Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Monday, February 16, 2015
Monday, February 9, 2015
Tuesday, February 3, 2015
I don't usually do extra work. I don't even peruse the listings. However, a couple of weeks ago one slipped into the speaking roles section of Actors Access and it caught my eye.
It described the Coen Brothers comedy Hail, Ceasar! about a studio head in 1950's Hollywood who is struggling to get through a day as his job and life crumbles around him. Josh Brolin plays the executive and it also features George Clooney, Scarlett Johansen, Tilda Swinton (as twins!) and others, but they had me at '50's Hollywood. Plus they needed Roman slaves. Among my favorite movies are The Ten Commandments, Ben Hur, and Spartacus. I love that nonsense.
So I submitted my headshot. And a few days later they called me and asked if I could send some selfies, looking weary an put-upon. I did, and included a shot that a friend of mine had recently talked me into. Landed the gig!
Yesterday I learned my call time would be 5am at the Big Sky Ranch in Simi Valley "but I should shoot for 4:45 because the shuttle." The Big Sky Ranch is enormous. It's the Ponderosa without all those troublesome pines. And it's vaguely familiar, which means it probably was the Ponderosa now and then. I arrived and they immediately routed me into body makeup where I stripped to briefs and they filthied me up. "Dance you mud turtles, dance!" they chortled. (No they didn't). From there to wardrobe where I was issued a tattered burlap schmatte and sandals and as a final touch this curly wig.
We ate a little breakfast and then caught another shuttle to the set, a very long road studded with monuments. It was about a quarter to seven by then but I can't be sure because I didn't bring my phone. I only had the burlap on my back and a lightweight blanket. The guy standing next to me only had a loincloth and body makeup to keep him warm. And it's cold in Simi Valley before sunrise!
I was looking around for clues to how the Coens were going to portray this genre and though I can't show you the set (again, no phone) it seems they're right in that Robe/Demetrius and the Gladiators groove. I spent the better part of the day as part of a slave team dragging a battering ram with a golden ram's head at the tip. I was whipped by gladiators who had those big red brushes on their helmets. In other words cliched and inauthentic in a very precise, controlled way.
I wasn't expecting to see any Coens but they were both there. Ethan dresses like a rock star; Joel wore a t-shirt from a crane rental company called Ichabod Cranes. Neither one seemed to be having fun, but dear God those two are efficient. There were probably 300 extras trudging along that road at any given time and they still managed to get about a dozen shots in the can. A few of them will be for "tiling", the practice of cloning the extras to increase their numbers. I expect to be in the same shot three times, all unrecognizable from the distance.
When you see the movie, look for me as the guy pulling the battering ram rope on the right.
During a break in the shadow of a fiberglass obelisk (it went from uncomfortably cold to uncomfortably hot in no time) this guy asked me, "hey, what color are your eyes?" I'm not used to dudes asking that but I said, Hazel. "Mine too." He turned to another guy and asked again. Hazel. WE ALL HAD HAZEL EYES. Most of the slaves did. We figure that's why they picked us.
Now that I'm sitting in Starbucks, exhausted with every muscle aching because of all that walking in ill-fitting sandals, it occurs to me that extra work is at least a little like slavery. I mean, you do what they tell you, you don't talk back or there are terrible consequences. We could have escaped on foot but we were two tram rides away from our cars and besides they had all our street clothes. Of course, I wasn't subjugated and they let me go after 12 hours (11, but I'm including trip time) still, there are similarities. I'm just sayin'. And hell yes I'd do it again. Sadly, I hear they're wrapping this week. Attn Coens! When you need extras again, I'm your man! Especially if it's a scene in a nice quiet restaurant where older men are romancing beautiful women. In overstuffed chairs.