Joe Kirby: Marietta actor survives brush with new Stooges — almost
by Joe Kirby
Columnist
April 29, 2012 12:00 AM | 1316 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
All that slapstick mayhem for which The Three Stooges were famous was faked, right? Nobody really got hurt in those orgies of slapping and eye-poking and clobbering one another, right? Not in the original Stooges shorts from the 1930s-50s, and not in the new “The Three Stooges” movie now in theaters either, right?

Wrong.

Just ask actor Ric Reitz of east Marietta, who had a small role in the new movie — and came away with a cut and bruises to prove it, thanks to a stunt that backfired.

Much of the movie was filmed last spring in the metro Atlanta area, and filmmakers The Farrelly Brothers (“Dumb & Dumber,” “There’s Something About Mary”) rented a palatial house near the Governor’s Mansion on West Paces Ferry Road in which to shoot many of the scenes.

Those of us who grew up on The Three Stooges will recognize the scenario immediately — the Stooges making mayhem at a posh party full of hoity-toity society types.

Reitz worked a couple of weeks depicting one of the party-goers. He’s in scenes with all three Stooges, but worked most closely with Larry, played by “Will & Grace” star Sean Hayes.

He first happens upon Larry at a champagne fountain on a buffet table.

“I’m about to get a champagne flute, and I see that Larry is drinking it directly from the spout. And then he says, ‘You’re next!’” Reitz said.

Soon after in the film, the Stooges are gathered around sushi station with a tank full of live lobster, octopus and other fish, and Moe grabs a live lobster and shoves it down the front of Larry’s pants. Moe next grabs an octopus from the tank and throws it at Larry, who ducks — resulting in Reitz’s character getting smacked in the face with the mollusk.

Trying to be helpful, Larry then grabs a fireplace shovel with which to bat the octopus off Reitz’s face and in the process send Reitz tumbling in a backward pratfall over a couch.

And that’s when things took a turn for the painful.The shovel was a stunt shovel, with its head removed and replaced with foam. The center of the blade contained a metal rod to keep the shovel’s shape rigid.

“Even if it hits you, it’s not supposed to hurt,” Reitz said.

But Hayes swung so energetically that as the shovel hit Reitz the foam was compressed by the metal rod.

“He really hit me, right in the forehead, and split my head open. But I fell out of the scene before the real bleeding began,” Reitz recalled, adding that his forehead also was abraded by the foam.

“A stunt gone awry,” he said.

Luckily he didn’t need stitches and there was no permanent damage. And the director said there would be no need for a retake.

“He said it was so good they wouldn’t even need to add sound effects,” Reitz said.

“And Sean Hayes felt sooo bad about it,” he added.

Ironically, a stunt man had been slated to stand in for Reitz during the scene.

“But he couldn’t fall in a funny-enough way to suit the director. So he let me do it,” Reitz said. “It was the first time I’ve ever really done any stunts. It didn’t work out too well.”

***
REITZ HAS HAD had lead and/or supporting roles in innumerable Hollywood movies and TV shows in recent decades. His starring film credits include roles in “QuarterLife Ben” and three upcoming movies: “Loft,” “Solace” and “The Occult,” in which he plays a sheriff investigating a murder in an Amish-like community in Pennsylvania. He just finished working in “Broken City” in New Orleans, which will star Russell Crowe and Mark Wahlberg; and had a small role in “Flight,” starring Denzel Washington. He earlier had a starring role in “The People vs. Leo Frank” about the Leo Frank lynching in Marietta in 1915; and a small role in “Remember the Titans.” He has starred on TV in the series “Game of Your Life,” “Stuck in the Suburbs” and “The Journey of Sir Douglas Fir.”

“I’ve also been in some low-budget and no-budget projects for friends,” the Rochester, N.Y., native added.

“I’ve been on a lucky streak. It will be hot like this, and then I’ll go for months and months with no work. ‘The Plight of a Free Lance Actor.’ But it’s been a fun way of making a living, and I’ve managed to support myself for 35 years now that way.”

He also worked in 1996-97 as the stadium announcer for Atlanta Falcons games at the Georgia Dome, and his face is a familiar one to those who remember him as the spokeman in “Gutter Guard” commercials. Moreover, unlike many movie actors, he is equally at home on a stage before a live audience. He had major roles in “Turned Funny” (about writer Celestine Sibley) and Lillian Hellman’s “The Little Foxes” at Theatre In The Square, and said he was “absolutely crushed” when that theater closed for financial reasons this spring.

Though he maintains an apartment in Los Angeles, he spends most of his time here with his wife, Noel, or on location.

At present, he’s finishing a one-hour treatment for Georgia Public Television of his book “Second Chance Christmas,” about a youth symphony of well-off kids snowed in in a poor West Virginia mining town in West Virginia en route to playing a holiday concert at Carnegie Hall, that decides to perform instead in the town hall.

“If all goes well, I’d love to shoot the interior scenes next year at The Strand” in Marietta, he said.

I’m sure Strand impresario Earl Reece would bend over backward to make that happen.

That assumes, of course, that Reitz doesn’t do any more stunts between now and then.

“I told Sean (“Larry”) after the accident that if I go on the talk-show circuit with him to promote the Stooges movie, I’ll be wearing a football helmet!”

Joe Kirby is Editorial Page Editor of the Marietta Daily Journal and author of “The Bell Bomber Plant” and “The Lockheed Plant.”
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