Wednesday, March 01, 2006

March 3rd, 2006

Most of the time, it's not too hard to be an extra. Free food, lots of downtime, interesting people, no manual labour involved. There are a couple of downsides, such as the low pay and long hours, and the occasional time when you work into the night and have to be up early the next morning. That happened with me this week. I didn't get home from WIZARD OF GORE until past midnight, then had to be in Hollywood for "Commander In Chief" at 5:18 the next morning. I love sleep a great deal, but going without for one night didn't kill me.

We were supposed to be in and out by ten that morning, but things went a little long, as they always do. I was a bookstore patron in a little scene with only eight extras and three actors, shot in a real bookstore (but with phony books, oddly enough). At the craft service table, I saw Geena Davis for the first time. I know this is the pot calling the kettle something dark, but she looked strange.

It was an easy day, and had I not been sleepy, I might have called in for more work in the afternoon if some came available. Also working with me in the scene was the girl Ladykiller John asked about setting me up with--the one who was all over him like suck on a Pauly Shore film. She was pretty friendly with me, talking about who she hated on the set, and choosing to sit next to me and eat, so I started thinking about the second-to-the-last time I worked on "House," and how the guy used the line, "Hey, you wanna make out sometime?" and how I vowed to use it someday. This girl, while not pretty per se, had something . . . something intangible about her, that was alluring and attractive. I don't know, maybe it was her busoms, but I actually considered laying the line on her. The worst she could say was, "You're a goblin-esque little man with bad breath and spindly arms, and no one will ever love you."

And she probably wouldn't say that. In fact, she'd almost certainly think I was joking.

So, on the shuttle back to set, I patted the seat next to me and had her join me. But literally the SECOND she sat down, as if she had some kind of telepathic knowledge of what I planned to do, she began talking about her boyfriend, and how well they got along, and how they live together but don't see each other as much this month as last. "Boyfriend?" I said, almost adding, "Guess I won't ask you to make out with me now," instead saying, "Great," in my least-enthusiastic tone. She praddled on about how they liked to go hiking. I had already mentally checked out, wondering if my sick turtles will regain their sight, and if my sister and niece would be living with me another week, and how long I'd had that video I forgot to take back, and why Indian people always have the last name Patel, and whether I would be working the next week.*

The next day, I was working on a film called FRACTURE, ostensibly with Sir Anthony Hopkins.

I was playing a party guest, wearing my tired old black suit over an Armani shirt and tie Wardrobe lent me. They actually gave me the choice between shaving off my pathetic excuse for a beard or having them colour it in so it looked darker. I see-sawed, and finally, the makeup woman took black mascara and painted it for me. It looked strange to my eyes, having always had light facial hair ever since I started growing it. Which, I believe, was at twenty-two, you smug Chewbaccas.

We were in Downtown L.A., shooting our scenes--once the sun went down--on the roof of the Standard Hotel. We had to take the elevator to the top, then get out and go up a flight of stairs to reach the roof, and a fairly-impressive view of the city. The bottom level was a bar, and many of the guys were tempted to sneak down there and down a bottle or two. I don't know, 'cause I'm unprofessional, but I imagine one could get in trouble for that. On the roof was some kind of lounge area, complete with swimming pool, bar, bright red lounge chairs and big enclosed balls with waterbeds in them (like an adult version of a McDonalds Playland), and garbage cans in the shape of hippopotomuses. Once again, something I'd never ever get into if I weren't being paid to be there.

Our group was fairly large--maybe sixty people--and I recognised only one or two among them. For the first take, I hung around an easy-going black girl from Boston, as we were both supposed to exit the bathroom around the same time. The bathrooms were strange in that we both shared the same sink and mirror, and if you looked under the mirror, you could see the womens' stalls and the men at the urinals. I'll never really understand stuff like that.

After a while, we were joined by a dude--who claimed he was normally a Stand-In but was slumming it that night as an Extra--who was one of those people who knows absolutely everything. He had read tons of books by the author of my book, he knew people on the crew by name, he knew the ins and outs of the writing business, and he spoiled the ending of Stephen King's new book when I told him I'd just picked it up.

Luckily, I was only around him for an hour or so, for in the next setup, the A.D. gave me a seat at a table down near the principals. I was given directions, we rehearsed it, then had those directions changed, so all I was expected to do was sit and pretend to drink. The guy sitting across from me was actually quite cool, and told me all I could ever want to know about the TV show "Firefly."

FRACTURE stars (sans Hopkins) Ryan Gosling and Rosamund Pike, and both were working atop the building with us. The scene was simple: they meet, share drinks, then go to the edge of the building and talk, then separate. I never know why scenes like that take all night to shoot, but they invariably do.

Though the thermometer atop a near building constantly mocked us with its statement of how nice the night was, a cold, sharp wind was blowing the whole time, and even with heaters set up all around us, it was uncomfortably cold.

In between each take, the actors would be given coats, while the extras would quickly huddle under the nearest heater. As the night progressed, people got in the habit of getting up and going to the heater as soon as the camera moved off of them. All the while, the thermometer claimed it was in the mid-fifties outside.

My good friend tyranist often says "you bastard," when I do or see something he wants to do or see (we've a loving relationship). As he's the biggest Rosamund Pike fan I know, my working with her might be one of those times. In fact, I got to sit in her seat. Or, she sat in mine, I guess. Sometimes I'd have to wait for her to leave it before I could plop myself down again.

Very attractive and very British, I was an admirerer of hers in both PRIDE & PREJUDICE and (the awful) DIE ANOTHER DAY. Up close, she didn't strike me as all that gorgeous, though.

If I saw her in a mall, sure, I'd check her out, but my eyes would probably keep on moving. I don't know what it was, really, and I'm curious to see how she appears in the finished film.

After lunch, which was at ten p.m., conditions got a little better, as they turned on the bar heaters and provided all the hot chocolate and/or coffee you could drink (and when that ran out, all the hot water you cared to pour sugar into). We were all prepared to go until sunup, as the crew told us they'd be shooting until five or six, and we at least hoped we wouldn't hit morning traffic. Luckily, however, they canceled the last setup of the night and we were released at three-thirty.

Unluckily, I didn't get any more work after that. Basically, my whole Thursday was screwed because I'd stayed up all night and didn't want to work in the morning. No excuse for Friday, though. Or Saturday. Or Sunday. Or Monday, etc..

Turns out this may be my last post for a while. It came as a surprise to me, and I've enjoyed the work and writing about it in these pages. I wish I had a big, exciting tale, full of glitz and glamour, laughs and fun, to tell you about if this is the last time I tell you about my day.

All things considered, I can't say being an extra wasn't fun while it lasted.

Rish Outfield

*If you'd care to know the answers to those ruminations, they are: by mid-March they would be fine, one more week, I had it two days but the rental was for three, I really don't know, and unfortunately not.

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