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Great-grandson proud to play Mattie Mitchell


STEPHENVILLE  Alonzo (Lonnie) Rumbolt took a great deal of pride in playing his great-grandfather Mattie Mitchell in a soon-to-be released short film.

Alonzo (Lonnie) Rumbolt played his great-grandfather Mattie Mitchell in a film created by the College of the North Atlantic’s film and production class. Here, Joel Tourout, left, gets ready to roll a scene for the film.

Peter Buckle selected the Stephenville man to play the lead role in “The Mattie Mitchell Project” — this year’s movie by the film and production class at the College of the North Atlantic in Stephenville.

Rumbolt said he was encouraged by his family to audition for the part, and he personally wanted to ensure the film would do his great-grandfather the justice he felt he deserved.

“I didn’t want them to do him any injustice or see him coming off as a Hollywood indian,” Rumbolt said this week after the film was shot in the Gros Morne and surrounding areas. “He was a special guy, that’s the bottom line, and he deserves to be portrayed accurately.”

The audition may have been secondary, but he was excited and honoured to land the role.

“How many people would ever have a chance to play their own great-grandfather?” he said. “Few and far between I am sure.”

Along with his family connection, Rumbolt’s acting and stage background may have helped him land the role. He was a technician at the Stephenville Arts and Culture Centre, who eventually was wrote into a few plays with local theatre companies he was part of. He continued that with Bay Theatre over the years, and was also instrumental in starting school drama clubs in Stephenville.

However, there was some differences in getting behind the camera than taking the stage.

“In theatre you do multiple rehearsals and you get a feel for how you are doing,” he said. “In this, I pretty well had to trust the director — give him what he asked for each and every time.

“I hope I did him justice.”

Mattie’s legacy

Rumbolt, and his family, are proud that Mitchell, and his legacy, is being portrayed in film. The actor said he won’t see any of it until the screening, so his assessment is based on his gut feeling from the filming itself. He thinks it worked well.

“The other actors involved were great, even though we had no time to practice,” he said. “In one case I met the guy a few minutes before the shoot. We only had time to talk it through. The next thing you know we are rolling around in the mud, in a rain storm, in a knife fight.”

The film follows the true story of American Reverend Elwood Worcester. After reading a story about pearls being found on the island, the reverend travels to Newfoundland to hire a frontiersman to aid him in his adventure. He eventually gets pointed in the direction of Mitchell.

Mitchell is known as one of the greatest guides, trappers and hunters in Newfoundland and Labrador history. However, Rumbolt has a bit of an issue with his great-grandfather based on the film.

“I don’t know how Mattie survived in that costume, but I was perished,” he said. “The weather was cold, and we got a good bit of rain. It was 12 hours-plus a day, and outdoors.”

Meanwhile, Peter Buckle, director, had high praise for Rumbolt’s performance behind the camera. He said they could see a transformation of the actor into Mitchell.

“When on set and in costume even his facial muscles would transform from Lonnie to Mattie just before the camera would roll,” he said. “It was amazing to watch.”

The film shoot will wrap up Friday.

churley@thewesternstar.com

Twitter: WS_CoryHurley

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