Sunday, May 11, 2008

Will Smith does a HANCOCK

What do you suppose happens when you do a movie shoot with an extremely popular actor on a warm Spring Saturday night at the center of Times Square on Military Island with a kajillion tourists on a best value dollar exchange rate mulling about the grand canyon of billboards... hmmm?

...don't get me started!

Holding was at the Jaqueline Kenedy Onasis International H.S. on 46th Street -the very same street that I frequent for restaurants with my regular weekday work buddies. My "regular workplace" is just around the corner in the newly merged ThomsonReuters building -so I knew the neighborhood pretty well. This came in handy when I had to cut through some of the hotel buildings to escape the maddening crowds during our returns to our holding area from the set.

Inside the holding room, which was a freshly painted auditorium, it was very hot, so that people would wander outside to the crafty food stands and chow down a ton of food in their boredom of the usual waiting around. But friends started to show up. One buddy, whom I call "Supercabbie", from an anecdote he once expounded upon (he's a major "expounder") was saying "Hello girls!" to all the cute female passers-by. Then there was Canada Ann, whose loud hellos could be heard a mile away! Pete, the usually white-bearded guy was now a stylish brunette sans beard. He told me he had a Barbizon gig where he was selected for a shave and a hair-cut-dye job a few weeks ago. And of course a host of other terrific characters with whom I could chat hours on end exchanging stories from our showbiz adventures.
And then it was show time! They needed a bunch of people to go to Military Island and suround Will in adulation... We had to rush him... pay attention to him... ask for autographs...take pictures of him... (Can you believe this irony?).

Usually we are not even permitted to talk to the principals, but tonight, in the middle of the universe, we could break all those star-approach-taboos.

The reason for all this was because the character Will played, a fault-laden superhero named Hancock whose public image had been tarnished in the first half of the movie, was now being reaccepted by the general public... or something like that. Be that as it may, the scene was short but exciting. But as soon as Will showed his face -Time Square erupted... and everyone behind the police barricade wanted to rush our island -some made it!!!

And as Will approached us, the extras -our direction was that we were to look up, acknowledge him with glee and surround him... we were called the "core". Whoopy! I was now part of the core - but the only decent picture I could get of him was rushed, out of foucus and facing away from me. Dang!!! The tourists got better photos of Will than I could get. And now we were told to return to holding. I decided to go back on a different street, 45th Street, and thereby avoid the immovable crowd that was now coating every bit of surface on Broadway's Time Square. And as I reached the middle of the block, who should be running past me in the street but Will Smith himself -dressed in his leather hero suit, followed by his bodyguard handlers. WHOA! Where's my camera...fumble, fumble...and WHooooosh...Will should have been playing the FLASH because he was now a block away and probably safely ensconced in one of the 3 Haddad trailers that were parked at the end of the block. Dang again!!!

The lengths we extras will go to find ourselves on screen is amazingly conceited. That's me (greatly enlarged from the plasma screen) watching the "perp at the end of the movie" run by.

Later, the second scene of the night put us on a cordoned-off street in front of Toys-R-Us. About 15 of us were spread out as background for a scenario where a guy is running at top speed down Broadway while a bunch of police cars are chasing him and we react with a "What's going on?" attitude. Two takes and it was a wrap! Relatively quick work for a stunt scene.So now it was back to holding yet again, and standing behind 240 extras to get your voucher signed. Needless to say it was 3:30 in the morning when I got home... But the feeling that "I was back in action again" after 7 months of showbiz hiatus while still juggling my regular "bill-paying" job, was worth it all. I was missing that sensational involvement in something greater than the mundane... and the contact with the new friends I had made here. And somehow I realized that I will always return to it.