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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


June 29, 2002 - Issue 64


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The Littlest Code Talker

by Rick Abasta The Navajo Times
credits:Brandon Roberts with his official "Making of Windtalkers" book featuring movie scenes in which he portrays George Washington Yahzee, son of a Navajo Code Talker. (Times photo - Paul Natonabah)
Brandon Roberts will soon realize the magnitude of his part in a major Hollywood production based on the Navajo Code Talkers.

Roberts celebrated his fifth birthday on Sunday. By Friday, Navajos across the nation will see the 5-year-old Navajo on the silver screen during his acting debut in Windtalkers.

Roberts is cast in the role of George Washington Yahzee, the son of John Yahzee (Adam Beach), the central character of Windtalkers. The 2002 film directed by John Woo launched in theaters on Flag Day, June 14.

Matilda Roberts is excited and proud of her son's participation in the big screen adaptation of the Code Talkers' story. She said her family planned to attend the premiere at Kayenta on Wednesday.

Initially, the chance to audition for a role in Windtalkers came from a spur-of-moment road trip to the Four Corners in the summer of 2000, Roberts said.

"We were going to visit the Four Corners, that was the original plan. We read the Navajo Times and saw the ad for the auditions, so we went to Kayenta," she said.

Brandon's two older brothers, Cody and Mario, also auditioned along with Matilda. Until word came on Brandon's selection, Matilda Roberts figured their auditions were for naught.

Roberts admitted that she was skeptical about her son's prospects of being selected for the film because after the July 2000 casting call, Roberts had no contact with MGM for over one year.

"I wasn't confident that he would be selected. Dixie Davis from MGM called us in August of 2001 to tell us that Brandon was selected for the interview," Roberts said. "I thought it was a joke. It took me a while before it sank in."

Brandon Roberts and five other boys were selected for the interview. The interview session involved a number of questions to give the casting crew an idea of each child's acting potential.

"Brandon was really excited. He didn't really know much about what was going on. They asked him several questions, like his favorite movie star, which was Adam Beach," Roberts recalled.

The early morning interview took place on Tuesday. Upon selection, a dress rehearsal followed on Wednesday with actual filming taped on Thursday. Friday was a day of waiting for the call from Los Angeles for any potential glitches that would require a re-shoot. There were none.

With over 100 people in the production crew and two cameras filming Brandon's scenes, Roberts said her son eventually warmed up to the limelight.

"They tried to make Brandon smile. They put stickers on Adam's forehead and he finally smiled. Brandon likes Adam. He thinks he's funny," Roberts said of the tactics employed.

Between takes, director John Woo kept the happy-go-lucky vibe going by carrying Brandon around the set.

Roberts said, "Mr. Woo is very down to earth. He was constantly carrying my son around. He pampered my son."

The scenes featuring Brandon Roberts involve the washing of Joe Enders (Nicholas Cage) dog tags in a Navajo wedding basket with yucca soap. Brandon also shot scenes in Los Angeles portraying John Yahzee's departure for the U.S. Marine Corps.

Brandon Roberts finished the school year at Tohatchi Head Start. For kindergarten, Roberts will attend Ch'ooshgai Community School and hopefully continue his acting career, according to his mom.

For now, Brandon said his favorite movie is Spider Man. Perhaps that will change after the release of Windtalkers.

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