Tuesday, July 09, 2013

What if 142 million people "disappeared"?

Or, as the vivacious mayor of the fictional town might have put it: WTF DID THEY GO?

The premise for this HBO movie is that 2% of the people vanish from the face of the earth -no one knows where they went! But let's focus on how life goes on in a small village 3 years after the fact!??  The director's (Peter Berg) motivation speech to us extras was to make us think about 9/11.
 Peter Berg (possible resemblance to Jack Nicholson?)
Well... from my background-extra perspective at this production: there will be a Main Street parade in honor of those who disappeared, with cheerleaders, hippies, a uni-cycling clown, cult people, a couple of  bagpipers, barking dogs, crying babies, a gang of karate kiddies, and some townspeople.  If it gets picked up... it will become a TV series most likely continuing with its present title of The Leftovers.

Call time to holding was for 7:30 AM on this blistering hot day at Hastings-on-the-Hudson.  Wardrobe was nice to us, they did away with my blazer and told us drivers to remain in our polo shirts.  Makeup barely gave a glance to me but advised all of us to slather up with lots of sunscreen.  (Oh boy... I started to flashback on my second stint a month ago in the Amazing Spiderman 2 at the outside graduation scene: hundreds of extras sitting outside at a park-amphitheater in 90 degree direct sunshine while Peter Parker smooches with his girlfriend on stage after accepting his diploma. But the inspiring moment of that day was to see Sally Fields get a standing-O as she sat among us.)

I got lucky on sunny Main Street, since I was selected to be one of the parade vehicle drivers, most of my day was spent inside a hot van (the AC wasn't working) with one of my extra buddies.  We chatted it up throughout the day which made the heat bearable... along with the occasional breaks into the street-trees' shadows and the ever-present water bottles.  In one of the scenes, the police chief of the town, played by Justin Theroux, kept passing by our vehicle.
Justin Theroux
My buddy would razz him with "How come you guys have to walk in this weather?".  To which, Justin would crack up with a smile. According to the tabloids, Justin and Jennifer Aniston are engaged and I couldn't help wondering what it must be like to be Jennifer's guy...  lucky dude.   But enough of that reverie.
Jennifer and Justin (JJ's)
And on to the next one... I was hoping that the other major name associated with this project, Liv Tyler, would be here.  Alas, t'was not to be.  She wasn't in this scene. The other disappointment was the food: one choice of noodles and cheese, some salad and a brownie for us non-unioners.  The crew was munching on wraps and other goodies that made our mouths water. Suddenly I realized what The Leftovers were about.

I really need to join up! Where's my third waiver???

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Getting into trouble...

I got to set early in the morning at Brooklyn's courthouse district because I knew that parking here would be difficult.  Luckily I was able to squeeze into a small spot (thanks to my taxi driving experiences from college days) and get an OK on my interpretation of the confusing signs from a nearby patrolman.

I love this area of Brooklyn -it has an inspiring majesty to it.  So after my check-in and wardrobe approval, I walked around and snapped a few photos of the court buildings.  There was also a raised bust of Robert F. Kennedy in front of the State Supreme Court building, the internals of which was to double for the New York Times' offices that we would later be populating.  I was particularly impressed by the inscription on one of the four sides of RFK's pedestal:

The movie, for which I was cast as a New York Times reporter, was entitled The Normal Heart.  It was based on the Larry Kramer play from the 1980's which depicted the difficulties associated with publicizing the AIDS epidemic.  Larry himself appeared on the set later in the day. He wore a barrette and a colorful quilt-motif jacket.  The director, Ryan Murphy, immediately sat him down by his side.

Larry Kramer

Director Ryan Murphy
As reporters, we were mostly told to either stand around the cubicles and shuffle papers or walk at a hurried pace while Mark Ruffalo and Matt Bomer interact.  Mark was friendly and a regular guy -he said "hi" to those near him. His looks reminded me of a young Marlon Brando.  There were other big names associated with this production that included Julia Roberts.  Unfortunately she was not in this scene. To us extras, it wasn't a difficult set to negotiate but the air kept being inundated by "smoke" from the special effects side of the room.  This "smoke" had a certain kind of smell to it that was somewhat affecting us.
Mark Ruffalo

Matt Bomer
Later in the day I was paired up with my friend Joseph, the Russian, whose ongoing funny commentary, albeit in low tones, got the attention of one of the young female PA's.  Joseph asked the "special effects guy" what the smoke was made of.  He told us that it was one part water and four parts of some type of glycol.  I asked if glycol was a form of alcohol.  He acknowledged that it was -but that it was safe.  We took his word for it as the "smoke machine" was now in full force while the director called "picture's up!".  Joseph and I were in direct line of the smoke and started to get silly about it.  More comical comments from Joseph, to which I couldn't help but smile and suddenly the young PA was in front of us.

"You two are talking too much, you'll have to go back to holding..."
Joseph immediately agreed "We would love to go back to holding!"

And away we went as one of the extra women asked us in low tones "What evil sin did you two commit?"
I told her we were "talking... it helped us to survive the effects of the smoke...".  She nodded to us with a smirk.

Holding was nice and quiet... and full of oxygen that revived our sensibilities again.  Both of us felt a sense of relief from having to continue to breathe in the alcohol-laden "smoke".  We whiled away the last hour chatting about movies, chess, philosophy and family.  And as the rest of the extras started to return, we were among the first to be checked out.  Getting into trouble has its advantages.

The HBO show aired on 5/25/2014....and I managed to be a blur in the NYT scene with Mark's character Ned. I thought they did a terrific job with the historical presentation and education about this worldwide disease. Ned was an inspiration with his fighting spirit and the importance of fighting AIDS needs to be re-emphasized -especially to our future generations.