Hundreds hope to land roles as movie extras

Many will portray fans at stadium during filming of `The Replacements'

July 11, 1999|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,SUN STAFF

They came in evening gowns, gym gear, shorts, midriff tops and business suits -- all coiffed, spritzed, tattooed and ponytailed. Large as Mr. T, small as a minute.

Nearly everyone fit the bill.

But all you needed was ambition.

Hundreds smiled through a fast-paced cattle call yesterday at Gate A of PSINet Stadium seeking a bit part in "The Replacements," a movie based on the 1987 National Football League players' strike that will star Gene Hackman and Keanu Reeves and be shot in Charm City beginning next month.

"It's painless today," said Lisa Beasley, a Los Angeles casting consultant, adding that "the pain starts when we begin shooting."

Beasley's mission is to select 6,000 extras to be paid a bit more than the $5.15-an-hour minimum wage to sit in the stands, pretend they are Washington fans and broil in the dawg-day heat as cameras roll.

That didn't seem to deter anyone.

"I have wanted to be in the movies since I was little," said Gina Geppi, 21, of Ellicott City, who wore streaks of glitter around her eyes in hopes of being noticed.

Her friend, Karen Evans, said: "I just graduated from college as a sociology major and I'm trying to figure out what to do."

David Venafro, a recent college graduate from George Mason University, brought glossy, professional photographs to the casting session. Standing next to his friend, Michael Wilson, the pair looked as suave as their movie idols Tom Cruise and Will Smith as they applied for the parts -- and then crossed their fingers.

"It's not the movie, it's the business I want to be in," said Venafro, 21, of Fairfax, Va., who had a bit part in Barry Levinson's movie "Liberty Heights," which was shot in Baltimore. "There's two or three movies shot in the D.C. area every summer, and it's just a line on a resume unless you get upgraded."

Added Wilson, 24, a model looking to make his first movie: "You've got to pay your dues; you've got to crawl before you walk."

Yesterday's call sought actors to play fans who fill the stadium and cheer for the Sentinels, Tinseltown's name for the scab team. As the story unfolds, the replacements are treated badly by the pro players in a plot peppered by a mob-connected place-kicker, a group of semi-pro players who make it to The Big Leagues and, finally, a nail-biter of a game.

It's the sixth film to be shot in the Baltimore area since early last year, said Mike Styer, director of the Maryland Film Office, a state agency that courts the film industry to work in Maryland. Production of a six-part miniseries for HBO based on "The Corner" -- a book by former Sun reporter David Simon and former city police detective Edward Burns about a drug-infested West Baltimore neighborhood -- is scheduled to begin next month.

"The last two fiscal years, the economic impact for these projects in Maryland has been in excess of $75 million per year," Styer said. "It's newfound money for the local economy."

Beasley says she will continue to cast regular folk for the fan roles in the film, to be distributed by Warner Bros. in fall 2000.

Some of those selected will be cast as wacky fans and family members -- and they must dress in fall clothing to illustrate the season. Then the film is searching for replacement cheerleaders.

Another consultant will start the search for football-like players tomorrow and Tuesday at the Omni Hotel to portray the replacements, who land a happy ending despite crossing the NFL picket line.

Another call will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the food court at Towson Commons for more stadium extras to fill a portion of the Ravens' stadium for filming Aug. 14 and 15. Beasley says the production needs 20,000 fans each day -- and officials hope to attract thousands from local businesses and organizations.

"I am looking for breathing people," Beasley said. "We're really hoping to get a lot of nice people interested in working who have flexible schedules. We want a nice group of people -- because we're going to be together a lot."

Pub Date: 7/11/99

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