Extra Extra. Read all about it

by Neil Chapman 

Did I tell you about my brush with Hollywood? No?

Have they mentioned anything to you?

No? Seems I’ll have to tell you then.

Well. You’re in for a treat. But you will have to excuse the name-dropping. So lets get them outta the way. Charlize Thieron, Kristin Stewart, Rupert Saunders, Ray Winstone, Bob Hoskins etc. My co-stars so to speak. Are you sure?

Rewind about eight, nine years ago might be ten, can’t remember actually, but I do remember playing golf with some guy who just happened to mention he occasionally got work as a film extra. Worked when it suited him, bit of fun, he didn’t do it for the rubbish money, he did it for the craic. Interesting I thought, I fancy a go at that. So a matter of hours later, there I was, eagerly Googling up all the casting agencies I could find. And that’s where it lost its appeal; filling in reams and reams of information, supplying photographs etc. As I remember, I think I half-filled a couple of them in, got fed up, didn’t bother any more, and of course never heard a word from them.

So now fast forward to the summer of 2011. Out of the blue I get an e-mail. Simply asked “ Do you have long hair?, ”Can you grow a beard?” “Are you available on these dates?” Not too difficult even for me. So I responded with the new pics they asked for, which then passed a number of ‘auditions’ and I was told to pitch up at Pinewood for a fitting. Seems I was going to be a Noble Lord in the $150 million 2012 summer blockbuster “Snow White and the Huntsman”.  Not quite the stand out role I was now hoping for; there was a 100 or more of us. But it’s a start.

Noble or wot?

Noble or wot?

So I turn up on the due day for my fitting at the labyrinth that is Pinewood Studios. You are quickly assigned a dresser, and mine minced off to find a costume that might fit.  I stood amazed, half naked but amazed, as he disappeared off into the distance. Try and imagine a huge hangar of a building, completely filled with hanging rails, stuffed with every costume, doublet, tights, coat and cloak that had ever appeared in a British period film ever! It was rather like the biggest TMaxx in the world except the clothes were better, and in some cases, more modern.

All in all I did 6 days filming or shooting as we (in the business) call it.  Three days getting slaughtered in the castle courtyard, and three days in the cathedral for Ravenna’s wedding and then Snow White’s coronation scenes. The hours were brutal. Supposedly 6am.until 4pm.ish (but we never left until at least 10pm, and some days were 2pm. until 10pm.ish (got away about 4am.) However despite that I found it fascinating.  Yes, lots of waiting around whilst they set up the next shots, but even that I found really interesting. Organised chaos; electricians, camera guys, make up people, lighting guys, I’m guessing at least 70/80 people all rushing around doing what they had to for the next shot.

Whatever you may have heard about film extras being treated like cattle, ill fed etc. forget it. It was very inclusive experience, everyone was really polite, matey even; all part of the team. As for the grub, first class. And food becomes important at 3am in the morning when you’ve been there 12 hours. And even that becomes a bit of an event; 50 assorted pizzas, 50 lots of fish and chips and 50 lots of scampi and chips, and the chuck wagon kicking off again, turning out burgers. Surreal really, all dressed up in medieval clothes, mingling with the ‘stars’, 3am in the morning, leaning against the walls of a $5 million castle they built last month, and all of us talking bollocks about our next ‘project’. Yup, I’m now officially a ‘Luvvie’.

Of course you don’t get to mingle with Charlize, and obviously Rupert and Kristin were off doing

More evil than medieval

More evil than medieval

their own mingling. But that’s another story. Perhaps ‘Not so Snow White’ or ‘I used to be Snow White but I drifted?’

There’s not much more to add really. Well there is but modesty forbids. I want to tell you how I threw myself into the role, draining myself emotionally, giving it my all as a Noble Lord. There were a couple of moments there I allowed myself to think BAFTA.

All this took place in the November, filming was completed in December, and the film was premiered June 1st 2012. No, the bastards didn’t invite me to the premiere. Leicester Square Odeon, 1673 seats and they can’t fit me in. I could have stood at the side, I’d have been very quiet and I would have promised to wear a suit. But no. I’m ever so slowly beginning to get a bad feeling about this.

So I go to my local Odeon with my Wonderful Girl Friend. She casually mentions at the ticket office “He’s in this” pointing at me. Cue pandemonium… I’m signing autographs for all the staff and the people behind us in the queue. Love it!

Watch the film… it’s good. Very good. But one small problem. I ain’t in it. No-where to be seen. And apart from a minutes worth in the Cathedral, neither was any of the stuff we spent six days filming.

So it was a case of very early one morning in October last, waiting for HMV to open. I thought it odd there was no-one else queuing for it, but that’s another story. And at 9.01 am I have the DVD, the expensive one, the extended version, the directors cut with an extra five minutes, the one with all the added features. At 1pm. I want to take it back. Get my money back. Two hours and seven minutes and no sign of moi! Unbelievable.

Seems that Rupert let Charlize, Kristin, Ray, et al, hog the show. I’m starting to think now this film business is like everything else. It’s who you know. But wait. There’s always the deleted scenes. Of course… at least that’s something. An hour or so later, nope. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. It would appear that I’ve been deleted from the deleted scenes as well.

So that was my brush with Hollywood. The end of a love affair. In fact my experience was a bit like a new love affair…it’s full of nice surprises and then you get fucked. That’s a film industry term I believe.

But guess what? We have to go all through this again. Yaaaaay.

Last May I did a couple of days with Ralph (call me Rafe) Fiennes and Kristin Scott-Thomas (oops, there I go again). It’s a film called The Invisible Woman’, about Charles Dickens and the much younger mistress he kept very quiet about. This time I’m playing a train passenger who gets involved when the train crashes. Lets just say I’m quietly confident I might appear in this one. We’ll see. I think it’s due out in April-ish. Worryingly I haven’t received the invite yet for the premiere…I’m starting to see a pattern here. And there may not be an HMV to bale me out either.

I’ll keep you posted.


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