by NATASHA WING
When I saw the ad looking for extras for The Majestic, my heart jumped. When else would I get a chance to be in the movies? Like thousands of others I lined up for the audition. When the cameraman asked, "Why do you want to be a star?" I blurted out, "I've got good face, good hair -- and my sister's neon is being used for the theater." The company, Heaven or Las Vegas, makes neon props and created the Majestic Theater marquee. I thought it would be a kick if we could both be part of the film, but filming had already started and I wasn't picked. Then on March 20 I got THE CALL. I'm going to be an extra!
Tuesday, March 20 - 12:30 p.m.
Checked in and was assigned the role of "Housewife #62", one of the core townies in the fictional town of Lawson. I first reported to Hair where Evelyn fitted me with a short, black wig with bangs and curls. Then it was on to Wardrobe where Bernadine eyed me like I was a mannequin. I squeezed into a tortuous girdle and pointy bra -- the classic '50s shape. Then she fitted me in a yellow gingham dress and straw hat, a brown outfit, and an event dress -- lavender with sequins, gray shoes, purse and powder-blue hat. The jean-clad woman of the new millennium was time warped to 1951.
Monday, March 26 - 7:30 a.m. call.
The extras gathered in a tent set up by the church and everyone was abuzz. We were introduced to Skid, our leader, and he told us the rules: No cameras on set, stay close where you can be found on a moment's notice, don't approach the principal actors --no eye contact with actors on set. "They are getting into character," he explained.
As we progressed through Wardrobe, Hair and Make-up, Humboldt County locals morphed into red-lipped ladies with hats and matching purses, and sharp-dressed men with fedoras. Once dressed, it was the proverbial hurry up and wait. While we waited, we got to know each other. There was Rose, a 21-year-old who had driven up from San Jose to be in the film. (Her dad owned some of the old trucks being used along Main Street.) We met Ernie, a 71-year-old charmer from Ferndale who claimed he could still fit into his WWII uniform. Jessica Daniels, 24, told us she was getting ready to move to Ferndale from Sacramento when her mother saw the ad and she answered the call. Scott brought his kids to the audition and ended up being in the movie instead. Maudie auditioned on a dare and wound up being Luke's grandmother.
Our first call came and Skid sent some extras out to Main Street where they were filming a scene with the old cars driving toward the Majestic. The leftover extras -- me included -- were held in an empty shop in case we were needed. I watched the cars roll by all day. We wrapped at 7:15 p.m. with no camera time. Skid said there'd be days like this.
Tuesday, March 27 - 6:30 a.m. call
The extras, a.k.a. "background artists," got called to Main Street for a scene following Luke and Adele out of the diner and down the street. But after positioning us we were sent back to the tent on account of "poor shadows." Weather, we learned, is paramount! Hours later the sky cooperated and it was back to Main. The first take involved following Luke and Adele -- and looking at them with great joy that they are reunited. We joyfully did it in only three takes and director Frank Darabont joyfully sent back word that we did a great job.
Wednesday, March 28 - 7 a.m. call
Skid paraded us out to Main Street so that we could be looked over for the diner scene. I was the last one picked and ended up right behind Martin "Harry" Landau and the mayor who were both at the counter. Jim "Luke" Carrey had a seat to the left of Landau. We're instructed to keep in mind that we're the residents of Lawson and all very excited that Luke is back in town. Looking around, I saw us actually transform into the people of Lawson. Instead of seeing Bryan, I see "the Milkman." Instead of Jessica, Barrie and Raquel, I see a trio of town ladies. Jim asked the extras to "give him some love" so he could feel the outpouring of emotion from the Lawson community. Breaking the no-speak rule, we shouted, "We love you, Jim!"
When the principal actors said their lines -- again and again -- we pantomimed because extras don't have lines. (Not making a sound is harder than it looks, especially on a confined set.) But our tears were real when Laurie "Adele" Holden came into the diner and saw Luke, her lost boyfriend, for the first time. Director Frank gave us a thumbs up for the day.
Barrie Love, Natasha Wing, "Skid," Haley Becksted and ann Farley pose in holding in The Palace.
Thursday, March 29
My husband, Dan, went for a fitting today for the memorial scene with 200 extras. He had to shave his goatee. I haven't seen his face in 15 years.
Saturday, March 31
Went to fitting today for the funeral scene. We get an extra $12.50 for a fitting!
Wednesday, April 4 - 6:45 a.m. call
On this sunny day I wore my drab brown dress for the scene with Luke and Adele going to clean up the Majestic Theater. I was paired with Ernie to walk down Main Street and window shop. (Not bad. I'm getting paid to window shop.)
"Housewife #62" Natasha Wing and "Town Folk" Ernie DeMarzi in funeral scene outfits.
Yikes! Up at 4 a.m. This movie business is tough. But it was cloudy and cold -- perfect funeral weather. At the Ferndale cemetery Bryan was my mourning partner. Bob "the minister" Wells, well known to North Coast theater goers, did an impeccable first take. The camera was moved for another shot. Jim was supposed to walk forward and place a rose on the coffin. On the second take, Kirby Washington, the guy who marks the shot, snapped the clapper, ran off camera and slipped. The bit of slapstick set Jim into giggle fits and he had a hard time walking to the coffin without laughing. At one point he climbed onto the coffin and pretended to row it like a canoe. That's when Frank called down the hill, "That first shot is looking real good right now."
As the long, cold morning wore on dampness seeped through my painfully high shoes. Between takes we huddled in our coats for snatches of warmth.
Got my first paycheck! -- $50 for the first eight hours, time and a half for the next two, and double time after that.
Wednesday, April 11 - 5:30 a.m. call
In order to deal with the weather and the uncomfortable clothes I got smarter each day. High heels off quickly, boots on. Painful clip earrings go on the last minute. Warm coat and umbrella nearby. Thermal underwear. Our holding place was the Rep theater in hopes that the weather would change to match yesterday's funeral sky. Continuity is everything. One extra said she never thought she'd wish so hard for bad weather. By late afternoon the sky was getting gloomier but we were losing light, so the day was wrapped. No film time, but we did get a treat. James Whitmore strolled by and let us take pictures with him.
Ferndale's "extra" ladies
Thursday, April 12 - 6:30 a.m. call
Woke up and the skies were clear in Blue Lake, but driving in I saw clouds rolling towards Ferndale. Back into our funeral outfits. After lunch we returned to do another scene where we walk around the street corner. Luke and Adele sit at the war memorial in front of town hall as he delivers the bad news: He is not who she thought he was and she is upset. Wind whipped down Main Street that day so between takes we huddled under the propane heater like bugs to a zapper. Jim brought in a snow cone truck to treat the crew. What a comedian.
Monday, April 16 - 5:30 a.m. call
Husband Dan's first day on the set. He runs across the street when the (vintage) black FBI cars descend on Luke.
Tuesday, April 17 - 6:30 a.m. call
More funeral for us -- and a "reverse take" of Luke and Adele at the war memorial. Lots of takes. (I lost count.) My feet sprout blisters in those '50s shoes. Snacking between meals consists of whatever Craft Services throws our way -- Twix, Red Vines, Twinkies, doughnuts and huge jars of peanut butter -- food for 10-year-olds!
"Town Folk #118," (Cindy Noble,
Wednesday, April 18 - 6 a.m. call
I got to be a stand-in for Catherine "Mabel" Dent and was rewarded with a whopping $75 for eight hours of work instead of $50.
Thursday, April 19 - 10 a.m. call
Off with the binding girdle and corset and on with the thermal underwear under my dress. (I hope the camera doesn't notice.) And today my wig decided to be a royal pain in the ass. It kept riding up and Hair pinned it down with so much authority my head felt like a pin cushion. We get an extra $5.50 a day to wear a wig, but it sure isn't worth it. More work on the funeral scene was planned and cancelled because the sky didn't match previous takes. (The sun came out!) We changed into new colorful outfits to film the opening of the Majestic -- and sat and waited. The call never came. All dressed up and nowhere to go.
Friday, April 20 - 9:45 a.m. call
It's raining so we're back to funeral outfits again. There are huge puddles in the extras' tent. Lots of eating and mingling going on since there's nothing to do but wait. It still amazes me how upbeat people still are and how much of a big family we've become in three short weeks.
Twelve hours later we've lost the natural light, and we change again from funeral clothes into theater attire. After all the waiting time, I still get pumped up when it's time to go on set. And for tonight's scene, the opening of the theater, I get to see my sister's neon lit up.
Extras wait outside the Rep Theater holding area for instructions.
Monday, April 23 - 7 a.m. call
The core group sat around in our funeral outfits again (nine days in this stinking dress!) hoping that clouds would come in so we could finish the scene. It stayed sunny all day so we wrapped at 5:30 p.m. Strange to be home before dark.
Tuesday, April 24 - 7:45 a.m. call
A big day. Finished the scene in front of the Sheriff's station in the early afternoon to much cheering, then changed into our memorial clothes. The cameras were ready to roll for the war memorial scene outside of the fake town hall, with 200-plus extras, the Marching Lumberjacks, and all the principal actors. It felt like the entire family of cast and crew was gathered for our final moments together before Castle Rock was scheduled to leave on Thursday.
Wednesday, April 25
Last day in Ferndale. I couldn't go since I had deadlines that turned into emergencies. It killed me; I wanted to say good-bye to the crew and all my Lawson neighbors who made the experience so much fun. A small group was chosen to go to Ft. Bragg to provide continuity between the two communities so that film viewers could see familiar faces and think they were seeing Lawson. I was bummed I wasn't chosen.
The HSU Marching Lumberjacks gather on the Lawson townhall steps.
April 30 - May 2
Just when I thought it was over, I got the call for Ft. Bragg! Another 100 Ferndale people were bused down and put up in motels. It was weird reporting to a new check-in station and seeing faces I didn't recognize. But when we got dressed, everyone blended. For the next two days we filmed the train station scene over and over and over again. The train pulls up to the station Jim/Pete is returning to Lawson, the big kiss with Adele.
Our job was to cheer at everything. We cheered for two days from morning until night. Frank thanked everyone for showing the same enthusiasm from start to finish. Even Jim thanked us. "You're the best EVER!" he shouted, pumping his fist in the air. We cheered again!
On the way home on the bus I thought about how what had started out as a prop town had become a real one. For the past five weeks we had heard how great the dailies looked, and how pleased Frank was. Our group of extras pulled together to become more than background -- we became Lawson -- and we showed Hollywood we actually live in a place they only write and dream about.
CASTLE ROCK'S OFFICIAL WEBSITE (castle-rock.warnerbros.com/cmp/html/coming.htm) includes this one sentence plot synopsis of "The Majestic":
"In this Capra-esque drama set during the 1950's blacklist, a young, ambitious Hollywood screenwriter loses his job and his identity, only to find new courage, love and the power of conviction in the heart of a small town's life."
The fan site, Jim Carrey Online, continues its role as the ultimate source for all things Carrey especially Majesticalia. At jimcarreyonline.com/movies/upcoming.html you find daily reports from the set full of unconfirmed gossip typical of the Internet -- from anonymous sources.
The May 6 entry, for instance, tells of action on the set after Housewife #62 (see cover story) departed for Humboldt County. According to a frequent poster known as Deep Tracea, "Security went on alert halfway through the evening when a woman who had been dismissed from the local Ft. Bragg extras pool (for showing up too late to be run through hair, make-up and wardrobe) was reported to have shown up on-set with a knife. Scenes to be shot later that night which involved extras were adjusted so that they could be filmed with principal actors only and all of the extras were wrapped [excused] for the night."
"Anon" reports on Woody Harrelson's May Day visit to the set. "Anonymous" tells of "dancing and craziness" as the Marching Lumberjacks entertained waiting extras at the Rep.
There are links to other Majestic-oriented pages scattered here and there including the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce Majestic page (www.victorianferndale.org/chamber/majestic.html) with photos and details about the set buildings.
The Victorian Village Inn's Majestic page,
(www.a-victorian-inn.com/the_majestic.html), includes an image of Ferndale artist Jack Mays' drawing of the theater autographed by everyone involved in the production. Mays donated the piece to the Ferndale Rep's annual celebrity auction and the owners of the Inn, Jenny Oakes and Lowell Silva, were the highest bidders, paying $5,500.
Carrey Online also includes a sometimes-entertaining bulletin board where anyone can enter the discussion. There's a vigorous exchange deriding Carrey because he had initially declined to autograph Mays' drawing. (He signed it later, after it was sold.) Another discussion, titled "Goon Squad," concerns the allegedly overzealous security force that escorted Carrey to and from the set and saw to it that no one approached the star or took his photograph.
"Shop keeper," one who is certainly not a Carrey fan, complains of being accosted by bodyguards. And Ferndale Fritz, a regular contributor, reports, "A little girl, perhaps 7 or 8 years old, was walking home from school -- this was NOT while filming was going on -- and this big thug came rushing up to her like he thought she was a potential assassin. Must have scared the stuff out of her."
Others defend Carrey saying it's not his fault, that he is in fact a really nice guy, and some pleasant "fan sightings" reinforce that image. When "shop keeper" counters, saying that Carrey must be aware of what's going on, the thread takes another turn with several postings from rabid fans whose interest in the Ferndale filming is strictly in connection with their undying adulation of the star.
The most recent post comes from "Mjestic," a Ferndale extra who begins with complaints about the trip to Mendocino, writing, "We were bussed to a flea-bag motel and dropped off with no instructions, awakened early by an automated phone call, cued to get on the bus by the sound of the diesel" But he/she goes on to come to Carrey's defense, "I have heard a lot of complaining about Jim Carrey's security and what a jerk he is for staying so far away from the `regular people' -- and I'm sick of hearing people talk like that. The lady with the knife proves that he needs security. Just like John Lennon and a lot of other famous people need security ... to keep sick people from harming them!"
-- reported by Bob Doran
Comments? E-mail the Journal: firstname.lastname@example.org
© Copyright 2001, North Coast Journal, Inc.