Disney spotlight focuses on local extras

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It might take three to make a crowd for the rest of us, but in Hollywood it takes 800. That is the number of people the Screen Actors Guild reported were involved as extras in D.C. during the filming of National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets, according to Maggie Haslam of Allied Advertising and Public Relations, who helped organize Disneys celebration Tuesday honoring the locals who made the blink-and-you might-miss-them appearances.

Around 70 people showed up to the Tuesday evening event at Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse to reconnect with the other extras and watch the film. Filming went on in the D.C. area for about three months last year, at locations ranging from a birthday party for the movies president held at Mount Vernon to the Districts landmarks.

This is something I do because I like it, Gloria ONeal of Maryland said. I started off modeling, but it was too hectic so this was the next step. She has been appearing as an extra in films for four years now, but this if my first red carpet event.

Most of the actors who turned out to the party were seasoned professionals with a number of projects under their belts. Wayson Lee, a District resident, began appearing as an extra when he saw an ad in the newspaper to work in 1996s First Kid. Since then he has appeared as a photographer in Airforce One and acted in three seasons of HBOs drama The Wire. He acted in three National Treasure scenes, appearing in the crowds outside the FBI and the Library of Congress.

The extras seemed to have an appreciation for getting to see what goes into making a film. Tommy McFly of Mix 107.3s The Jack Diamond Morning Show appeared as an extra in the movie as a publicity stunt for the morning show. After helping host the event, he said that his favorite part of the experience, aside from craft services, was getting to see all the activity that goes on behind the cameras, and the army of people involved in the film.

Its just something that youve got to love. The hours are long and even though youre sitting waiting to be called, its grueling, ONeal said. She spoke of a 16-hour overnight shoot she did for a recent project, dismissing any notion that extras are just there for kicks.

People think its glamorous, ONeal said. When I worked with Chris Rock [on Head of State,] he asked, Are you all having fun? and everybody was moaning and groaning because we had to keep changing clothes.

A sense of community grew from working together in these conditions. It becomes a family, said Mike Becvar of South Riding, Va., who appeared in National Treasure as a Secret Service agent. Youre standing around all day, you might as well get to know them. This is not a job for the antisocial.

Sharon Carpenter-Rose of Frederick, Md., agreed that meeting people is one of the biggest upsides of the job. Actors are funny people, she said. Its like being in a group of 500 standup comedians.

While many of the extras said they could not find themselves or found that they had been cut from the movie altogether, Alexandria resident John Abel was one of the lucky ones who got to speak during the Mount Vernon birthday party scene. The part, he said, [is] my egocentric favorite.

An extras work is apparently never over. Haslam said that about 120 people had responded to celebrations invitation, but conflicts arose when Night at the Museum 2, filming at the Smithsonian among other D.C. locations last weekend, had to extend filming an extra night because of bad weather. She said that she understood that people were torn between continuing to work and being honored, but a paychecks a paycheck.

Just goes to show, extras are the hardest working actors you might not even see.

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