SEATTLE — I wasn't cast. I wasn't picked for my acting ability, or my looks. I'm not famous. Yet. But still, I wanted to be a part of a movie, just once. So I decided to take the day off from my doomed dot-com job and infiltrate the set of Angelina Jolie's latest movie.
The film I was "working" on is called Life, or Something Like It, which is supposedly about a bored Seattle reporter (played by Angelina Jolie) trying to add meaning to her life when she finds out she's going to die. I'm not really sure what type of movie it is going to turn out to be, but the few scenes I was in suggested some kind of bad romantic comedy type thing.
Most of my day involved being herded from one section of Seattle's giant baseball field to another in order to offer the illusion of a capacity crowd. A capacity crowd that was actually only 400 randomly chosen extras, all of whom were pretending to be really, really excited about the local baseball hero (Christian Kane, from the WB series Angel). Kane, you see, plays Angie's baseball stud boyfriend (everyone on the set calls her Angie). Doesn't that sound cute?
It's odd that 400 people could be relatively easily convinced to "act" for 13 hours for a paltry $41, but I guess the economic downturn really opens the floodgates. We all stood and screamed our guts out on command, and when it was time to eat, we fought over the boxed lunches like hungry chimps.
I took two and saw others walking away with five or six boxes, stuffing them into backpacks, smiling smugly and probably thinking very highly of themselves for solving the "what to do for lunch for the rest of the week" dilemma. There was an ice sculpture in the lunch area when we first went in. I think it was a swan. By the time we left, it was broken.
My 'Big Break'
Toward the end of the day, the crowd was getting tired and we were informed that we would be filming the final scene: a shot of the crowd reacting to something exciting on the baseball diamond. I took my seat toward the edge of the extras pool and psyched myself up (my idea of getting into character), when I noticed someone pointing at my friend and me and shouting, "You two, switch with these two down here!"
For some reason that I like to think had something to do with our good looks, the production assistant wanted us to move down closer to the front. I was thrilled. I had been hanging around the periphery of most shots because, to me, it wasn't really worth scrambling over someone's grandmother to have a split-second glimpse of my face in a movie I knew nothing about.
The move put us next to a set of empty seats, where we prepared for another long wait. But before we knew it, makeup people swooped upon us like great vultures and powdered shiny bits of our faces, while important-looking men pressed buttons on light meters above our heads. The director, Stephen Herek (he who directed the brilliant Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure), was telling us what to do and talking directly to us!
Then they rolled the cameras out. Movie cameras are big and scary-looking, resembling some kind of secret government torture device. We started to get nervous. "What if they have to do the scene a dozen times because I can't stop shaking?" "What if I pee my pants?"
We Can't Get No … Then the famous people arrived and made everything better by taking the heat off us rookies. Lucky, lucky day: Angelina ended up sitting right next to me. Next to her was some new child actor, Jesse James, an incredibly cute, precocious, and chatty little guy. To his left sat Edward Burns, the only person in the whole stadium special enough to warrant a real beer. Bastard.
The next two hours flew by. In one scene, in which Kane's hometown hero hits a home run, the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" started blasting and everyone (myself included) was ordered to dance. People looked really silly, mainly because they turned the music off halfway through and we were all forced to pantomime clap and silently cheer because the sound needed to be down for the dialogue.
After shooting wrapped, Angelina and the child star joked around (with plenty of profanities coming from Jolie's bee-stung lips) as she was swarmed by high-school kids for an autograph. Luckily, I had secured mine — a manly "To Marc, Love Angelina" scribble on the back of a receipt from my wallet — almost immediately after she sat down, but I was still stuck in the middle of the throng of people trying to get closer to the glow that was Angelina.
The whole thing was surreal. The bright lights shining as people like Angelina and Ed Burns, whom I'd witnessed only in two dimensions before, suddenly sat next to me, talking about baseball and Seattle and tongues and stale popcorn. Look for me in the movie; I'm the one with the stunned expression and powdered face, fake cheering at a fake Toronto Blue Jays-Seattle Mariners game and trying really, really hard to look interested in an imaginary ball.