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Thread: I was an Avengers extra

  1. #1
    Member Elendil's Heir's avatar
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    Default I was an Avengers extra

    I wrote a first draft of this right after filming, and recently revised it, now that the movie has been released in the U.S. and we're released from the studio's nondisclosure agreement. Hope you like it. I'll remember that night for a long, long time.

    * * *

    On Monday, Aug. 29, 2011, my friend Mel met me at my office in downtown Cleveland, Ohio at 4pm. We planned to walk around downtown and see the filming sites for the Marvel Comics superhero movie The Avengers across the street from the Justice Center at the Old Courthouse, and at Public Square.

    Mel noticed a sign in Fort Huntington Park, adjoining the Old Courthouse, that said "Extras check in here." He suggested we apply to be extras. I said that I'd understood that all of the extras had already had screen tests and been signed up weeks before, but he thought it was worth a try, and I agreed. We walked up to a big tent in the park, one of a half-dozen there, and spoke to a woman at a table there. She turned out to be Maryellen, the extras casting coordinator (we later learned that she has more than 40 movies to her credit on IMDb.com, including Star Trek, Inception, Transformers, The Princess Diaries, etc.). She looked us over and said, "Maybe we can use you. You both look like you're about average size." High praise indeed! I gave her my business card and wrote my cellphone number on the back. She said she'd call in the next half hour. Mel and I thanked her and walked to Public Square, seeing the remnants of the set at the base of Terminal Tower (by that point, just some German street signs and the marquee of a fake Stuttgart theater, disassembled and on a flatbed trailer).

    Half an hour passed and we hadn't heard from Maryellen, so we walked back to Huntington Park. She said we were hired! We filled out some paperwork and were asked to wait. Other extras, mostly men in tuxedos and women in fancy gowns, were helping themselves to hot dogs and orange juice (!) on the caterer's table, so we did too. That was our dinner.

    After a few minutes, our forms now processed, one of Maryellen's assistants asked us to report to the costume tent. Nigel, one of the chief costumers (also lots of movies under his belt, including Saving Private Ryan, Forrest Gump, Thor, Iron Man, etc.), a rather snippy Englishman, asked us our sizes and found us tuxes. Both of us needed some tailoring, which we waited for, but it didn't take long. Nigel then cinched up my suspenders so tightly I thought I just might get a wedgie, but fortunately I didn't. We were next directed to the makeup and hair tent. The hair gal looked at me and said I was OK, but gave Mel a little trim. The makeup gal looked at me and also said I was OK, but gave Mel a little facial powdering. Sheesh - what a diva.

    We waited in the extras tent for awhile longer and then were asked to step out onto the long pathway leading to the black marble Peace Officers' Memorial in the corner of the park, men on one side, women on the other. A casting assistant went down the line and quickly matched up every man with a woman. (There were more men than women, and the unmatched men were dubbed our "men of mystery" - gay or just stag, it didn't really matter). Most of the women were in gowns or fancy dresses; most of the men were in tuxes of various designs, although some were in somewhat fancy punk or "artiste" garb.

    Mel was paired with Sherry, an actress about ten years younger than him, vivacious and very friendly. I was paired with Michelle, a young married mother of two from Youngstown who works at an cellphone call center but hopes to become an actress and model. She had a pierced tongue, swore like a sailor and smoked at every opportunity, but we actually got along pretty well.

    We took a few photos of ourselves but tried not to be obvious about it, since we were warned that the production crew might confiscate Mel's camera. We were then several times over many hours marched in and then out of the Old Courthouse atrium, which had been set-decorated as a German museum with Babylonian artifacts on display (I looked at a display case of small cuneiform tablets and the like, and even the labels were in German! Pretty impressive attention to a detail that would never been seen on screen). Michelle and I were initially in the back of the atrium, champagne (actually ginger ale) glasses in hand, chatting either silently or aloud, as the sound crew called for. A string quartet was arrayed behind us, pretending to play their instruments (I assumed the music will be dubbed in later). Mel and Sherry were ushered towards the front, to our left.

    At the center of the atrium was a carved stone-looking altar designed like a pair of bulls. We ran through a scene several times in which Loki, the Norse god/villain, knocked away a security guard and attacked a man who had been speaking at a microphone to the crowd. We had to draw back in fright, then scream, yell and run away. Everyone born in January through March ran to the right; everyone born April through December (that included Michelle and me) had to run to the left. We did this several times.

    Many hours passed, and we went in and out of the building, herded like cattle. Around eleven, a huge spaghetti dinner was put out for everyone in the extras tent; I wasn't very hungry at that hour and ate little. For the rest of the night, the long table was full of snacks of every possible type and flavor: nuts, chips, raisins, candy bars, crackers - even vitamin supplements!

    For what turned out to be our last scene of the evening, or rather morning (since by now it was approaching dawn), Mel, Sherry, Michelle and I were finally in a shot together, greeting each other near a roped-off obelisk or stele. Then an assistant director asked Michelle and me to cross in front of the string quartet, which had a camera right behind it, for several takes. If that bit of film makes it into the movie we should be visible. Tom Hiddleston, the actor playing Loki, was thanked and excused from the set, and I was nearby as several of the crew said their farewells to him, but I didn't talk to him myself. We saw the director, Joss Whedon, from across the atrium. There were no other big-name stars on set all night; I thought the man who was attacked at the microphone might be Colm Feore, whom I've seen in a few movies, but when I saw the actor more closely I realized it wasn't.

    By then Michelle was getting a little worried, as it was her son's first day of kindergarten, and she was concerned that she wouldn't have time to drive home and help him get ready. We agreed that if the shoot wasn't completed within half an hour, we'd just leave. Fortunately, that was indeed the last scene. The director said, "It's a wrap. Thank you, Cleveland!," and everyone applauded. We went back to the extras tent and then the costume tent, getting out of our costumes and turning them in, and receiving a receipt/confirmation slip. I said goodbye to Mel and Michelle, but didn't see Sherry again. I drove home and only had time to kiss wife and sons, and then shower and change, before driving back downtown for work.

    Two brief naps that day, and a good long sleep overnight, and I felt pretty much back to normal the next day.

    * * *

    I went to see the movie tonight with Mel and his grown son Rick. Mel was pretty sure he saw himself, and Rick was pretty sure he saw us both, but despite looking VERY hard I couldn't be sure of seeing either of us in the Stuttgart scene. The times when we might have been onscreen were very brief - probably no more than half a minute or so. I probably won't know for sure until the movie comes out on DVD, and I can look frame-by-frame.

    Great movie, though! Highly recommended. Be sure to stay all the way through the end of ALL the credits.

  2. #2
    Global Moderator AllWalker's avatar
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    Haha, awesome! That's one hell of a movie to have on your CV
    Something tells me we haven't seen the last of foreshadowing.

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    Member Elendil's Heir's avatar
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    Thanks! Just hope I can eventually spot Mel and me.

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    Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo What Exit?'s avatar
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    Wait for the blueray and maybe you will. Sadly, there is no way to spot me in the Hangar Bay scene of ST:IV. Not that it really matters.

    How was the movie, with Whedon directing it, I'm actually interested in seeing it.

  5. #5
    The Queen Zuul's avatar
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    I haven't seen this yet, but I'll definitely be paying attention to that scene when I do.

    Everyone I know who's seen it has said good things about it, so I think you've earned far better bragging rights than my friends who were extras in Vampirella.
    So now they are just dirt-covered English people in fur pelts with credit cards.

  6. #6
    Oliphaunt
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    I'm going to be keeping an eye out for you when I see the movie, EH!

    What a fun experience.

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    A Groupie Marsilia's avatar
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    That was actually one of my favorite scenes in the movie.
    So, I'll whisper in the dark, hoping you'll hear me.

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    Member Elendil's Heir's avatar
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    A college friend just emailed me to say he could see me with Michelle, crossing from left to right just beyond the string quartet, in the Stuttgart art museum scene. I'm going to have to look even more closely next time!

    The movie is terrific (and I'd say that even if I never came within a mile of the filming). Be sure to stay through the VERY end.

  9. #9
    Global Moderator AllWalker's avatar
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    When you told me to stay to the very end of the credits, I felt ripped off - I'd seen the post-credits scene but not the post-post-credits scene you keep alluding to. Then I found out when I saw it, it didn't even have that scene in it so now I feel even more ripped off.
    Something tells me we haven't seen the last of foreshadowing.

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    Administrator CatInASuit's avatar
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    Congrats, EH, that must have been great fun.

    I'm gonna have to go see it now, aren't I?
    In the land of the blind, the one-arm man is king.

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    Member Elendil's Heir's avatar
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    Sorry, AllWalker. Have to wait for the DVD, I guess. I thought the very last scene was quite good (no spoilers here!).

    And yes, CIAS, you really should.

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    Global Moderator AllWalker's avatar
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    Apparently it's now showing in cinemas.

    Sounds like a scam to get me to go twice. Luckily I was already planning on doing that.
    Something tells me we haven't seen the last of foreshadowing.

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    Member Elendil's Heir's avatar
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    Michelle just emailed me to say she'd seen it, and is certain she spotted us in the shot where the string quartet is in the foreground at the Stuttgart museum, and we cross from left to right just beyond it. A coworker whom I barely know, and who did not know to be looking for me, told me the same thing today. Now I GOTTA go see it again!

  14. #14
    Oliphaunt
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    I looked for you, EH, but I didn't remember exactly where in the Stuttgart scene to check. I guess I'll just have to see the movie again.

    Oh, darn.

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    Aged Turtle Wizard Clothahump's avatar
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    Wow. I was an extra in the Chuck Norris movie Sidekicks. I'm on screen for maybe an half a second. You guys rocked on a walk-up whim!!!!
    Political correctness will be the death of our country.

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    Member Elendil's Heir's avatar
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    You have no idea how lucky I still feel - but I give full credit to Mel for the suggestion to try it.

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    Oliphaunt The Original An Gadaí's avatar
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    Are scenes from a lot of films shot in Cleveland? I believe it was a stand-in for NYC in one or other of the recent Spiderman films. It's funny because there are only about 3 streets in downtown Cleveland that look anything like NYC.

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    Member Elendil's Heir's avatar
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    I wouldn't say a lot, but there have been several. Several scenes in A Christmas Story were filmed in town. The battle in Spiderman 3 between Spiderman and the Sandman over the armored car was shot on Euclid Ave., not far from where some of the NYC street combat scenes of The Avengers were filmed. The wedding scene in The Deer Hunter was filmed in Tremont, a near-in ethnic enclave here. The landing of the U.S. paratroopers at the beginning of Air Force One was filmed at Severance Hall, the home of the Cleveland Orchestra (for exteriors), and at the Old Courthouse (interiors). (In fact, the paratroopers are shown running down the same marble staircase in Air Force One that Loki descends in The Avengers).

    Oddly enough, Detroit was used for filming of the recent Seventies crime drama Kill the Irishman, set in Cleveland, but Cleveland stood in for Detroit in the upcoming I, Alex Cross movie. I guess Hollywood considers us interchangeable!

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    Member Elendil's Heir's avatar
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    Whedon sings Cleveland's praises: http://www.cleveland.com/moviebuff/i..._director.html

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    Member Elendil's Heir's avatar
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    Success!

    I saw the movie for a second time tonight with some friends, and spotted myself and Michelle in that scene. I think my problem the first time was that I was looking too far to the left. When we first appear on screen, we're already in the middle of the frame and moving right. I excitedly pointed myself out to my buddies and they both recognized me, too. Woohoo! We're actually onscreen for probably no more than three seconds or so, but it was clearly us.

    Overall the movie was just about as much fun as it was the first time around. The theater wasn't all that crowded, and I told some of the folks who were about to leave at the end that they might want to stick around for the two final-credits scenes. They said afterwards they were glad they did.

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    Administrator CatInASuit's avatar
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    Well I finally got around to seeing Avengers Assemble. It's a good movie and certainly better than most of the comic movies that have turned up.

    I think I spotted EH, at least if it was the guy with the beard, lady on arm, behind the quartet moving from centre to right of screen. If not, then I missed it.

    One annoying feature is that only one of the end credit scenes was shown giving a taster of the next film and not the other amusing scene which I believe is US only
    In the land of the blind, the one-arm man is king.

  22. #22
    Oliphaunt
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    Aww, that's a bummer CIAS.

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    Member Elendil's Heir's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by CatInASuit View post
    ...I think I spotted EH, at least if it was the guy with the beard, lady on arm, behind the quartet moving from centre to right of screen. If not, then I missed it.

    One annoying feature is that only one of the end credit scenes was shown giving a taster of the next film and not the other amusing scene which I believe is US only
    That sure sounds like Michelle and me!

    Here's the very, very last scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxVQrFXJR2o

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    Administrator CatInASuit's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Elendil's Heir View post
    Here's the very, very last scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxVQrFXJR2o
    Thanks for that. Its just what all superheroes should do, after a hard day saving the world.
    In the land of the blind, the one-arm man is king.

  25. #25
    Porosity Caster parzival's avatar
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    Reportedly the end-of-the-credits scene was shot after the Hollywood premiere (which may explain the US-only thing), so the actors themselves are probably tired out.

    I forgot to watch for Elendil's Heir in that scene until after the movie. I'm sure I'll see it again at some point.

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    Member Elendil's Heir's avatar
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    My wife insisted on getting the Blu-Ray/DVD today, and not waiting for Christmas. Of course we immediately went to the art museum scene. There's no doubt that's Michelle and me. Going slo-mo, I was also able to spot Mel and Sherry a couple of times in the background, and Michelle and me too - reacting to Loki grabbing the guy, and then running out of the museum.

    As it happens, I was just in the Old Courthouse last night for a judges' and lawyers' reception. But it'll always be Stuttgart to me!

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    Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo What Exit?'s avatar
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    I bought the standard DVD today. We plan to watch it tomorrow. I'll try to slo-mo it during the court scene.
    Cool, I cannot be scene in the greatest of Star Trek movies, but you can be seen in the best Comic Book Movie (at least since Batman 1 & 2) and not counting non-Comic Book super-hero movies like the Incredibles.

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    Member Elendil's Heir's avatar
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    Thanks! But it's an art museum scene, not a court.

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    Member Elendil's Heir's avatar
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    Screengrabs from a Straight Dope friend:

    http://i.imgur.com/8GFdL.jpg

    http://i.imgur.com/efIHK.jpg

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