Oscar winner hunts SA gangs
It seems Oscar winner Forest Whitaker does not deal in half measures - the 51-year-old is conducting his own research on gangs in Cape Town's Gugulethu township for his role in the upcoming film Zulu.
Whitaker and Orlando Bloom play co-leads in the crime thriller, directed by Jérôme Salle.
Bloom has been spotted at Sea Point's Virgin Active gym and also during shooting at a cemetery in Maitland.
Whitaker appears unfazed by the township's violent reputation.
A crew member told The Times yesterday: "He doesn't want to spend time at the [V&A] Waterfront. He has asked to meet some gang members and speak to them to get insight. It was never part of the [production] plan, but he wanted to do his own research."
Whitaker won an Academy Award for best actor for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland.
Local actress Nomhle Nkonyeni - who has featured in local series such as Society and Tsha Tsha - also has a prominent role in Zulu.
She will play the mother of Whitaker's character, Ali Neuman.
Her niece, Zandile Nkonyeni, a publicity manager at the SABC, spent some time on the set and met both Whitaker and Bloom.
She said: "They are the most humble Hollywood stars I've met. I spoke to Forest a lot, mostly because Orlando was shooting close-ups in between.
"We spoke about his [Whitaker's] work, both previous and current, and we took a few pictures.
"Forest even apologised for not being in a suit for the pictures."
Whitaker wanted to see a bit of township life last night [Saturday], but I couldn't go."
Nkonyeni said neither of the Hollywood stars displayed any "diva tendencies" and "ate what was served".
"Forest was so getting along with my aunt [that] he called her his mother," she added.
The film is adapted from French author Caryl Férey's crime novel of the same title , which won France's Grand Prix for best crime novel four years ago.
In the novel, Neuman narrowly escapes being killed by members of Inkatha Freedom Party during its running battles with the ANC before the 1994 democratic elections . Of his family, only he and his mother survive - but both are deeply wounded psychologically.
Neuman later becomes the chief of the homicide branch of the South African Police Service in Cape Town.
He and one of his staff members, Brain Epkeen (played by Bloom), whose family was involved in the creation of apartheid, then have to work together to deal with crime in the townships, where gangsterism and drugs are rife.
The film also features Tanya van Graan (Tara), who plays Bloom's girlfriend in the film; Natasha Loring (Marjorie), Sven Ruygrok (David Epkeen) and Adrian Galley (Nils Botha).
The film is set for release next year. No definite date has been set yet.