The stars and the starry-eyed

September 02, 2005|By Joe Burris | Joe Burris,SUN STAFF

For about a week, Carlyn Davis Casting consultant David McDuffy scoured the bus stops, colleges and shopping centers of greater Baltimore, putting up fliers proclaiming that Hollywood was looking for a few good extras.

Yesterday, the multitude that stretched more than two blocks before the ESPN Zone, the casting site for two feature films, showed how quickly talk of a chance at fame spreads in this town.

"I got the word out," said McDuffy as he gazed at the line.

Those in line came with aspirations of stardom, a glossy photo and shoes appropriate for standing around for hours. Many had prior casting experience and knew the process. Others didn't know what to expect. But all believed they ought to be in pictures.

They were on hand to cast as extras for two films: Music High, a Disney-Touchstone production about a Baltimore-based school of the arts, and The Good Shepherd, a Robert De Niro film that stars Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie.

"A lot of people who come out for this are aspiring actors and actresses who want to be that next big thing," said Mahagony, a Baltimore playwright, poet and actress who goes by just one name and who got an extra role in the film The Replacements. "All they want to do is get that toe in the door.

"[On applications] they ask you questions about your age, height, shoe size, and they also ask you what kind of car you have, because sometimes while they might not want you walking by in a scene, they might want your car driving by."

Music High drew the most interest because it called for 3,000 extras and is set to begin production here Sept. 12.

"Music High is a gigantic film. You're going to see dancing like you've never seen dancing before," said Carlyn Davis, whose Falls Church, Va., casting company bears her name. Yesterday, people vied for such roles as school teacher, lawyer, warm-up dancers, drug dealers, pretty girls and juvenile detainees.

Casting for The Good Shepherd was for a scene from 1961 to be shot in Washington in October; only a handful of extras was needed.

"When will they find out whether they're working? They might not, or they might find out the night before [production]," said Davis, who said that some who submitted applications yesterday might not hear from her again for years, when she's casting for another production.

This wasn't an audition. "Extras have no lines," said Davis. In fact, the line dissipated almost as quickly as it formed: Each acting hopeful who submitted a photo and application got handed the same lines from casting assistants:

"Hi, how are you?"

"Are you a SAG [Screen Actors Guild] member?"

"OK, looks good, thanks for stopping by."

But the hopefuls say it's well worth it. So much so that Barb McLeod of Washington arrived at 11:30 yesterday morning for the 3 p.m. start time.

"I got here early because the last casting call I waited for more than two hours, and I was about 400th," said McLeod, who was second in line yesterday. Still, she got an extra's role in the coming Clint Eastwood film Flags of Our Fathers.

Those who do get hired will likely earn about $50-100 for eight hours' work. But they're more interested in the moment of opportunity than the money.

"You're willing to do whatever they ask," said Tia Latrell of Baltimore, "whatever it takes."

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