MARLOW — Kenny Baker likes to keep an open mind. His secret to success is staying true to himself in any situation. Be that helping his daughter show pigs, his son learn to shoot skeet, or actor Matt Damon learn how to act like a roughneck from Oklahoma.
“We got a lot more in common than the media or politicians want us to know,” Baker said about his newfound friendship with some of Hollywood’s biggest names.
Back in 2019, Baker was at an FFA Youth Expo in Oklahoma City watching his daughter compete when he got a call from his boss at Cactus Drilling.
“He told me to answer my phone when someone from New York calls me,” Baker said.
That call, as it turns out, was from a production team working on an upcoming movie. They were looking to interview some roughnecks. Baker, a longtime roughneck from Marlow, gave them several names.
A few months later, he found himself picking up writer and director Tom McCarthy alongside actor Matt Damon at a grocery store parking lot in Rush Springs. The two piled into Baker’s pickup and he drove them back to Marlow for a good, old-fashioned Okie cookout.
“When we got out of the truck and went around the corner to the backyard Matt noticed a bunch of neighborhood kids playing football in the field, he went right out there and started playing football with them. That really impressed me,” Baker said.
After some steaks and some bonding, Baker invited the director and the actor to shoot skeet with him and his son, a competitive shooter.
“Matt shot, he’s very talented. Tom shot, but he ain’t that good,” Baker said.
McCarthy and Damon wanted to learn the ends and outs of oilfield work from Baker for the movie “Stillwater,” in which Damon plays a roughneck from Oklahoma who travels to France to help his daughter who has been accused of a murder she didn’t commit.
Baker took them all over Oklahoma, from active oil rigs where they learned the lingo and the culture, to the local Sonic...where they learned the lingo and the culture.
“They wanted to know what I’d order, and how I’d order it. And at first, I was like, ‘what do you mean how I’d order it?’ And they said, ‘well would you say ‘I want,’ and I thought about it for a minute and said, ‘no, I’d say I needa, like, I needa footlong chili cheese coney with mustard and onions,” Baker said.
Baker spent a lot of time with McCarthy and Damon, and when the film’s premiere was delayed last year due to COVID-19, Baker figured he’d heard the last of it. But he and McCarthy stayed in touch. And they didn’t always talk about movies.
“I could say me and Tom is really good friends. He’s my buddy and a nice guy. We talked a lot during COVID about how we’re not that different. Everybody is always wanting to bring politics in and divide us, but we talked a lot about our families, our kids, that’s what both our focus is on, our kids,” Baker said.
About three weeks ago, Baker got a phone call inviting him and his family to New York City for the world premiere of “Stillwater”. Once they arrived in the Big Apple, they were invited to eat dinner with McCarthy in his New York home where they once again ran into Damon, who in turn invited them to his Brooklyn home for the evening before attending the premiere where they walked the red carpet.
“The big takeaway from this experience for me, is that we’re all the same people,” Baker said. “People want to divide us, but when I was in New York the people there, all I heard from them was unity. They want us to be united. That’s all I heard the whole time I was there. I’ve got a whole bunch of new friends now, and the reason I do is because I was myself. I was real. I didn’t ever act like they was somebody or get plain goofy about it.”
Baker will serve as a guest speaker at The Palace Theatre in Duncan before the premiere of “Stillwater” on Friday and Saturday. He will also be auctioning off a poster of the film signed by McCarthy with the proceeds going to benefit the Marlow FFA Booster Club.