Saturday, October 27, 2012

Immigrants hanging out in a Winters Tale

Not Howard Stern

I met Ron on the set of Winters Tale and just had to take a picture with him because he looked soooo much like Howard Stern.  In fact, when we chatted he told me that he was actually on the Howard Stern show at one point -discussing a script (about a guy who looks like Howard Stern etc.)!  As soon as I had my picture with him, all the other surrounding extras immediately came over and asked to do the same.  Luckily Ron was good-natured and generous.  Unfortunately for him, the production asked if they could cut his hair -which he wasn't going to do... and so they didn't use him in the shoots.

Although there were a lot of big stars in this movie, none of them were present for this two-day shoot of the Ellis Island 1895 period scene filmed at the old Williamsburg Bank in good ole' Brooklyn, NY. But we 300 extras kept ourselves entertained during the breaks.  On one of our extended outdoor hangouts, one of the women was taught to juggle three boxes.  This was one of the best photos of the day:

Period pieces are fantastic because they really put you into the mood of that era.  And I have to say it wasn't that much of a stretch for me since I was born in Budapest and emigrated to the USA when the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 broke out.  But the real coincidence of this shoot was that I met two others who were also Hungarians... as well as a wardrobe person with whom I jovially exchanged Hungarian expletives as I was incorrectly hanging my drab and "distressed" costume back on the rack. The only Hungarian word he knew was "lo fasz" and so we kept calling each other by that moniker!
Some of my fellow immigrants on break

The wardrobe location was situated inside the bank's vault!  For some, this created a kind of claustrophobic apprehension because of the huge vault doors that were ominously suggesting a "what if they closed in on us" imagery.  This, of course, invited numerous gallows-humor conversations along the extended waiting lines during our wardrobe checks.

The set that was built inside the bank was majestic.  Numerous pipes and benches recreated the Ellis Island-type of scenery that was needed for the immigrant medical inspections. A number of us had been marked on the back with letters to indicate our various diseases (H for hepatitis, etc.).  In one scene, a woman is traumatically (screaming, crying, clutching) dragged through the set because she is being deported.  Colin Farrell plays one of the characters in this story and in this scene his parents are part of the deportation decision with a baby in the mother's arm. A real baby was used -and what do you know, the baby cried on cue!???

Although this was pretty much the first scenes of the movie, I expect it should be coming out sometime next year with great anticipation due to the phantasy subject matter and the plethora of stars involved (Russell Crowe, William Hurt, Will Smith, Jennifer Connelly, Eva Marie Saint... oh how I love name dropping)!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Clocking in at the Zero Hour

It was episode 5 already, but it won't be seen until the next season -most likely in 2013.  The show is about a "conspiracy" regarding some secrets uncovered from antique clocks... that spans across centuries of history associated with secret societies guarding a ...secret.  And of course the nefarious agents pursuing its reputed powers to "rule the world".  Anthony Edwards from ER (and my favorite role of his as "Goose" in TOP GUN) stars in this series; as well as Carmen Ejego -with whom I was in a Spike Lee TV pilot (M.O.N.Y.) a few years ago.  But I was really hoping to see Michael Nyqvist (who played the editor in Girl With The Dragon Tatoo / Sweedish version).  Alas... none of these guys were present in this scene.

The set was in DUMBO at a pretty little park by the Brooklyn Bridge, where we extras had to wear tuxedos to a gala affair taking place outside under a few white tents.  As we interact with some of the principal characters there is a "flashback" scene with a walking man changing into that of a "priest in medieval garb", walking along the East River's railed banks.  Spooky!

The director, as it turned out, was none other than Mario Van Peebles... whom I remembered as a young man from watching the old Cosby Shows.  Later on he became a director in his own right.  And now, here he was placing me in front of the cameras with a couple of ladies and another white guy.  But after a few glances through the camera lens the other white guy was replaced by a black guy and one of the ladies was replaced by a cute young extra.  The man has a good eye for balancing out the scenery!

I asked one of the women to take a photo of me -but she had a real shaky hand!

As it turned out, my African American companion began to tell us that he knew Mario from "way back when", he even knew his father and provided us with some fascinating anecdotes from his friendship days with Mario.  Sure enough... Mario soon came over and chatted with him -even took an iPhone photo of the four of us and told my new friend to type in his email so that he could send out the photo and reconnect with him.  WOW! Now that's what I call a once in a blue-moon opportunity for an extra to make some headway into a better role.

Our holding area was interesting also... it was at the Water Street Restaurant, the place where I first appeared on DAMAGES (with my talented "costar", Glenn Close).  Of course our holding area was subterranean (i.e. in the basement-bar area) -luckily it was air-conditioned).  And so it brought back some memories of how it felt seeing Glenn Close for the first time: something akin to "majestic".

I also met some of my buddies from Boardwalk Empire... and a longer acquaintance, Eddy the "Super Cabbie" (one of his fantasy scripts based on his taxi driver days). Eddy gave me his card; said things were really working out for him.  I liked hearing that (with mixed feelings).  He'd been around since I first got into this business -so I figured he'd paid his dues.  But I also knew how short a period "success" lasts in show business.   See you on the next set Eddy!

Later on I got a call from one of the casting agencies to go for a fitting for Winter's Tale.  It's an Ellis Island scene from the 1890's.  Oh comes another short haircut!