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Lilbourn teen appears in Johnny Cash biopic as extra

Monday, December 5, 2005

Drew Weeks of Lilbourn holdsa "Walk the Line" movie poster.
LILBOURN - It wasn't Hollywood but for a small-town Missouri boy it was close.

Drew Weeks of Lilbourn experienced big time filmmaking as an extra in the Joaquin Phoenix-Reese Witherspoon movie "Walk the Line." "Walk The Line" chronicles the life of country music singer Johnny Cash from his early days on an Arkansas cotton farm to his rise to fame.

Included in the film is a concert filmed in 2004 at Mud Island in Memphis, Tenn. It was during this filming that Weeks, now a 16-year-old junior at New Madrid County Central High School, made his film debut. However, he almost turned it down.

The son of Ann Weeks of Lilbourn and Jerry Sermon of Germantown, Tenn., Weeks was visiting his father in Memphis, when the family got a call from his stepmother's cousin, who already was serving as an extra in the movie. She was recruiting more people to appear in a crowd scene.

His mother recalls the call her son made to her.

"He didn't want to do it because it would take 12 hours to film but I talked him into it. I told him it would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Ann Weeks said. The coaxing worked and the next afternoon, Weeks found himself being measured for costumes in a tent on Mud Island. By 7 that evening the extras were in costume, going through makeup and having their hair styled to give them the proper look for the era.

Weeks described his costume as making him look like "Fez" in "That 70s Show." "My hair was all parted," he said. "I had real tight pants and some leather shoes on and a really tight shirt."

While he said he would never wear such an outfit, Weeks added it was fun to experience "what people wore back then."

Shooting took place throughout the evening with a break for "supper underneath the stars." As an extra at the Cash concert, the crew moved Weeks from his seat at the back of the audience to behind the actors portraying Cash's family. His role - to clap.

Apparently he did a good job, because when the movie came out, Weeks made it onto the screen - albeit briefly.

"I thought they cut me out because it isn't until the very last of the scene, but they show the family and there I am," said Weeks, admittedly happy with his screen debut.

From being a part of the filming to seeing it on the big screen, Weeks was introduced into the magic of making movies. As one of some 130 extras in the concert scene, he said the filmmakers had made it look like a much larger crowd.

"It is pretty cool the way they did stuff. They added so much stuff," he said.

Also he noted they enhanced the music, but praised Witherspoon and Phoenix for their singing ability.

"He is pretty good. I was surprised. And Reese Witherspoon that is her really singing," he said about the music.

While he never got to speak to the stars - extras were told not to speak to them unless the stars spoke first - Weeks did see them up close and offered that Witherspoon "is very pretty."

And he got paid for the evening's work - $90.47.

Weeks saw the film the opening weekend in Memphis, then went again with his family and friends after it opened in Sikeston. Ann Weeks described the crowd as anxious as the scene got near.

"You have to know what scene he is in. You have to look for him," she said. When he came on screen, she admitted, they jumped up and screamed.

"The people in front of us weren't very excited about that," she added, until they filled them in, that is.

Of course she plans to buy the video. "Wouldn't every mom?" she said.

As for Weeks, he still is unsure what the future holds, but said since the filming he has thought about acting. After all, he already has his first film credit to his name.

And he has learned there is something to the dream big theme of so many movies.

"You should never get down because it is possible for you to do anything," he explained. "Living in a small town you can do stuff big."