independent filmmaking - before they tracked him down at his new location.
And he told them no. Three times.
"I wanted to take it, but I just refused to walk away from the business that I had worked so hard and so long to build," Henry said. "But I thought about things, and they saw some things in me that I didn't see in myself. They just had so much belief in me.
"I finally worked things out with my two partners, and I was able to leave and go do the movie, and everything since then has just been wonderful, wonderful."
"Beasts of the Southern Wild," shot in Louisiana and revolving around a father-and-daughter story set among challenges ranging from Mother Nature to Henry's character's failing health, has changed the lives of Henry and Quvenzhane Wallis, the little girl known as Hushpuppy in the film.
Just call me Nazie (which sounds like NAY-zee), she said, because "That's what my friends call me."
The 8-year-old saw the flier about auditions in a Louisiana library. Nazie was selected to play Hushpuppy over 3,500 other girls who wanted to be the star of a movie.
She'll be in fourth grade when the school year begins, and that will be her first opportunity to talk to her classmates about her travels promoting a movie.
"I've met Danny Glover, and I've met Justin Russo (a character played by David Henrie on Disney Channel's "Wizards of Waverly Place"), and a bunch of other people, and I don't remember where all I've been, so you'll have to ask Mr. Henry," Nazie said.
She gives the phone back to Henry, who recites the cities, and she can be heard in the background repeating the cities. She repeated New York City several times, because she's really looking forward to visiting the Big Apple.
When asked how much she is like Hushpuppy, Nazie proclaimed, "Everything." When asked about seeing the movie for the first time, she assured that it was exactly what she expected to see.
"I wasn't surprised by it," she said, "because I saw dailies."
How quickly they grow up. As Nazie is quick to remind, she's 8 now, and when they filmed the movie, that was way back when she was just 6 years old.
Original Print Headline: Film role was piece of cake for baker
Michael Smith 918-581-8479
Dwight Henry, who plays Wink in "Beasts of the Southern Wild," is the baker and chef who operates the Buttermilk Drop Bakery & Cafe in New Orleans. JESS PINKHAM/Fox Searchlight
Quvenzhane Wallis was selected to play Hushpuppy - seen above as she faces the mythical Aurochs - over 3,500 other girls who wanted to be the star of a movie. Fox Searchlight Pictures/Courtesy