On set with critic turned actor Hunter

October 05, 2006|By Mary Carole McCauley | Mary Carole McCauley,Sun reporter

6:35 a.m.: It's hard to top being on the set when they're filming a movie of your book. Stephen Hunter didn't want to miss a jam-packed minute of it.

So there he was, resplendent in a suit and tie a full half-hour before the sun rose over Freedom Plaza in Washington. Paramount Pictures was about to shoot scenes for Shooter, a film based on Hunter's 1993 novel Point of Impact. Hunter has a bit part in the film. "I finally got to the place where they pen up the extras," he says. "Then, my grooming standards apparently weren't up to professional standards, so someone sat judiciously trimming various portions of my head."

11:30 a.m.: A scene is being shot involving extras: a woman pushing a baby carriage. A woman reading a newspaper. Two men in suits wearing the ear wires associated with the Secret Service.

In take after take, the extras assume their places.

"There's some sort of magic rhythm to it," Hunter muses. "What made the scene perfect at 10:43 a.m. when it wasn't perfect at 10:32 a.m.?"

Hunter decides to walk back to The Washington Post, where he is a Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic. (Sun readers may recall Hunter's smart-yet-visceral reviews; he worked at the Baltimore newspaper for many years before joining the Post in 1997. He's also married to Sun columnist Jean Marbella.)

But, he'll return to the set in time for his big scene.

2 p.m.: Hunter sits in the chair of the producer, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, whom he calls "my new favorite guy in the universe."

Apparently, Hunter's head still wasn't trimmed judiciously enough, for he is summoned again to the makeup and hair trailer. Because Paramount never would allow its talent to stroll two blocks on a perfect autumn day, he is directed into a van. The ride takes about 15 minutes.

After the second beauty visit, Hunter emerges a vision of loveliness.

"I'm so attractive now I don't know if I can stand it," he says.

3:10 p.m.: Hunter is driven to 14th and F streets Northwest, where his big scene will be shot. "Initially, he insisted that he wanted to carry a big gun," di Bonaventura says, "so we were going to make him a police officer."

But yesterday, the producers handed Hunter a different role, a Deep Throat kind of character.

Maybe Hunter doesn't get to carry a gun, but the dialogue is pretty cool: "They do murder, all right. And they don't do it according to the Geneva Convention. They're very scary guys."

3:27 p.m. Hunter climbs into the back seat of a long black limo. The camera operator is in the front seat.

Because the limo has phony plates, it is not legal to drive it on the streets, so the entire contraption is towed by a vehicle called "an insert car."

4:35 p.m. The limo is maneuvered back into its parking place.

"It was a lot of fun," Hunter says.

Perhaps not dialogue-worthy, but with the ring of truth.

mary.mccauley@baltsun.com

Filming moves tomorrow to Federal Hill.

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