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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.)
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