Saturday, August 16, 2003


Today, just for the hell of it, I went to an open casting call for extras for M. Night Shyamalan's next movie The Woods at a VFW hall in Downingtown. It was an even more boring experience than it sounds, but it had some interesting moments. The experience definitely separated the people who want to be in a movie from those who are only casual about it, as it involved standing in the rain for 2 1/2 hours. Probably there were 800-1000 people altogether who applied. The call was for people to look like turn of the century rural European-stock villagers from ages 3-63.

We passed the boredom by settling into groups, and I ended up in a little group of five people: Two college-age kids, a lawyer, and then I hit the Small World Award when the other person turned out to be Gretchen, who writes for the Daily Local and is related to me by marriage (her son Billy is married to my sister's daughter Anne). We passed the time in the rain stoically enough, watching the crowd. Surprisingly, there were absolutely no SCA period-costume people. But there were lots of stage moms with their kids, an amazing amount, possibly half the crowd.

Finally we got into the building and heard the speech by Deedee Ricketts, who is in charge of extras casting on this movie. (There was also an assistant director there whose name I didn't catch, and M. Night was not there). The production will begin in mid-October in a specially built small town somewhere in southeastern Pennsylvania. She didn't identify where exactly the village is, but triangulating the two places where they are having calls for extras (Downingtown and Wilmington, DE) tends to point to southern Chester County, PA, probably somewhere around Oxford or Jennersville. They are looking for an ensemble group of extras to work multiple days in set roles: Blacksmiths, farmers, seamstresses, etc.

The film seems to be a supernatural romance set in rural Pennsylvania in 1897, and I like the cast very much with one exception. Adrien Brody, William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Joaquin Phoenix, and Ashton Kutcher are signed for it. The lead was set to be Kirsten Dunst, but she changed her mind and now it's Ron Howard's unknown daughter Bryce Dallas Howard.

Everyone filled out a card with contact information and sizes, including head sizes (since in 1897 everyone wore hats), which required everyone to look silly and wrap tape measures around our heads. No one was hired or rejected; people who get hired will be phoned up. But by the end of the day I was all cheerful, imagining myself a movie blacksmith, of all things.

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