A little movie came out last month; perhaps you heard of it – “The Avengers”? What you may not know, however, is that I, your humble Disney Gene, am in that movie!
(Me, in my Black Widow costume for Halloween)
Well, barely. I was one of the 1,500 or so extras that were used on the Cleveland portion of the filming. Still, it was one of the coolest experiences of my life, so I thought you might like a look behind the scenes of some of the Hollywood magic.It all started on a hot July day. The potential extras were told to assemble between noon and 4 PM July 15, and 10 AM to 4 PM July 16, 2011 at the Holiday Inn Independence for their chance to audition. Interested people “should dress in their best business executive outfit and must be well-groomed”. We were instructed to bring our own pens to fill out an application, and photos would be taken at the casting.
My husband and I decided to hit the Saturday auditions. Reports of long lines on Friday had us arriving about 9:00 on Saturday, but the lines were already snaking through the parking lot. All told, we waited about four hours standing in the hot sun. In business suits. And heels (for me, anyway.) And best of all, I’d been stung by a bee on my foot on Thursday, so my foot had, quite literally, swelled to three times its normal size. Boy, was that fun to cram into a dress shoe, and then stand on for four hours. Hey, I said it was exciting, not glamorous. I mean seriously, it was wicked stepsister shoving her foot into the glass slipper material here.
Estimates of the number of people who auditioned for these 1,500 spots ranged from 4,500 to 10,000, depending on which report you read. To make a long story short, I made it but my husband didn’t. Don’t think that didn’t make fore a wee bit of tension in the household. ;)
I actually didn’t hear back from them for quite some time, so I didn’t think that I’d been selected. But when sitting at rehearsal for the Bellevue Society for the Arts’ production of “Move Over, Mrs. Markham”, I got the call. I couldn’t believe it!
I got a gist of how things would work right away. It was 7:00 on a Thursday evening. “Can you come in tomorrow morning to downtown Cleveland for a fitting?” I was asked. Well gee; I do have this thing called a job… Oh, what the heck. “Sure.” I said. Fortunately, my boss was cool about it. She was very excited for me, and completely understanding about the flexibility needed in the use of my vacation days over the coming weeks. Brad Rowe, my director in “Move Over, Mrs. Markham” was an absolute sweetheart about it, as well. I had to have been a director’s worst nightmare during that time, but Brad was always patient and supportive!
Friday morning: my fitting. I’m sure many of you are familiar with the quote by Randy Pausch, “Be good at something; it makes you valuable…. Have something to bring to the table, because that will make you more welcome.” I believe in taking that quote a bit more literally than most people. So when I showed up for my fitting, I didn’t arrive empty-handed; I brought my special homemade sugar cookies. They were a hit.
I was originally slated to be on the set from 3-5 days, depending on how filming went. But a couple of days after my fitting, I was laying out by the pool when I get a phone call. “The director wants to know if you would be available for a special scene to be shot on Saturday. Can you make that?” Um, let me think… “Yes!”
So Tuesday August 16, 2011 I reported to downtown Cleveland at 6:00 AM… with cookies. This time, I made 10 dozen cookies – I didn’t want anyone to miss out! I sought out the Extras Casting Coordinator, Maryellen Aviano. Upon catching sight of me, she exclaimed, “The Cookie Lady’s here!” You can bet your bottom dollar that I was determined at that point to show up every day with cookies in hand!
Here is how the days went: the night before I was to be on the set, I’d call the hotline for my scheduled arrival time (usually 6:00 AM) and the designated parking garage. I’d get up at about 3:15 AM for shower, hair, make-up and clothes, then drive an hour to an hour and half (depending on traffic) to join the rest of the “Group Hug” extras (possibly the least effective secret identity in movie history). We’d usually be on site until around 7 or 8 PM, at which point I would drive home, make cookies for the next day, collapse into bed, and then get up the next morning and do it all again. My husband thought I was crazy to make the cookies each night after those long, crazy days, but I just had to. Why? Quite simply, the crew was working their butts off. When I got there at 6:00, the hair and make-up people were all set up and ready to roll. The costume people had already laundered all of our costumes from the day before. And there were days that in addition to our daytime shoots, they also had to take care of the extras that were there to film the nighttime scenes in Germany. I figured those people needed and deserved a sugar boost, so the least that I could do was try to help! So I brought cake bites, sugar cookies, snickerdoodles, chocolate chunk cookies, and oatmeal scotchies. I hope that the crew liked them, because I really appreciated all of the hard work they did for us!
I’ve already rambled on for nearly 1,000 words, so I’ll stop here for now. Next time, I’ll give you a look at our days on the set, as well as some info on my appearances in the film. Thanks for reading!