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Pensacola Actor Featured In New WWII Film

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The Asylum
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As the Battle of the Bulge rages on, an American tank unit gets trapped behind Nazi lines. With just hours before the bombs of Operation Ardennes Fury fall, the tank's commander makes the risky decision to rescue an orphanage. 

That’s the premise of the new World War II film Ardennes Fury. The movie was filmed in just a few short weeks in Northwest Florida and South Alabama, mostly Florala, AL.  Also it features several local actors and crew.

One of the featured actors is Lawrence Gamell, Jr. of Pensacola. Originally from California; Gamell has performed on stage since the age of 5, appearing in over 125 plays and productions. Before Ardennes Fury, his film credits included a role as a bouncer in Ray, starring Jamie Foxx; Hurricane Season, starring Forest Whitaker; and the 2006 release Failure to Launch, with Matthew McConaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker.

When he’s not making movies, Gamell is a theater instructor at Pensacola State College.

In Ardennes Fury, Gamell, an African-American, plays the role of Sgt. Nathaniel Rose, who’s a sniper assigned to a small tank battalion.

As the film goes, one of his best friends is Sgt. Lance Dawson. Dawson is portrayed by actor Tom Stedham, who lives in the Pensacola area. Also, with local ties are actors Analiese Anderson, who plays “Mother Mary” and Eric Schmitz, who portrays Commander Erik Gretsch. Additionally, Lt. Col. Paul Sinor was a military advisor for the movie.

Locals were also hired as crew. The base camp for the movie was in Crestview, and the main location for filming was Florala, just over Alabama’s border with Florida. The movie’s producer Christopher Ray was drawn back to the Pensacola after having shot Pacific Rim here in 2013.

Ardennes Fury was produced by The Asylum, which is a motion picture production, financing and worldwide distribution studio, known for its low-budget releases known as “mockbusters” because of their similarities to major studio films.

“They’re known for doing movies that a similar to other movies, but they shoot within a shorter period of time,” said Gamell, who noted that Ardennes Fury was shot in just 12 days.

Some of The Asylum’s short-turnaround films have included Sharknado 1 and Sharknado 2; Snakes on a Train, The Day the Earth Stopped, and Transmorphers.

“The first movie I did with them was Atlantic Rim, last year, which was their competition to Pacific Rim. And, I get eaten by a big serpent at the beginning of the movie,” Gamell said. But, he adds that what he likes about Asylum is they’ve never lost money on a movie. “They have a concept where they have this movie pre-sold basically. And, so they have a budget and they go out and shoot the movie.”

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Credit The Asylum
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Lawrence Gamell, Jr. of Pensacola in the new film Ardennes Fury.

In the case of Ardennes Fury, the 2014 film was turned around in a few short months and readied for release on this Veterans Day on DVD, Blue Ray Disc, and through NetFlix and Redbox.

It’s obviously a small budget film that can’t match major studio productions. Still Gamell says he and the film’s other stars were glad to have the work, playing heroes with a lot of screen time.

“It was something that we’re very proud of because just as character actors, it’s hard to get character actors who’ve been out there for a long time, who haven’t really had a chance to show their chops as much as they wanted to in a continuous basis on a film.”

Gamell says he’s not sure what’s next for him, but says he’s talked with the film’s producer about a role in a future project.