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Home / KMRY radio host stars in thriller movie filmed in Iowa
KMRY radio host stars in thriller movie filmed in Iowa
Ricky Bartlett’s biggest role yet is tailored to his real-life characteristics
When a flesh-eating disease nearly killed KMRY radio host Ricky Bartlett in 2014, he managed to get away with his life — losing his left leg to an amputation.
By 2018, the necrotizing fasciitis had returned, forcing doctors to amputate a toe from his right foot. And by 2022, it made another appearance, leading doctors to recommend he amputee his foot.
But this time, the on-air personality at the Cedar Rapids station at 93.1 FM wanted a clean break, so he proactively went further — asking doctors to take off the entire leg up to the knee.
It wasn’t until he lost both of his lower limbs last year that he realized how much support he had to lean on.
Bartlett became a disability advocate and an emblem of optimism for his listeners. Now he’s making good on a promise to himself — to pursue acting again.
What’s happened since
In March, director Terence Gordon shot “Intent Unknown,” a psychological thriller, in Fort Madison with educator and author Beth Deacon. Deacon and Gordon started working on the film as a gap project between other projects.
Bartlett was chosen to play Harold, the film’s protagonist who witnessed his parents and sister being murdered. In a series of twists and turns, a grown-up Harold tries to avenge his family.
The role was closely tailored to Bartlett, a double amputee with a Georgia drawl, after the producers discovered him in a database of actors through the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. How Harold came to have prosthetic legs in the film added even more anguish to the story.
“Not only did he lose his parents, but he lost a part of himself,” Bartlett explained. “Instead of a victim, he becomes a killer, the person tormenting. At the end of the movie, you don’t know who is the victim and who is the one to blame.”
Throughout the movie, he pursues the family of the film’s antagonist, Dr. Drew Campbell. Played by Eric Roberts — Julia Robert’s brother — viewers may recognize him from his roles in “The Expendables,” “The Dark Knight” and “Babylon.”
With the movie filmed at Deacon’s Fort Madison house on the city’s west side, Bartlett’s role required an accelerated pace with 10 intense days of shooting — going through about 15 pages of script every day, with some days lasting 17 hours.
With stints in independent films and small roles in high-profile titles like NBC’s “Chicago PD,” Bartlett’s role in “Intent Unknown” is the biggest one yet. So far, it’s bringing traction to Bartlett’s passion — raising his IMDb ranking substantially.
After doing theater while he was younger in his hometown of Columbus, Ga., Bartlett gave up on acting for a while. By 2019, the radio personality wanted to try his hand at voice acting. After difficulty finding voice acting work in a competitive field, he took other film work at the direction of his agency.
“You find out more about yourself when you’re playing another character than you ever would think,” Bartlett said. “I’m 100 percent myself at the radio station, but with acting … you realize that despite your disability, despite all the bad things that happened to you, you can step into another character and make that all go away.”
Bartlett said his adversities throughout both childhood and adulthood, from poverty and sexual abuse to his amputations, helped him fuel his character’s rage.
“He doesn’t feel like he’s doing anything wrong — he’s the victim,” Bartlett said. “That’s the opposite of me. I don’t walk around as a victim at all — I let it go.”
The release date of “Intent Unknown,” anticipated this summer on streaming platforms including Amazon Prime and Tubi, has not been announced.
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