Extra! Extra! Read all about it!!

Barbara Vey -- March 20th, 2008

Andrew and Jean, aspiring extras

The headline in the Milwaukee Journal read, "Great Faces Sought for Depp Film."  What’s this?  The Johnny Depp?  Yes, you heard it right.  Johnny Depp will be in Wisconsin filming "Public Enemies," a film set in the 1930′s with Johnny as John Dillinger and they were casting for extras.  I thought about it for about 30 seconds before I realized I would have to stand outside in 20 degree weather for hours in period clothing.

Well, my darling son, Andrew, and his girlfriend, Jean, braved the cold.   According to Andrew, the line moved slow,  went down three blocks and then around the corner.  They couldn’t see where it ended and were fine until the sun went down.  Then it was unbearably cold.  Everyone in line seemed really nice and the people around them were talking as if they have been extras in other movies before.  It was so cold that when they got to the FRONT of the line where they handed out the applications, their hands couldn’t even hold the pen to fill it out.  Unfortunately, they weren’t picked.  (Which I don’t understand at all because they look adorable)

Then I met author Beth Watson at the WisRWA meeting and she was talking about her experience "auditioning"  for the movie.   In her words:

Rather than anxiously awaiting “the call” from an editor or agent, I am hoping to receive one shortly informing me that I will be starring with Johnny Depp in the upcoming movie "Public Enemies," which begins production here in Wisconsin this next week.  Okay, it really wouldn’t be a “starring” role, more of a “non-speaking-blend-into-the-background extras role.”  The perfect role for me since should I come within a half mile of Johnny, I would be incapable of uttering one single coherent word. 

Let me assure you—as I have my dear hubby—my purpose here is one of research necessity, NOT to stalk Johnny Depp.  He was the muse for the hero in my latest novel—a Bohemian puppeteer living in Paris.  As any writer knows, thorough research and feeding one’s muse are critical to ensure a well-written book. 

Two weeks ago, I was stuck in Utah on business when I learned the casting call for movie extras was being held in Oshkosh on Saturday.  Already Thursday, I spent every free moment I had frantically scouring the web for 1930s period attire, only to find items three sizes to big, unavailable, or perfect but at a vintage shop located in New Zealand or the U.K.!  I flew home Friday night a bit disheartened, but not defeated.   

Saturday morning, I zipped threw the doors of Target at 8a.m. and purchased a set of hair curlers so I could attempt the “combed out curled hairstyle” requested by the casting director.  After a quick lesson in the art of setting curlers, and improvising with a dark plum overcoat and retro fake fur scarf I luckily had on hand, my husband whisked me off to Traeger Middle School in Oshkosh—an hour and a half north of Milwaukee. 

Upon arrival, I refused to be intimidated by the number of aspiring models and actresses presenting professionally airbrushed photos, or the masses of people dressed in period attire, for I quickly noticed I possessed something many of them didn’t.  I’d recently turned forty!  A fact I hadn’t celebrated until that very moment.  As I gazed gleefully around at my competition, I estimated that seventy percent were in their early thirties or younger, and twenty percent were over fifty.  My age group was far from well represented.  Finally, a point in my favor.  

Two hours later, I was herded into a room with about a hundred and fifty other hopefuls, and the casting director informed us that they were looking for women who were a size twelve or smaller (check), under 5’8” (check—I’m 5’3”) and pale skinned (check—haven’t tanned since 1994).  After holding up a sheet of paper that read “number 2000+” for my “one” mug shot, I left with my fingers crossed and the hope that I would be receiving a call in the near future. 

Johnny Depp (in white scarf) on location in WI

I’m still waiting on the call, but like any resourceful writer, I have Plan B in the works.  I am off to Columbus, WI where filming begins March 17th, armed with binoculars, a step stool (remember I’m only 5’3”) and an 8 x 10 glossy of Johnny Depp.  Oh, and of course, my writing journal for jotting down research notes.  After all, that’s the main purpose of my trip. 

Wish me luck!

Well, even though Beth wasn’t picked either, she is in Columbus and has let me know that got within 20 feet of JD.  She mingled with the production crew and they let her hold the Action! clapboard.   And what would you do to be in a Johnny Depp movie? 

Bottom Line:  Johnny, if you’re reading this, next time film during warmer weather and I’m so there.

28 thoughts on “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!!

  1. Gina

    I don’t know that I would want to be in a Johnny Depp movie – so many people around and its not like there is any chance of getting close to him. No, I think I’d prefer to meet him on his own turf – a little outdoor cafe in Paris – he’d be sitting alone at one table enjoying the sunrise while sipping his coffee – I’d be sitting alone at the next table sharing the same view, the same beverage – and he’d smile that crooked smile of his and say something to the effect of….”Your beautiful, if I wasn’t happy with (whatever that woman’s name is), I’d sweep you off your feet and show you my Paris”. But we’d both know our instant attraction would be an impossible situation so we’d just enjoy the same view then I’d get to watch his adorable ass as he quietly walked away.

  2. vickilh

    Sounds like great fun and great chaos for the filming locale. Speaking of great fun. Liz Krueger’s having another book signing on 3/22 at Waldenbooks Southridge. I encourage all locals to stop by and support her. I’m planning to be there! (Barb- maybe Liz could bring those books we talked about at the WisWRA meeting 3/16?) Love this blog Barbara!

  3. Leah

    What a fun story! I never really thought about how much work goes into being an extra. And “a Bohemian puppeteer living in Paris” sounds very different and unusual – but completely Johnny Depp.

  4. joysannoh

    My aunt lives in Columbus WI. Whoda thunk! I should give her a call and see if she’s anywhere near JD. (She’d probably ask me who he is.) I wouldn’t stand out in the cold though, even if I were there. There’s not much any more that I’d do that for.Happy Spring, All!!

  5. MG Braden

    My kids are extras/background performers in a lot of things that are filmed where we live. It isn’t all that exciting and you generally don’t get to talk to the stars at all (not usually a big deal, but come on… Johnny Depp!! Whew) – I think Beth did beter with what she got. Extras are to be seen and not heard. Definitely no glamour. :-D

  6. Shari Anton

    I give everyone credit for going out in the cold and trying! I’m under 5’8″ and fairly pale skinned, but haven’t been a size 12 since — oh I don’t want to think about it :) . I like Gina’s idea! Let’s all go to Paris.

  7. Jody Allen

    Pale Skin They sure came to the right place for this, at this time of year as the kid go off to spring break in the southern reaches of the gulf state we could (when I lived in Mobile, Alabama) always tell who came from up north, the shine off their pale skin was glaring. I hope that this movie will generate more activity for the Wisconsin Film agency. There are so many kewl places in Wisconsin that would make great backdrops.

  8. Tori Carrington aka Lori & Tony

    I dunno if either of us would be up for the experience, Barbara, although we enjoyed hearing about Andrew and Jean’s experiences and, of course, Beth’s. What a hoot! Authors aside (I stuttered so badly when I first met Jayne Ann Krentz that she must have thought me mentally challenged), the only bigtime actor I’ve ever crossed paths with was Morgan Freeman in the lobby of the Regency in NY. Harlequin was treating the authors of More Than Words #3 to dinner in a private penthouse room and he appeared to be meeting biz peeps. We came within six feet of him and I was utterly wowed. Of course, given our surroundings, I didn’t play the part of rabid fan. But I would like to have given him a nod of respect. What a talented guy! Fwiw, that trip we also spotted Sarah Jessica Parker no fewer than six times (jogging, walking, shopping, hailing a cab, etc.) in the Upper East and West sides. Either that or every other upper NYer looks like SJP. lol xoxo L&T :> ;>

  9. violet s

    Good morning Barbara! Fun to have Johnny Depp here in Wis., but not so glamorous for those of us who lived during the Dillinger years! But memory is short & the past always looks romantic & poignant!

  10. JOANN ROSS

    Okay, I maybe would stand in that temperature if I got to really meet Johnny Depp. Like hang out for an hr or so. But then again, what if he didn’t live up to my fantasy? (And so few things do. Sigh.) So, maybe I wouldn’t. I once showed up at a casting call, not because I wanted the job, but because I was writing a book about a heroine who ran a Hollywood studio, so I thought it’d be good research. Same thing happened to me that happened to Beth; there were literally hundreds of beautiful people there with airbrushed black and white glossies with their name and their agency names on it. Unsurprisingly, they got moved to the front of the line ahead of us unagented, photoless peons. Finally, when the day was growing late, I went up to the people in charge of the line, explained what I was doing there, and they let me go into the room and watch everyone else try to get the job. Oh, one funny thing — while in line, I was talking with this guy who played the bad guy a lot on America’s Most Wanted videos and he said he was all the time having people call the police on him when he was out and about trying to live his normal, not at all bad guy life.

  11. Beth Watson

    Hi All! Well, back home to reality after 3 days of watching the filming of Public Enemies in Columbus Wi. Best mini vacation I’ve had in a long time. (Although this was partially work related of course.) Being a huge movie buff, a fan of the 1930s, and JD (that’s what his assistant calls him) I found the whole experience simply incredible! Besides feeding my muse, getting it psyched up to start the rewrites on my puppeteer book, I was inspired with a plot for another book. Yay! I took some great pics I plan to plaster on my desk to help my hero get into character. That’s one of the things I admire about JD is his ability to play an eclectic array of characters. He’s extremely diverse, which is one reason he has such a large fan base. Was thinking I should pick up a “how to” book for actors, on how to get into character. Would probably be quite insightful. My “research” ended last night at 8:30pm with JD walking by us fans, giving us a photo op (unfortunately it was dark out but I got an okay shot with him literally 5 feet away!) and doing his signature bow, thanking us for being a great crowd. He really seems to be a humble and gracious person. Kendra, funny about the snow truck, hey? They actually removed all the real snow and blew Hollywood snow right before each shoot. Now if they’d waited until today they’d have had 15 inches of the stuff. Leah, I hope one day a Hollywood producer catches wind of my then published book and thinks the same thing. “Hey what a great role for Johnny.” :-) Then of course they’ll hire meto help adapt the book to a screenplay. I am still holding out hope for an extras part. I was told people will be called over the duration of the filming which is set to take place for a few months yet. I haven’t given up hope. Thanks so much Barbara for inviting me to blog about my experience! This has been a great time! Hopefully I’ll be blogging about my extras role in the near future! Thanks all! Beth

  12. Laura Iding

    What a great blog post. It’s so fun to think of the people we know as being extra’s in a Hollywood movie. Beth, your dedication is amazing. Barbara, I think your son should have gotten in too.

  13. GCallan

    How fun! Well not standing in the cold and not being able to not move body parts – but how fun to see how aspiring hopefuls pursue this. And now we are all insiders to the ways of snow in movies. I think Beth’s puppeteer book sounds intriguing – a must read – and it would be great if JD played the main role when adapted to screen. Good luck to everyone!

  14. Sandra

    You go Beth!! What an awesome idea using Johnny Depp as the muse for your novel! He is drop dead gorgeous and has a sense of mystery about him. Sounds perfect for your book. Keep writing! I can’t wait to read the book. And, I agree with GCallen: you so need to hire him for the screen play!

  15. KAT

    And I thought I was a die-hard Johnny D fan! I hope Beth gets the part- what an inspiration for that puppeteer book she is writing. I wish I had the patience to write a novel- the research sounds like a lot of fun!

  16. Mel

    I spent yesterday in Crown Point, IN, just as a fan-watcher as they filmed a few days of production. The prior two days, JD was said to have come out for meet and great, but last night he didn’t, at least while we were there. It was freezing cold, but they did have the snowmaker truck there, and often coated the sides of the street for filming purposes, because our NW IN snow has melted already. We got to meet a bunch of the extras, in costume, and some shared their stories of how they got to be in the movie. Makes me wish I’d have known and could have tried out!

  17. my website

    You are my inspiration, I have few web logs and very sporadically run out from brand :) . “He who controls the past commands the future. He who commands the future conquers the past.” by George Orwell.

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