Columbus GA officer advises Robert De Niro in thriller
When movie star Robert De Niro wanted to know how to hold his gun while playing a Georgia Sheriff, he asked Joe McCrea.
And when Robert De Niro wanted to know how to say his lines, as Sheriff of Georgia, he listened to Joe McCrea say them.
And when Joe McCrea’s three days as a law enforcement consultant on the set of “Wash Me In The River,” Robert De Niro asked him to stay 12 more days.
It was an exhilarating gig for McCrea, 63, a 34-year veteran of the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office, and it ultimately got him into the movie.
In his role as a consultant, McCrea explained to director Randall Emmett and his crew how sheriffs and their deputies act, in their official capacity: How do they secure crime scenes? How do they search a building? Where do they put the crime scene tape when they find a body?
McCrea’s role in this production began last October, when Emmett called the sheriff’s office.
Emmett had called another law enforcement agency, but no one called him back. So he called the sheriff’s office, where employee Carol Foster heard what he wanted, and sent it to McCrea.
Soon Emmett and five associates visited McCrea in Columbus.
“We met for a few hours one day, and we went over the script, talked about different ideas and languages, and if it was a southern theme,” recalls McCrea. âAt the end of the meeting, he offered to sign a law enforcement consultancy contract. “
McCrea would be the fact-checker on set.
âThe thing with Randall, the director, was he was very adamant about realism,â McCrea said. âHe wanted things to be very realistic, so he just wanted me to say, ‘Yeah, that makes sense. This is how we would do it.
One day, the film crew was filming outside an apartment where police officers had found a body, in the film’s fictional “Huxton County”, and McCrea noticed that no one was guarding the door, while it was was supposed to be a secure crime scene. He pointed it out.
So they told him to go guard the door, while wearing one of the tan and brown assistant uniforms from the closet, and he walked past the camera.
He didn’t have any lines, but expects to be an extra in that and a few other crucial places.
Besides De Niro, the film stars John Malkovich, Willa Fitzgerald, Jack Huston and Quavo, among others.
It is about a woman addicted to heroin who tries to cleanse herself, with the intention of being baptized (hence the title), but she dies of an overdose.
This triggers her vengeful boyfriend, who unleashes his fury on his suppliers, with the sheriff caught up in the conflict.
The film is slated for release in 2022, McCrea said. Emmett has a previous movie, âMidnight In The Switchgrass,â coming out first.
McCrea was on set in January as the crew filmed scenes in Puerto Rico, their production schedule shattered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Parts of the film were also shot in Waycross, Georgia, but McCrea was not needed there.
During their downtime, he and the crew enjoyed luxurious accommodation in the town of Dorado west of San Juan, occasionally staying up late drinking Medalla beer and chatting.
McCrea got up late with a production assistant one night when he mentioned that he could be cut, during the final cut.
âI said, ‘I don’t mind if I end up on the cutting shop, just to have the experience of doing it,’ he recalls.
He said the assistant replied, âYou don’t really understand, do you? You’re in like three major scenes, and you’re right in the middle of them, so I don’t really see how you could ever be cut off from that.
Read Bob’s lines
Production on the film was due to start in November, but the pandemic has postponed plans until January.
Meanwhile, McCrea read the script, recording himself saying De Niro’s lines, so De Niro could hear the intonation, not to feign a Southern dialect, but to sound close enough.
One day on set, just before a scene, McCrea saw the actor sitting quietly in a folding chair, his headphones on. He told McCrea he was listening to his recordings for an upcoming scene.
McCrea flew to Puerto Rico on January 6, still in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, when much of the island was closed.
He had beer on the cab ride, but the restaurants were closed and his hotel was about a mile from any other business.
The following Sunday the cast and crew had a big dinner, and that’s where he met Bob, as De Niro’s friends know him.
âThe next day I went to a meeting with Bob and Meadow Williams, who played his lieutenant in the movie, and Randall, and we read a script,â he recalls.
Then they went to see a scene in an apartment, to see how it was set up. That’s where Emmett turned to a producer and said, “Hey, let’s get him in the movie.”
âI thought they were crazy,â McCrea said. But he went to the wardrobe and adjusted, and for the next three days he played an extra.
âIt was really funny, because I remember being in a scene and them filming, but nobody ever told me what to do,â he said. âThen I realized that what I was doing was what I would normally do in real life, so I guess no one felt the need to tell me otherwise. “
On the tray
Most of the time, when the cameras were rolling, McCrea would stay away, unless someone yelled “Joe!” “
Then he would be called in for a reality check.
At the corpse scene, the team asked: where would the crime tape be?
Looking at the scenery by the river, McCrea must have told them that the crime tape would be located on the heights, a few feet from the body.
But it wouldn’t be in the plan, so far away, so he helped close the distance.
For his interview last week with the Ledger-Enquirer, McCrea was allowed to share personal photos of himself with De Niro and others, but no images showing a scene from the movie. He was also not to divulge the plot twists.
âLet’s just say it has a surprising ending,â he said.
The film has already generated some Hollywood buzz, as critics anticipate its release with Emmett’s other film set to debut first.
McCrea returned to town on January 21. He’s back in his Government Center office, dealing with grants and other additional funding for the sheriff’s office, and enduring some movie jokes.
The concert earned him more than a trip to Puerto Rico, to spend a few weeks in a seaside hotel with movie stars: he also got paid.
But he wouldn’t say how much.
âIt was very generous,â he says.
He also obtained two credits in cinema, as an extra and as a consultant.
If it is cut, in the final cut, its name will always be there, twice, at the end.
This story was originally published May 12, 2021 6:00 a.m.