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Fred Thompson's Casting Call

Behind the scenes with Fred Thompson. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post).

In his profile of Fred Thompson in today's paper, Joel Achenbach chronicled the former Tennessee senator's transformation from lanky high school athlete to a young husband and father, to eventual minority counsel on the Senate Watergate committee to where he is today as a candidate for president. Here is a look at another transformation: the first move Thompson made from southern lawyer to big (and small) screen star.

Movie director Roger Donaldson needed someone large and commanding to play the Fred Thompson character in "Marie," the true story of a spunky Tennessee woman who blew the whistle on official corruption. "If George C. Scott had been alive, maybe he would have been a candidate to play Fred," he says.

Instead he asked Thompson to play himself. He did well. Producer Mace Neufeld recalls, "Roger said to me, you ought to meet this guy Fred Thompson who I had in 'Marie'." More movies followed. "He learns his lines and he shows up totally prepared. And you put Fred into a scene you don't have to worry about it."

Thompson was not the first actor in his family: His younger brother, Ken, a big man like Fred, had already worked as an actor in Tennessee.

"His first movie, he did great," says Ken Thompson. "And the reason is, he was totally natural, and himself. That has always paid off for him...People have this misconception about acting, and actors. People who are not involved in it seem to think that it's about staginess and faking and pretending, when really it's about honesty and sincerity. Most of us have to work hard at learning to do that. He didn't seem to have to work hard at doing that. It came naturally to him. He just was a natural, and was himself."

--Joel Achenbach

By Washington Post editors  |  December 12, 2007; 11:10 AM ET
Categories:  A_Blog , Fred Thompson  
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