When brothers Joel and Ethan Coen filmed "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" in Canton 10 years ago, they gave many Jackson-area residents their first—and in some cases, their only—taste of Hollywood. The Coen brothers hired locals as extras for crowd scenes and even cast some in roles. Natalie Shedd of Pearl, then 5 years old, won one of the most enviable roles: one of the four "Wharvey gals," daughters of Everett Ulysses McGill (George Clooney) and his estranged wife, Penny (Holly Hunter).
Shedd's mother, Jeannine, also appears in the movie as an extra in two scenes. Jeannine, now 34, shared their experiences with the Jackson Free Press.
How did you find out about the film?
I just heard about it one night on the 10 o'clock news that they were going to have an open casting call at the Coliseum, at the Trade Mart. So I took her. They wanted little girls around the age that she was, five years old. We'd never done anything like that before. There were plenty, plenty of little girls there. The only question they asked her that day was, "Would you cut your hair, if we wanted you to?" And of course she said, "No." So, I thought for sure we'd never hear back from them. A week or so later, they called and wanted to do an interview with her. It was probably about four or five different callbacks before we knew she had the part.
Natalie had a speaking role. What were her lines?
When he (George Clooney) walks into the Woolworth's store, she runs and says, "Daddy, Daddy!" He picks her up, and she laughs. After that, she says, " ‘Cause you was hit by a train." Then her line after that is, "Seven, Daddy." You can hear her say it in the background; they don't actually show her. Those are her big lines.
It was a lot of fun, and she got paid well, I thought. She had her own trailer with her name on the door.
What scenes were you in?
I was in the (political) rally scene, where they're in Canton. George Clooney and the other guy are on the back of a black truck, and they pull up at the rally and jump out of the back of the truck. As he gets out of the truck, I'm walking across the street with two other extras. Actually they put me as playing this couple's daughter. I was an adult, with kids, but I'm real short, so they put me as playing their daughter. We're walking across the street like we're going to the rally. My other scene was in the banquet scene in Vicksburg.
Has your daughter done any acting since then?
She's done just a few things—a Patty Peck commercial, some stuff like that. She actually auditioned a month ago for the (Coen brothers' upcoming) "True Grit." She got a call back, and we went back, and that was the last we heard.
Is there anything else that stuck out to you about the experience?
(Natalie) was little, and she would just say whatever. Her and (Clooney) joked a lot on set about—there was one time in particular in the Woolworth's store. Of course, he's got thousands of lines, and he had forgotten one of his lines. And she was like, "If you would just remember your lines and hurry up." And I was like, "Oh no, you do not talk to George Clooney that way."
The Crossroads Film Society will show a 10-minute compliation of interviews with other locals who played roles in the film's production on Saturday, April 18, directly before the 2:50 p.m. screening of "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" in honor of the film's 10th anniversary.