Cape Town - Hollywood film bosses have hired ex-gangsters – to play themselves in a new multi-billion rand blockbuster.
The hardened ex-cons will be starring alongside Hollywood superstars Orlando Bloom and Forest Whitaker in the film Zulu.
The movie is currently being filmed at various locations around the CBD.
But the Daily Voice has learned that movie chiefs also built a massive purpose-built set on the mean streets of Parkwood.
The notorious suburb has been buzzing all week as Tinseltown descended on the Cape Flats.
Crews spent a week building a gigantic set that mirrors a typical Flats neighbourhood – complete with fake DStv satellite dishes, aerials and sink houses.
Over 60 local community members were hired as painters, carpenters and security guards.
And other lucky people found themselves being hired to act as extras in the film – portraying their former lives as gangsters.
“I didn’t have to go for acting classes – I just had to act like I did in the past,” reformed gangster-turned-actor Elroy “Madt” Martheze told.
Elroy and his fellow “actors” were paid R300 a day for four weeks while key “fighting and shooting” scenes in the film were filmed in Parkwood.
Another local man Esa Adams, 25, offered his home as part of the set – and it was used as a tuck shop in the international movie.
Then he landed a part playing one of the gangsters.
The extras say they were treated like royalty during filming.
They dined with the stars of the movie and even shared the same make-up artist as one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.
“The first time the girl put make-up on me I told her she is making me feel like Orlando Bloom,” joked Esa.
All of the cast described Bloom and his co-star Forest Whitaker as down-to-earth guys who treated the rest of the crew as if they had known them for years.
“When they first came here I thought ‘I can’t speak to them because they won’t speak back’,” said extra Eugene Williams.
“But I was wrong – they turned out to be the ones asking to take pictures with us!”
They even taught the stars how to speak fluent Cape Flats slang.
“I taught him [Forest Whitaker] how to say pagamiesa – it took a few minutes for him to pronounce it properly,” laughed Esa.
The crew said the filming also brought in some much-needed cash into the gang-ravaged area.
“I am really thankful for the R300 we got as our pay per day,” added Esa.
“This money came in useful because I have a laaitie (child) of five years old and a princess on the way, so just like the rest of the community I used the money for food, clothes, and krag geld [electricity money].”
But for others, the magical movie inspired them to try and make it big in the acting world.
“Dié is die begin van my drome [this is the beginning of my dreams],” Asheekah Adams, 20, said.
Asheekah excitedly describes how directors and actors gave her invaluable advice on how to achieve her goal of becoming an actress.
She was so motivated that she even began to look for her own agent.
Others were just happy to get close to one of Hollywood’s hottest leading men.
Zainunesa Bianchi, 35, was literally blown away by Orlando Bloom’s gorgeous body as he gave her a tight-squeeze in his kwaai geboude (muscled) arms.
“Ek het gedink ‘Here, hier faint ek’. Maar dit was so lekker [I thought ‘Oh God, I’m going to faint’. But it was so nice],” Zainunesa said.
The location manager of the movie, who is from Cape Town but who does not want to be named, reveals the actors immediately “fell in love” with the idea of shooting the movie on the Cape Flats and got excited when introduced to Parkwood.
“We had the option of using Gugulethu and Manenberg – but I decided on Parkwood because it is much safer and the people here are not afraid to get their hands dirty,” he told.
Filming on the movie has now moved to Sea Point and other parts of the CBD.
Zulu is due to be released in South African cinemas in April next year.
* This article was published in the Daily Voice