DID YOU READ

Dwight Henry explains how his Hurricane Katrina experience made him perfect for “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

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Dwight Henry didn’t want to take a role in “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” In fact, he never even auditioned for a part in the film. Instead, his bakery, Buttermilk Drop, had the lucky location of being across the street from the studio where director Benh Zeitlin was holding auditions for his upcoming indie.

But Zeitlin saw something in Henry’s personality that he wanted in the character Wink (the father of the movie’s leading lady, Hushpuppy). Henry had a daughter Hushpuppy’s age and, like his character, stayed behind to protect his home when a terrible storm had hit. In real life, that storm was Hurricane Katrina, while in the movie, it was a quick albeit terrifying thunderstorm.

“They believed in me, you know what I mean? And they seen some things in me that I didn’t see in myself,” he told IFC during a recent press day for the film, adding that he turned Zeitlin down three times before ultimately agreeing to take the part. “I wouldn’t sacrifice my business for no acting career because my business is something, ultimately, that I know I’m going to pass down to my kids, and that’s most important to me than anything else in the world. I can’t pass an acting career down to my children.”

He continued, “That was one of the things that drawed them to me. They could have got outside professional actors, which they tried to get to do this part, but they wouldn’t have brought the passion to the movie of someone trying to go through this in real life.”

Even if he didn’t see what Zeitlin saw in him then, he does now. “Beasts of the Southern Wild” won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, the Caméra D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and most recently the Audience Award at the Los Angeles Film Festival. It’s been a whirlwind experience for Henry and his nine-year-old costar, Quvenzhane Wallis.

Neither have them had any previous acting experience, but Zeitlin made sure he worked with his actors in a way that made them feel comfortable. With Henry, that meant Zeitlin met with him at night to accommodate his baking schedule.

“Me and Benh, we would go over the script. I would read the script and we would go over it, then he would take the script and throw it away. Just like that, toss it on the side, and he would say, Dwight, tell me how you would say this in your own words,” Henry explained. “Then two days later he’d come back with the script, everything that I said in my own ways and how I felt about certain situations would be in that script because he wanted it to be in my own words, he wanted to feel the passion that I had of going through these things in real life.”

And Henry has experienced these things in real life. He reminisced about his mother and father having to put him on the roof of their house when he was two years old because Hurricane Betsy had flooded the lower Ninth Ward. The storms that wrack New Orleans have been a part of his life literally since birth, and he knew that he was never going to let them win.

“We show a strength and a resilience, just like when a hurricane comes sometimes, we party before the hurricane so when the hurricane comes, we gonna tell that hurricane we’re not going to let you disrupt our life. We’re going to have a hurricane party,” he said, acknowledging that his words describe a scene in “Beasts.” “In the sense of our imagination, we don’t want to let this hurricane think he’s got us whipped and we gonna run like he want us to do, so we stay back.”

Even during filming, there were constant problems that threatened to overcome Henry and the rest of the “Beasts” production. The BP oil spill happened at the same time they were supposed to start shooting, but Henry, Zeitlin and the rest of the cast and crew endured, found new locations to film at and managed to make a phenomenal film.

The most terrifying storm that Henry had to stand up to was Hurricane Katrina. It was that experience that made him the perfect pick for the role of Wink.

“I was in neck-high water because my business, I refused to leave the business that I worked so hard to open up and you think I’m going to just let vandals come vandalize it, burn it down? I’m not walking away from what I love just because the government telling me to walk away,” Henry said. “That’s the same strength they needed in this character, because Wink was the type of person when a problem occur, everybody looking to Wink, everybody looking up to Wink to solve the problem, blow up the levy or whatever, so they see a strength, a resilience in me.”

That’s a resilience that has stayed with him, and it’s clear that he loves his city no matter how many times the weather has tried to make him leave it. In fact, he’s opening up a new bakery in New Orleans’ business district called Wink’s Bakery and Bistro after his “Beasts” character. “And I’mma serve hush puppies,” he said with a laugh.

“I’ve been to France, and I’m traveling all over the United States doing press, but I’m still keeping my feet grounded,” he promised. “I’m not the Hollywood type. I’m not going to pack up my bags and let me move to Hollywood and stuff like that. I’m stuck in Louisiana with the Buttermilk Drop and Hollywood’ll have to come to me before I go to Hollywood. … It’s a certain magnetism that New Orleans, where we live, has. You can’t leave it.”

“Beasts of the Southern Wild” is open in select theaters in New York City and Los Angeles.

Are you intrigued by Henry’s journey to the big screen? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
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Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
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Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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