June 29--OCEAN SPRINGS -- A small local crowd mixed with actors and film crew caught its breath for a few seconds Friday afternoon as two professional stunt men fell 30 feet from a second-story balcony at the Front Beach home of David and Mary Jensen.
They did the stunt in one take for the movie "Artists Die Best in Black," a $1.5 million murder mystery based on a novel by Martha Mabey and funded in part by local producer Paul Bonge. The movie, which features actor Malcolm McDowell, will be filming along the Coast for several more weeks.
The two stunt men -- one dressed like the villain and the other dressed as McDowell's character, Dr. McGowan -- fell entwined and surrounded by an explosion of glass as if they had burst through a window.
One take was what the stunt coordinator, Mike Walters, and director of photography, Francisco Gonzalez, had hoped for.
It was a tricky stunt, Walters said, because one of the men actually had to steer the fall and the other had to trust him as they landed in a pile of boxes and padding on the driveway of the stately Southern mansion.
Approving the scene on screen, Gonzalez watched the figures drop through in slow motion and said, "Beautiful."
Earlier, McDowell, known for his lead in Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange" decades ago and more recently for appearances on the comedy series "Community" and CBS drama "The Mentalist," entertained fellow cast members at the set and talked with visitor who were introduced to him.
He'd flown in from Los Angeles on Wednesday, Bonge had said.
"I had dinner with him," Bonge said. "He is a delightful man and very gracious, just a professional. He doesn't really come off as a stereotypical actor. He's just a man doing a job."
Leaning back in a chair on the set, McDowell said, "I am watching myself fall out a window," referring to the stunt.
The actor, who turned 70 this month, joked he had planned to do the stunt himself.
McDowell speaks at film festivals and universities, but doesn't do acting seminars, he said. He's staying very busy with acting work. "I'm working all the time, I'm glad to say."
He said he loved his work on "Community" and is a fan of the show that also stars Chevy Chase.
"It's no different, comedy," he said, as long as there's a script. "If it's written, you can do it."
Mayor Connie Moran was on the set and said McDowell told her it was his first trip to Mississippi. He said he was taken with the old Southern homes, she said. He asked about Hurricane Katrina and she told him the storm destroyed a lot of those homes.
The film crew took over the Jensen home all week, moving furniture and filming several scenes while the Jensens lived in the downstairs bedroom.
But Mary Jensen said in a way, it's familiar. Her son Eric Zala and his friend Chris Strompolos, used the house for five years filming their remake of the first Indiana Jones movie, which has become a cult classic.
"We had a tent in the living room for a year," she said with a smile.
Watching the filming this week at her home, she said she was impressed with McDowell's Southern accent. The British actor does a very credible Southern drawl, she said, "I was amazed."
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