Call time was at 7am. I went to bed at 9:30pm, woke up at 1:30am and could no longer get back to sleep. My roommate had taken off the glass the window covering in our bathroom, so I showered with a freezing cold breeze at 4:30 in the morning. I left Orange County at 5:20am and arrived at the Hollywood or Highland Mall on Hollywood Blvd with only a few minutes to spare. This just goes to show that even at the ungodly hours that we background artists have to work, there will still be traffic on the freeways of Los Angeles. Other then this..., and I admit it ain't much, being a background actor on Hollywood Homicide is a breeze.
The main stars on this project are Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett. I walk over to the sign-up booth and some of the constituency. Suddenly, we see real smoke, coming from a real fire along the the exact street that we are going to be shooting. Josh Hartnett walks by us and one of the older extras informs him that the smoke is coming from "the chicken" that the cooks are making. "I hope not," Hartnett states, "that's my lunch."
Since I play a mall pedestrian, my wardrobe is what I would normally wear anyway. I love it when this happens. Once I get changed (which I don't need to do), I walk with a bunch of the extras over to our holding area. The area is nothing more then an empty room with cardboard on the floor and some plastic chairs. This actually sounds a lot worse then it is. I am kicking myself for not bringing anything to work on, but I am always afraid I am going to lose it or someone is going to steal it. This is not to say I distrust my fellow background workers, but hey..., let's just leave it at that.
I am then escorted to get something to eat. We march over to the breakfast truck and the cook makes you say "good morning" to him before he takes your order. I like this. I order a BLT and head inside. I end sitting next to an extra that I had been talking to earlier when we signed in. He tells me that he does this work full time but that he's trying to get out of it. He wants to work a flexible job so that he can still audition all the time. This will be a heavy thing among much of the background that I work with. He is also from Orange County.
The background artist then tells me that he's already worked this movie earlier. He did a small scene with Lena Olin. She plays a psychic disc jockey and he was her man in the booth. Then I am told the plot of the movie: Rappers are getting killed. Harrison Ford is a drunk police officer who is on the case. He calls Lena Olin for some advice. all right, this doesn't sound like Indiana Jones 4 but I guess Ford has to do something in the meantime. One must also consider that K19: The Widowmaker and some of Ford's most recent projects made about 6 cents, and this leads me to believe he may be traveling the Steven Seagal way of career resuscitation. (Translation: Still trying to remain relevant to that "elusive teenage demographic" by acting in movies about Hip-Hop or with Rap Superstars like Ja Rule and DMX.) We'll have to see...
I return to holding and am quickly whisked off to do a scene. As we are filming in a mall, we must film AROUND the patrons. I always thought that on big productions the location is shut down for the day, or used very late at night when nobody's around. Not so I find out.
The scene we are shooting entails the background actors to be milling about as Josh Hartnett chases after Dwight Yoakam. Yoakam steals a car and Hartnett steals another car and chases after him. Classic Hollywood stuff and I am proud to be a part of this scene. As they are rehearsing this I meet one of the more interesting background performers that I have ever met.
The background performer tells me he has been in the business for over 12 years and he keeps a running score of the day. He rates how we background are treated on a point system. For every infraction that is a point, but it doesn't carry over continually. This means that if they serve us bad food in the morning and bad food for lunch that is only 1 point. He tells me that usually, very good shows get about 2 or 3 points against them (some he hasn't given ANY), but the worst it has ever been was a 12. I think he even says that the 12 was during the big scene between Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro in Heat.
Currently, Hollywood Homicide as a 4 with the first infraction coming when they referred to us background on the call in line for the project as "extras". I LOVE this guy and ask him MANY questions about his system.
We shoot the scene a bunch of times, none of which I think I am actually in the shot but who cares? Here I am in Hollywood, on the set of a Harrison Ford movie!!! I then find out that the director is Ron Shelton (of Bull Durham / Tin Cup / Play it to the Bone fame) and I am surprised that the normally sports oriented director is making a "street" movie.
Once we are done I follow the background artist with the point system over to his things, and he takes out the lists that he's made for some of the more recent shows he's worked on. Some paraphrased excerpts include:
- "The cunt, dyke, bitch told me I was late when I wasn't late."
- "The asshole AD wouldn't let me finish eating when it was his fault I was
These "set reports" kept me in stitches for the next hour.
A bit later we all get the call to eat lunch. It was awesome. Maybe the best food I have EVER had on a set. I had a dish with rice pilaf, clams, scallops, shrimp, mussels, etc . Then I had a cannoli and some cookies. It was all delicious. Fully fed, I walked back to the holding area, took out some 3x5 paper I brought with me and outlined the second part of the second act of my newest screenplay, THE RAGAMUFFIN MEN.
I was then called to walked in the VERY background as Josh Hartnett's stunt double jumped off a ladder into a display of some sort. I walked, the double jumped and I didn't see it until he was on the ground. I was then told to go back to holding. I proceeded to write a bit, talked to some more background people and even slept upright in my chair for a few moments on occasion.
Finally, around 5 o'clock we get called for a scene with the man himself. Harrison Ford. Here are the paraphrased ground rules for "working" with him in this particular scene:
"If Harrison runs toward you, don't waffle. Pick a place to move to and go there. If you waffle he may run right into you because you waffled. He hates that. He gets very angry and then we're here 2 hours longer then we need to be. I know this sounds cruel."
Rather then try to apologize or say how "real" Mr. Ford likes the scene to be, the AD leaves it at that. I want a little more and in my own scoreboard this is the only real point against the production.
I also made a mental note not to be anywhere near Harrison Ford in this scene. We are then escorted out to Hollywood Boulevard where I have yet to see Mr. Ford. They set us up in a few moments we are shooting the scene. An African-American actor whose name escapes me runs past us yelling, "Get the fuck out of the way!!" and then I see Harrison Ford trailing behind him. I move out of his way before he even enters my peripheral vision. Fords face is bloody is glasses are broken and he practices hitting the stuntman he's actually supposed to crash into. He looks great. Just like in the movies.
We do this scene a bunch of times and it almost comically watching the AD's separating the Background pedestrians from the real life pedestrians. Even funnier was when a city garbage person pulled up.
"Get out of our shot!!" someone in production screamed.
"I gotta get my trash!" the man yelled.
There was going to be no argument. He got is trashed and we finished the scene shortly after. I went back to holding and was released around 6:06pm. I wasn't paid until 7pm. All in all, it was great day on the set of Hollywood Homicide.
Thanks to Killer Movies for the photos.
Dont't forget to also check out: Hollywood Homicide