Back When I Did Time in Shawshank Prison…

 

In 1993 (or 94, I’m terrible with years) I was a young reporter at my first job in Ashland, OH. It was a tiny town, halfway between Columbus and Cleveland and not much happened there. I was married, worked a fair-few hours and had no hobbies or any real connection to the town where I was working.

But then, in the spring, we were told that a big movie would be filming in our area. At the time, it was called “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption,” … which folks would hasten to add “Was written by Stephen King! In the same short story book as ‘The Body’ … which became ‘Stand By Me’ … you know … Stephen KING!”

Then the word got around that they would need extras. A LOT of extras. Particularly guys. And, thus, my experience with Hollywood began.

The rumors went around for awhile, then died down … and I almost thought they weren’t going to actually make the movie… until the Casting Call was announced. 

Now, since this was primarily a prison movie, they needed a bunch of dudes to stand around. In prison. And I do mean A LOT of dudes.

So they had us all come to this massive room — I think it was a warehouse — one evening and listen to what they wold ask us to do.

“You won’t speak,” they said, because you’d need to be in the union to do that. 

“You won’t speak … to the stars,” they said, adding “Imagine you’re at your job, concentrating, and somebody comes up for an autograph or to chat. It’d annoy you right? So it is with the them. Do not address them unless they address you.”

“You won’t be late, you won’t have much to do, you’ll sit around doing the same thing over and over. It’s boring. Actors get paid to wait, not to act.” 

But there were two good things: 1.) You’d be paid and 2.) if you were willing to be nude, you’d get a chance to be closer to the stars than anyone else. 

“Oh,” they said, “And Tim Robbins is very, very tall, so tall folks are welcome.”

Then they went on for a bit about not being discouraged if you don’t look like a movie star. “It’s OK, we like faces and people who are distinctive. We can use anyone.”

That was all I needed to hear. Fact is, I’m very plain-looking, but I am 6’2”.  And since I was a high school swimmer, I was used to prancing around in very little to wear.  If I could wear a weenie bikini [Speedo]  around the girls on whom I had the biggest crushes In The World  when I was 14, I thought, this … this would be nothing. “Yes, I can do nudity! I can take it if you can!” I wrote. [Give me a break. I was 23.]

When I turned in my card indicating my contact details and that I was willing to be nude, the casting director tapped her finger over the part where I said “Yes” to the nudity and said “Thank you” in a way that intimated not many folks had. I felt I was set.

And … that was it. I’d decided to be in a movie, I’d put in my card, now all there was to do was drive home and wait. Visions of standing naked next to a movie star — and the fame that was sure to follow — filled me on my trip back to Ashland.

Funny little tidbit I learned: While it was true that we wouldn’t talk, we were told that we’d need to mouth words as if we were talking, and that mouthing “watermelon rutabaga” would move our mouths in a way that would make it look like we were saying real words in a real conversation. (I still do that when I want my boss to think I’m talking on the phone.)

[More coming soon …]

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  1. Addiction Is A Choice Member
    Addiction Is A Choice
    @AddictionIsAChoice

    “And they pinned it on some young reporter in Ashland”

     

     

     

     

     

    • #1
  2. JosePluma, Local Man of Mystery Thatcher
    JosePluma, Local Man of Mystery
    @JosePluma

    I once did security for a movie that was never released. 

    So there!

    • #2
  3. Mark Alexander Coolidge
    Mark Alexander
    @MarkAlexander

    JosePluma, Local Man of Mystery (View Comment):

    I once did security for a movie that was never released.

    So there!

    Ha! I once saw a movie! It was very special. Can’t recall its name…

    • #3
  4. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    I’ve been in several movies too.

    Okay, they were all home movies . . .

    • #4
  5. GFHandle Member
    GFHandle
    @GFHandle

    When I was six I was in a movie in Italy. I was in a a lot of scenes. It was an English production and starred Jean Kent, Robert Beatty, and Margaret Rutherford. Directed by Mario Soldati. Music by Nino Rota. When I recently tracked down a dvd, every one of my scenes had been deleted. The whole character was erased.

    • #5
  6. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    BillJackson: Visions of standing naked next to a movie star — and the fame that was sure to follow — filled me on my trip back to Ashland.

    Was the trip uncomfortable?

    • #6
  7. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    My wife is from Mansfield where that old prison is. 

    • #7
  8. BillJackson Coolidge
    BillJackson
    @BillJackson

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    My wife is from Mansfield where that old prison is.

    Mansfield is a pretty little town, but I haven’t been back in years. Have you been recently?

     

    • #8
  9. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    BillJackson (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    My wife is from Mansfield where that old prison is.

    Mansfield is a pretty little town, but I haven’t been back in years. Have you been recently?

     

     

    She went back this year.  Mom still is there

    • #9
  10. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    GFHandle (View Comment):
    When I recently tracked down a dvd, every one of my scenes had been deleted.

    I took another look at our home movies, and the same darn thing happened to me . . .

    • #10
  11. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Terrific movie. Terrific novella. 

    My house was once used in an awful cable movie – I think we got paid $300 cash for a day of inconvenience and a painted over garage door. 

    I got a pic of my then 3 year daughter with Tom Skerrit (who was a lovely gentleman)  And he used my bathroom. So I got that going for me. 

    Springsteen’s ex, Juliann Moore, was also hanging around. Even sat on my front lawn and got interviewed by someone or other. Insufferable human being. 

    My mother is the only person I know who saw the movie (she might be the only person who saw the movie). He only comment was “Juliann should have stuck with Bruce. She has no hope in Hollywood” 

    • #11
  12. BillJackson Coolidge
    BillJackson
    @BillJackson

    Annefy (View Comment):

    Terrific movie. Terrific novella.

    My house was once used in an awful cable movie – I think we got paid $300 cash for a day of inconvenience and a painted over garage door.

    I got a pic of my then 3 year daughter with Tom Skerrit (who was a lovely gentleman) And he used my bathroom. So I got that going for me.

    Springsteen’s ex, Juliann Moore, was also hanging around. Even sat on my front lawn and got interviewed by someone or other. Insufferable human being.

    My mother is the only person I know who saw the movie (she might be the only person who saw the movie). He only comment was “Juliann should have stuck with Bruce. She has no hope in Hollywood”

    THAT is a great story. And I’m glad to read that Tom Skerrit was a good guy, because I like him in every single thing I see him in. 

    • #12
  13. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    GFHandle (View Comment):
    The whole character was erased.

    Canceled. 

    • #13
  14. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    BillJackson (View Comment):

    Annefy (View Comment):

    Terrific movie. Terrific novella.

    My house was once used in an awful cable movie – I think we got paid $300 cash for a day of inconvenience and a painted over garage door.

    I got a pic of my then 3 year daughter with Tom Skerrit (who was a lovely gentleman) And he used my bathroom. So I got that going for me.

    Springsteen’s ex, Juliann Moore, was also hanging around. Even sat on my front lawn and got interviewed by someone or other. Insufferable human being.

    My mother is the only person I know who saw the movie (she might be the only person who saw the movie). He only comment was “Juliann should have stuck with Bruce. She has no hope in Hollywood”

    THAT is a great story. And I’m glad to read that Tom Skerrit was a good guy, because I like him in every single thing I see him in.

    He is well regarded in these parts – Picket Fences was filmed nearby and he had a lot of interactions with the locals. 

    I’ve been a fan since MASH – it’s always nice when you discover the people you like are likable (can say the same thing about Gary Sinese, Jon Voight and Kelsey Grammer)

    • #14