“Real Steel,” Hugh Jackman’s latest, which was filmed around Michigan last year, comes out tomorrow.
And after being bound by a nondisclosure agreement, at last I can reveal to the world what my starring role is.
OK, not really “starring,” per se. If you look really hard you can find me in the background.
I got in on the ground floor as an extra during the first week of filming. It was June 2010, it was hot, and we had a tornado warning just as things were wrapping up.
I’m a balloon seller during the fair scene toward the beginning of the movie. As the robot fought a bull, I was the guy in a red-and-white striped shirt selling balloons to the crowd. (Actually, it was windy enough that my balloons constantly got tangled, so I didn’t get to hand out many.) I also sold balloons and empty beer cans to patrons walking the grounds. (I can’t tell you how many men I saw practically in tears as the production assistants dumped all that beer on the ground.)
The photo above is from my scene. I’m not in it. At that point, I was working the stands. But it’s worth noting that we had real robots on set. They weren’t fully functional, but they did have animatronic parts and could move a bit. Different ones were built for different things, including pieces for when they get destroyed. At the time, director Shawn Levy mentioned he wanted to have real robots as much as possible to make things look more real.
I talk more about it in an article today on our movies page. But I hadn’t seen the movie by deadline, and none of the people I know who did remembered noticing me. All that despite me waving my arms frantically whenever the camera swooped by. (OK, not really — that would have gotten me kicked out faster than a straight woman or gay man fainting at the sight of Jackman, who’s even better looking in person.)
I finally got into a screening last night. I don’t want to steal reviewer Adam Graham’s thunder, so I won’t post a review now. (OK, maybe a little bit — overall, it was pretty awesome.)
But I’m pleased to say I could see myself. The scene we filmed for a week is the first 10 minutes (tops) of the film. I saw myself in the stands and on the grounds with my balloons. It’s about 50/50 face/back.
As for filming, it was brutally hot, but the crew was fairly good at taking care of us. If we couldn’t go back to the extras tent, they sometimes brought out water, fresh fruit, snacks and frozen treats. They were looking for volunteers for Friday, and I kept telling myself I wouldn’t do it, but I caved when asked. They were doing close-ups, and I figured it gave me a stronger chance of making the cut.
It’s my fifth go as an extra. My first was almost 20 years ago on an HBO movie about the Tuskegee Airmen. I’m out of focus in the back row of one scene. I ‘m a little green dot two hours and 30 seconds into the original “Tranformers.” More recently, I walked back and forth across the street from American Coney Island in downtown Detroit for four hours on the set of the upcoming “LOL” with Thomas Jane, Demi Moore and Miley Cyrus. I didn’t get to meet any of them, either.
So “Real Steel” was my best chance to see myself on the big screen. I’m glad it paid off.