MY 'GONE BABY GONE' EXPERIENCE!
I finally got a taste of A-list Hollywood. I was an extra last week in a scene shot at the popular Silver Spoon restaurant, in Roxbury, Massachusetts for the film Gone Baby Gone. The film is being directed and produced by Hollywood hunk, Ben Affleck in his directorial debut. For those who don’t know, Roxbury is the heart of Boston’s black community. I got a call from CP Casting. The scene would take place in the restaurant and customers were working class people. Specific instructions - don’t wear anything fancy, but take a few extra things just in case they wanted different wardrobe. Okay, I pull out the jeans, tank tap and a shirt over it, and my quiet shoes. I was trying to dress a comfortably as possible because I knew that it would be extremely hot that day.
I arrived at the Silver Slipper promptly at 7:00am as instructed only to be told that Extras were to report to the base camp a few blocks away. It was the old MBTA bus depot. So I walked over there and saw other extras. All the extras were black, I guess to reflect the neighborhood. I checked in, and was told to go to wardrobe for approval. What I was wearing was fine, one lady wearing jeans was told to wear a skirt, another lady was provided a waitress uniform. Some of the guys had to change their shorts or were given shirts from wardrobe. The extras who were pedestrians were immediately bused over to the set. Meanwhile it was early in the morning and I wasn’t sure of when we could eat or refreshments on the set. I asked if we could get some coffee or something to drink from the food table and truck set up in the lot. A crew person took us over and we got some drinks and snacks, then we were walked to the Silver Spoon.
When we got there to our amazement there was no holding area. So first they let us sit in the restaurant while they shot scenes outside. Inside we chatted with some of the crew, and I was chatting with a lighting specialist and I was fascinated by what he was saying about film lighting. Then we had to move outside while they set up the restaurant. They took down some of the photos on the wall and put up some others, all related to Black History. The wall looked great, and colorful, like Black Power wall. I was impressed. First we were hanging around on the sidewalk by the huge mural on the wall. It was interesting to see the curiosity traffic jams. Hey, it’s not everyday that movies gets shot in Roxbury or so many stars are there. And this was something positive not TV cameras covering crime.
We were then instructed to hang out the parking lot area, which had been turned into a multi-purpose area. It was small and crowded with trucks carrying generators and other stuff. So we sat on bumpers, truck steps, the hot ground, curb, whatever, but ended up standing most of the time.
On the set, one extra asked about a toilet. It turned out that the only toilet available was the one in the basement of the restaurant and to get to it, you had to go between set-ups. So people were cautious what they drank, but it was so hot and people were sweating so there was minimal need for bathroom trips. Luckily around 12:00noon two port-o-potties were delivered.
When it came time for our first call to the set we were lined up, and someone assigned us things to do. I got to sit at the counter in front of Ed Harris and John Ashton. My counter partner was an actor called Montez. Me and ‘my friend’ (as we became known during the shoot) were given bowls with Jamaican style peas and rice and bread and little saucers. They gave us drinks filled with plastic ice cubes, so they wouldn’t melt. We were told not to drink it, just pretend. The food was real though, it’s just that it had passed through so many hands. Every time they said “action”, we had to pretend to eat and drink. I tasted some of the beans and rice. They were good. I wouldn’t have minded having some of the curried goat or jerk chicken that was being served.
In the scene, Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan come in and talk to the older detectives. We did many takes, and of course the actors were flubbing their lines. Some of the flubs will probably make great outtakes. Ben Affleck kept coming over to Casey, pulling him aside and speaking to him in a low voice. It looked like he wasn’t pleased with his little bro’s acting, but finally he got it right. When they finished the first part, we had to go out mill around the equipment and wait to be called again. We were called in again and did the same thing, shot from a different angle. Michelle Monaghan talked to us, along with Casey between shots. I was like, wow, I’m talking to Michelle Monaghan! Casey even though he spoke to us seemed scared of us.
Finally we got a lunch break. Lunch was great! We were bused over to 12th Baptist Church on Warren St.. I wonder if Ben and the other crew knew that Martin Luther King Jr. was a Minister at that Church while he was a student at Boston University. We were in an historic venue. We got a hot lunch and got to choose what we wanted. There was Grilled Tilapia, Chicken Parmesan and Italian sausage, not to mention salads, fruits, desserts and other foodstuffs. Ben Affleck sat with his family and friends at a table in a section of the hall with dimmed lights. His wife Jennifer Garner got up came over to the table next to us and was chatting on her cell phone. It sounded like she was making a deal for a movie, or conditions on the future movie set for a film she’d be acting in. It was cool to see the Alias star in the flesh and she smiled at everyone. Soon lunch was over.
Ben and his wife took a photo with a lady from 12th Baptist and signed an autograph for another member. Then they were gone. Before, we went back our staff person told us to make sure we used the bathroom etc. We lined up outside and got bused back to the set. While we were waiting for the van, someone drove by and through a bag of garbage out their car window. The woman who took the photo with Ben ran into the street and picked it up and put in a garbage can.
Back at the set, this time, we had to wait until around 8:00pm to be called. So we just hung around. The sad thing was that there were no chairs, so we stood around. It was steaming hot. Luckily there was a big tube piping cool air, into the restaurant and also to certain areas of the parking. We took turns standing around it to cool off. The crew kept telling us to drink and stay hydrated so that we wouldn’t pass out. Some chairs were removed from the restaurant and some of the guys went to get them so we could sit on them, then some woman on the crew same running after them and told them to put them back. After a couple of hours people got so fed up of standing that they just took the chairs and sat.
So for our final scene, I was sitting at the counter on a stool when Ben Affleck brushed against my back and I almost spilled my fake drink. Well, the space was narrow so anything could happen. I turned and looked and he walked away without saying anything. If it had been elsewhere, I would have expected an, “excuse me.” But hey this was a Hollywood set. So I got back to the business of waiting for the cue and pretending to eat the now cold and dried out food. Someone told me I should hawk my shirt on E-bay! Ben Affleck touched it! LOL! I like my shirt, no way!
Ed Harris is the coolest guy! He came over and greeted all the extras and asked our names. On the set he addressed us by name. We were amazed that he remembered our names. During the day he asked us, how we were doing. What a nice person, I’m a fan not just as an actor but of him as a human being.
Why do I say this, because that whole day and despite seeing Ben Affleck numerous times and being physically close to us, he never spoke to us. He never said, Hello, Good-Bye, or thanks. He never asked any of us extras how we’re doing, told us good job or anything. Truth said, all that was being done by the crew and the assistants. Most of time Ben just sat behind some screen which showed what was being filmed. It was someone else telling people what to do. I guess that’s the Hollywood style of making films. As to conditions, I guess there are trade-offs, I've been on films, which had a great holding area and hardly anything to eat or drink, or worse you have to go and buy your own food. None of the extras went up to him and asked for his autograph or to take a photo with him, maybe we should have. I'm sure we'll see Ben Affleck again, Boston is a small town.
Note this film is Ben Affleck’s directorial debut. I hope it’s a hit at the Box Office and even better would be if it earns some Oscar nods. How cool, would that be to be able to say, “ I was an Extra in an Oscar nominated film!” Remember in filmmaking they may never use the scene. But hey it will be cool to see myself on the big A-list screen even if all you see is my back!
* I took some photos and will post them as soon as they are processed. Sorry none of Ben or Jen.