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Old 05-06-2012, 10:50 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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I was an Avengers extra

I wrote a first draft of this right after filming, and recently revised it, now that the movie has been released in the U.S. and we're released from the studio's nondisclosure agreement. Hope you like it. I'll remember that night for a long, long time.

* * *

On Monday, Aug. 29, 2011, my friend Mel met me at my office in downtown Cleveland, Ohio at 4pm. We planned to walk around downtown and see the filming sites for the Marvel Comics superhero movie The Avengers across the street from the Justice Center at the Old Courthouse, and at Public Square.

Mel noticed a sign in Fort Huntington Park, adjoining the Old Courthouse, that said "Extras check in here." He suggested we apply to be extras. I said that I'd understood that all of the extras had already had screen tests and been signed up weeks before, but he thought it was worth a try, and I agreed. We walked up to a big tent in the park, one of a half-dozen there, and spoke to a woman at a table there. She turned out to be Maryellen, the extras casting coordinator (we later learned that she has more than 40 movies to her credit on IMDb.com, including Star Trek, Inception, Transformers, The Princess Diaries, etc.). She looked us over and said, "Maybe we can use you. You both look like you're about average size." High praise indeed! I gave her my business card and wrote my cellphone number on the back. She said she'd call in the next half hour. Mel and I thanked her and walked to Public Square, seeing the remnants of the set at the base of Terminal Tower (by that point, just some German street signs and the marquee of a fake Stuttgart theater, disassembled and on a flatbed trailer).

Half an hour passed and we hadn't heard from Maryellen, so we walked back to Huntington Park. She said we were hired! We filled out some paperwork and were asked to wait. Other extras, mostly men in tuxedos and women in fancy gowns, were helping themselves to hot dogs and orange juice (!) on the caterer's table, so we did too. That was our dinner.

After a few minutes, our forms now processed, one of Maryellen's assistants asked us to report to the costume tent. Nigel, one of the chief costumers (also lots of movies under his belt, including Saving Private Ryan, Forrest Gump, Thor, Iron Man, etc.), a rather snippy Englishman, asked us our sizes and found us tuxes. Both of us needed some tailoring, which we waited for, but it didn't take long. Nigel then cinched up my suspenders so tightly I thought I just might get a wedgie, but fortunately I didn't. We were next directed to the makeup and hair tent. The hair gal looked at me and said I was OK, but gave Mel a little trim. The makeup gal looked at me and also said I was OK, but gave Mel a little facial powdering. Sheesh - what a diva.

We waited in the extras tent for awhile longer and then were asked to step out onto the long pathway leading to the black marble Peace Officers' Memorial in the corner of the park, men on one side, women on the other. A casting assistant went down the line and quickly matched up every man with a woman. (There were more men than women, and the unmatched men were dubbed our "men of mystery" - gay or just stag, it didn't really matter). Most of the women were in gowns or fancy dresses; most of the men were in tuxes of various designs, although some were in somewhat fancy punk or "artiste" garb.

Mel was paired with Sherry, an actress about ten years younger than him, vivacious and very friendly. I was paired with Michelle, a young married mother of two from Youngstown who works at an cellphone call center but hopes to become an actress and model. She had a pierced tongue, swore like a sailor and smoked at every opportunity, but we actually got along pretty well.

We took a few photos of ourselves but tried not to be obvious about it, since we were warned that the production crew might confiscate Mel's camera. We were then several times over many hours marched in and then out of the Old Courthouse atrium, which had been set-decorated as a German museum with Babylonian artifacts on display (I looked at a display case of small cuneiform tablets and the like, and even the labels were in German! Pretty impressive attention to a detail that would never been seen on screen). Michelle and I were initially in the back of the atrium, champagne (actually ginger ale) glasses in hand, chatting either silently or aloud, as the sound crew called for. A string quartet was arrayed behind us, pretending to play their instruments (I assumed the music will be dubbed in later). Mel and Sherry were ushered towards the front, to our left.

At the center of the atrium was a carved stone-looking altar designed like a pair of bulls. We ran through a scene several times in which Loki, the Norse god/villain, knocked away a security guard and attacked a man who had been speaking at a microphone to the crowd. We had to draw back in fright, then scream, yell and run away. Everyone born in January through March ran to the right; everyone born April through December (that included Michelle and me) had to run to the left. We did this several times.

Many hours passed, and we went in and out of the building, herded like cattle. Around eleven, a huge spaghetti dinner was put out for everyone in the extras tent; I wasn't very hungry at that hour and ate little. For the rest of the night, the long table was full of snacks of every possible type and flavor: nuts, chips, raisins, candy bars, crackers - even vitamin supplements!

For what turned out to be our last scene of the evening, or rather morning (since by now it was approaching dawn), Mel, Sherry, Michelle and I were finally in a shot together, greeting each other near a roped-off obelisk or stele. Then an assistant director asked Michelle and me to cross in front of the string quartet, which had a camera right behind it, for several takes. If that bit of film makes it into the movie we should be visible. Tom Hiddleston, the actor playing Loki, was thanked and excused from the set, and I was nearby as several of the crew said their farewells to him, but I didn't talk to him myself. We saw the director, Joss Whedon, from across the atrium. There were no other big-name stars on set all night; I thought the man who was attacked at the microphone might be Colm Feore, whom I've seen in a few movies, but when I saw the actor more closely I realized it wasn't.

By then Michelle was getting a little worried, as it was her son's first day of kindergarten, and she was concerned that she wouldn't have time to drive home and help him get ready. We agreed that if the shoot wasn't completed within half an hour, we'd just leave. Fortunately, that was indeed the last scene. The director said, "It's a wrap. Thank you, Cleveland!," and everyone applauded. We went back to the extras tent and then the costume tent, getting out of our costumes and turning them in, and receiving a receipt/confirmation slip. I said goodbye to Mel and Michelle, but didn't see Sherry again. I drove home and only had time to kiss wife and sons, and then shower and change, before driving back downtown for work.

Two brief naps that day, and a good long sleep overnight, and I felt pretty much back to normal the next day.

* * *

I went to see the movie tonight with Mel and his grown son Rick. Mel was pretty sure he saw himself, and Rick was pretty sure he saw us both, but despite looking VERY hard I couldn't be sure of seeing either of us in the Stuttgart scene. The times when we might have been onscreen were very brief - probably no more than half a minute or so. I probably won't know for sure until the movie comes out on DVD, and I can look frame-by-frame.

Great movie, though! Highly recommended. Be sure to stay all the way through the end of ALL the credits.
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  #2  
Old 05-06-2012, 11:38 PM
Pine Fresh Scent Pine Fresh Scent is offline
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Thanks for that post. The closest I've come to that type of experience was walking by an outdoor set of Hawaii 5-0 last summer.
How did you handle the silent conversations? Did you just mouth "peas and carrots" or pantomime that you two were having a real conversation?
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Old 05-07-2012, 12:02 AM
Oakminster Oakminster is offline
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Did you get paid?
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Old 05-07-2012, 12:05 AM
a35362 a35362 is online now
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Good story! Thank you for sharing.
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Old 05-07-2012, 04:51 AM
thelurkinghorror thelurkinghorror is online now
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Interesting. I'm sure I could be asking all kinds of interesting questions here, but I'll go with a mundane one, so... January through March? Were there fewer people there that were born in the last 3/4 of the year during the shoot?
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Old 05-07-2012, 06:43 AM
kittenblue kittenblue is offline
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I didn't have any plans to see this movie (I know, it's a Doper sacrilege and disloyal to my city, especially since they filmed just outside my building) but now that I know you are in in somewhere, I will be sure to watch!
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Old 05-07-2012, 07:37 AM
Biggirl Biggirl is offline
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Originally Posted by Pine Fresh Scent View Post
Thanks for that post. The closest I've come to that type of experience was walking by an outdoor set of Hawaii 5-0 last summer.
How did you handle the silent conversations? Did you just mouth "peas and carrots" or pantomime that you two were having a real conversation?
They could have had a conversation like in last night's Veep where Mary Louis Dryfuss is fake talking with her daughter. Something like this:

Veep: Camera. Pretend we are having a serious conversation.
Daughter: What is wrong with your face?
Veep: We're having a serious conversation. Pretend we're talking.
Daughter: But we are talking!
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Old 05-07-2012, 07:57 AM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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We weren't told to mouth anything in particular in our fake conversations. I've done some amateur theater before so when we were asked to be silent, I just moved my mouth as if I was actually saying what I had in mind. When we were asked to make noise, we just had a "real conversation" while trying to stay in character (our self-created backstories were that we were Very Important and Artsy German People, but not much more than that).

Yes, we got paid a little. But I would've paid THEM for the chance to do this!

Don't know how they came up with the months as to who ran where.

Thanks, kittenblue! Hope you like it. Terminal Tower has never looked so good.

Last edited by Elendil's Heir; 05-07-2012 at 07:58 AM..
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Old 05-07-2012, 08:24 AM
Sigmagirl Sigmagirl is offline
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Thanks for posting. I have several friends who applied to be extras, but were not selected. Good for you!
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Old 05-07-2012, 11:30 AM
Chronos Chronos is online now
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Don't know how they came up with the months as to who ran where.
I'm guessing that in a real disaster, most folks would have some sense of where the nearest exits are, so you'll have more people running the correct way, but some people would be too clueless or panicked and so run the wrong way. Thus, having most people run one way and some folks the other looks more realistic. And doing it by birthdates is a nice simple randomization that can be done without telling individual extras where to run.
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Old 05-07-2012, 04:10 PM
Le Ministre de l'au-delà Le Ministre de l'au-delà is offline
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How very cool!
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Old 05-07-2012, 04:27 PM
Maiira Maiira is offline
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Awesome! That's great that they were able to find costumes for the both of you; I wonder how many extra tuxes/gowns they'd brought along? And that sounds like a long night, though it also sounds like a lot of fun. And, hey, I may just go and see the movie now just for the doper support.

I have a friend who was an extra in Prairie Home Companion, I'll have to ask him what his own experience was like.
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Old 05-07-2012, 04:48 PM
freckafree freckafree is offline
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How cool! I'm so glad I know (sorta) someone who's in the movie!

Aeons ago, my husband was a speaking extra in the American Playhouse production of Pudd'nhead Wilson. His scene ended up on the cutting room floor because the main actor who was supposed to be in the scene had a heart attack and died on set before the scene was shot. They replaced the actor, but I think the editors felt so oogy about the scene, they decided to leave it out.
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Old 05-07-2012, 08:40 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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Awesome! That's great that they were able to find costumes for the both of you; I wonder how many extra tuxes/gowns they'd brought along?....
The park next to the courthouse was full of big tents, one of which was filled with rack after rack of men's and women's formalwear. It didn't take them too long to find us our tuxes.
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Old 05-07-2012, 08:50 PM
kenobi 65 kenobi 65 is offline
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Cool story, and well-told, my friend.
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Old 05-07-2012, 09:02 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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From a college friend of mine:

NICE! You're on for a few seconds at the beginning of the Stuttgart scene! Most excellent--I'm very jealous!... You were walking across the screen left to right, in the front of the crowd at the party, with the quartet in the foreground. I'll be seeing it again and I'll stay alert

I recognized several Cleveland shots, but only because I've spent so much time there. (I haven't seen anything like Public Square in Stuttgart, but I've been there a number of times as well--if I hadn't, I wouldn't have known )
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Old 05-07-2012, 09:53 PM
GuanoLad GuanoLad is offline
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
And doing it by birthdates is a nice simple randomization that can be done without telling individual extras where to run.
Especially since you can do it proportionately; a half, a quarter, or a third is easy to quickly arrange when you use months.
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Old 05-08-2012, 02:57 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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Especially since you can do it proportionately; a half, a quarter, or a third is easy to quickly arrange when you use months.
As it happens, we were also divided up into quadrants of the atrium, so we knew when our group was needed on set.
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Old 05-08-2012, 04:25 PM
Chronos Chronos is online now
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I recognized several Cleveland shots, but only because I've spent so much time there. (I haven't seen anything like Public Square in Stuttgart, but I've been there a number of times as well--if I hadn't, I wouldn't have known )
There's a nice, clear shot of the Terminal Tower some time right around there. There's also a scene in the trailers that I think is Prospect Ave., but I didn't notice it in the movie itself (a car getting blown up).
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Old 05-08-2012, 10:37 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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Yes. The interior of the German art museum was the atrium of the Old Courthouse; the exterior was Terminal Tower, two long blocks to the southwest of there.
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Old 05-09-2012, 11:39 AM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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The Old Cuyahoga Courthouse:

http://www.demarcotriscaro.com/image...Courthouse.jpg
http://brentdurken.com/wp-content/up...ouse-steps.jpg
http://z.about.com/d/cleveland/1/0/2...houselobby.jpg

Loki walks right in front of this fine old mural of the signing of Magna Carta (not what you'd expect to find in a German art museum):

http://farm2.staticflickr.com/1430/1...7d4425a3_m.jpg
http://www.flickr.com/photos/onasill/1464317976/
http://farm2.staticflickr.com/1404/1...3978d89c_z.jpg

Public Square, outside and below the Terminal Tower:

http://www.gcbl.org/system/files/public_square_sw.jpg
http://www.chss.iup.edu/kpatrick/Gre...May%202005.jpg

Last edited by Elendil's Heir; 05-09-2012 at 11:42 AM..
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Old 05-09-2012, 11:51 AM
Larry Borgia Larry Borgia is online now
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What do you look like EH I'm gonna see it again tonight, and I'll keep an eye out for you.
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Old 05-09-2012, 11:57 AM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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From the SDMB Portrait Gallery (to which I encourage you all to submit pics, if you haven't already): http://www.nouilles.info/sdpix/46809.html.

Michelle just emailed me last night to say she'd seen the movie, too, and she DID see us in it.
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Old 05-09-2012, 11:58 AM
Sicks Ate Sicks Ate is online now
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Great movie, though! Highly recommended. Be sure to stay all the way through the end of ALL the credits.
Thanks for this tip!! We were the only two left in the theater by the end of the credits, and we were NOT disappointed
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Old 05-12-2012, 07:09 PM
Cayuga Cayuga is online now
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Elendil's Heir -

I read this thread the night before I saw the movie. I was on my phone, so I didn't click on the link to your photo. I had no idea what you look like, and I still spotted you on the screen (I knew you were in the orchestra shot) — that's a pretty sweet walk-through!

Here's my question: Were any of the other parts of the movie shot in Cleveland? It seems kind of odd to me they would travel all the way to Ohio to find a stand-in for Stuttgart. There must have been something passable in or around LA, if not New Mexico. Especially for the interior shots.

Nicely written summary, too. Thanks!
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Old 05-12-2012, 07:53 PM
Ethilrist Ethilrist is offline
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... I thought the man who was attacked at the microphone might be Colm Feore, whom I've seen in a few movies, but when I saw the actor more closely I realized it wasn't.
Seeing as how Colm played Loki's father, King Laufey, in Thor, that would have been pretty awesome for him to play the guy Loki attacks in this scene.
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Old 05-12-2012, 07:55 PM
Siam Sam Siam Sam is offline
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I just saw this thread, and we'd already planned to see the movie tomorrow (Monday). Will definitely keep an eye out.

Last edited by Siam Sam; 05-12-2012 at 07:58 PM..
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Old 05-12-2012, 10:07 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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Elendil's Heir -

I read this thread the night before I saw the movie. I was on my phone, so I didn't click on the link to your photo. I had no idea what you look like, and I still spotted you on the screen (I knew you were in the orchestra shot) — that's a pretty sweet walk-through!

Here's my question: Were any of the other parts of the movie shot in Cleveland? It seems kind of odd to me they would travel all the way to Ohio to find a stand-in for Stuttgart. There must have been something passable in or around LA, if not New Mexico. Especially for the interior shots.

Nicely written summary, too. Thanks!
Thanks for your feedback - I'll definitely be trying to spot myself when I next see the movie.

The scene where Loki first appears in the SHIELD lab was filmed at the NASA Glenn Research Center near Cleveland Hopkins Intl. Airport, and the scene of Loki's hidden lab (in the grimy underground tunnel) was filmed within the Detroit-Superior Bridge.
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Old 05-13-2012, 04:04 PM
Chronos Chronos is online now
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Oh, cool, I didn't realize those were location, too. I've been on tours of that tunnel-- I'll have to watch it again to see that.

And I think that most of the street-level Manhattan shots were Cleveland, too (though the skyline was obviously artificial, to accommodate Stark Tower).
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Old 05-13-2012, 08:00 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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Yes, some of the combat scenes at street level were filmed at the intersection of East Ninth and Euclid in Cleveland; others were filmed in Albuquerque, N.M.
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Old 05-13-2012, 08:20 PM
Lasciel Lasciel is offline
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I saw it tonight and looked for you, but didn't see you. (I'll obviously just have to watch it again!) My friends were all very impressed that I "knew" someone who was in the Avengers as an extra.

Very cool, and what a fun opportunity and set of memories for you!
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Old 05-14-2012, 10:40 AM
Siam Sam Siam Sam is offline
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Okay, so we saw the film this afternoon, and I'm pretty sure I spotted you, Elendil's Heir. I think. It had to have been you, it was in the exact spot you described -- Stuttgart, orchestra, moving from left to right, accompanying some lady. It was over in a flash, but it looked like you were clean-shaven? I may be mistaken about that, it was so fast.
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Old 05-14-2012, 12:10 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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Okay, so we saw the film this afternoon, and I'm pretty sure I spotted you, Elendil's Heir. I think. It had to have been you, it was in the exact spot you described -- Stuttgart, orchestra, moving from left to right, accompanying some lady. It was over in a flash, but it looked like you were clean-shaven? I may be mistaken about that, it was so fast.
No, I had a beard, then and now, but based on what I've heard from several folks, that was probably me. I'll take another look next time for sure!
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Old 05-14-2012, 10:19 PM
Siam Sam Siam Sam is offline
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It had to have been you I saw. Someone needs to get the DVD and stop-action the spot.
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Old 05-17-2012, 10:11 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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It had to have been you I saw. Someone needs to get the DVD and stop-action the spot.
I will, I will!

Whedon praises Cleveland: http://www.cleveland.com/moviebuff/i..._director.html
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Old 05-24-2012, 11:09 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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Success!

I saw the movie for a second time tonight with some friends, and spotted Michelle and myself in that scene. I think my problem the first time was that I was looking too far to the left. When we first appear on screen, we're already in the middle of the frame and moving right. I excitedly pointed myself out to my buddies and they both recognized me, too. Woohoo! Michelle and I are actually onscreen for probably no more than three seconds or so, but it was clearly us.

Overall the movie was just about as much fun as it was the first time around. The theater wasn't all that crowded, and I told some of the folks who were about to leave at the end that they might want to stick around for the two final-credits scenes. They said afterwards they were glad they did.

Last edited by Elendil's Heir; 05-24-2012 at 11:09 PM..
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Old 05-25-2012, 09:31 AM
JSexton JSexton is offline
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That's pretty cool. You get to be a part of something amazing, even if it's just a tiny part. It's also fascinating to think of how much time and energy goes into what is essentially just part of the background. All the costumes, makeup, hair, food, and so on that makes up the logistics of supporting the extras.
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Old 05-25-2012, 08:14 PM
Siam Sam Siam Sam is offline
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This reminds me of one documentary I saw. I can't remember the title, but it was about Holocaust survivors. One lady said she never saw any of her family again, except for one person. As I recall, She was watching a movie years later, and there he was on screen playing a ticket taker in a theater. That was all -- he took someone's ticket and was gone. Just a couple of seconds. It really was him. But the movie studio had no record of where to find him. He was just an anonymous extra they'd hired, and the movie was already fairly old when she saw it. But he was immortalized on film.

Last edited by Siam Sam; 05-25-2012 at 08:15 PM..
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Old 05-25-2012, 09:57 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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Interesting - thanks. That further reminds me of a recent documentary on Anne Frank that I saw. Apparently, the only known moving-picture images of Anne are at a family friend's wedding, where she is briefly seen looking out an upstairs window.
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Old 09-25-2012, 09:11 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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My wife insisted on getting the Blu-Ray/DVD today, and not waiting for Christmas. Of course we immediately went to the art museum scene. There's no doubt that's Michelle and me. Going slo-mo, I was also able to spot Mel and Sherry a couple of times in the background, and Michelle and me too - reacting to Loki grabbing the guy, and then running out of the museum in a panic.

As it happens, I was just in the Old Courthouse last night for a judges' and lawyers' reception. But it'll always be Stuttgart to me!
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Old 09-25-2012, 09:25 PM
kittenblue kittenblue is offline
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Oh, great. Now I HAVE to watch the darned thing!
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Old 09-25-2012, 09:51 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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Oh, great. Now I HAVE to watch the darned thing!
Darn tootin'!
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Old 09-25-2012, 10:11 PM
diku diku is offline
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Just checked my copy, fairly easy to spot. Nice screen time!
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  #44  
Old 09-25-2012, 11:13 PM
BMalion BMalion is offline
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I just watched it tonight for the first time.

I saw you!


Was it hard bowing to Loki?
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  #45  
Old 09-26-2012, 08:29 AM
muldoonthief muldoonthief is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elendil's Heir View Post
My wife insisted on getting the Blu-Ray/DVD today, and not waiting for Christmas. Of course we immediately went to the art museum scene. There's no doubt that's Michelle and me. Going slo-mo, I was also able to spot Mel and Sherry a couple of times in the background, and Michelle and me too - reacting to Loki grabbing the guy, and then running out of the museum in a panic.

As it happens, I was just in the Old Courthouse last night for a judges' and lawyers' reception. But it'll always be Stuttgart to me!
Timestamps please!
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  #46  
Old 09-26-2012, 09:07 AM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BMalion View Post
...Was it hard bowing to Loki?
Those were the folks out on Public Square, filmed several nights earlier. My friend Sabah was among them, but I wasn't able to spot her in any of the outdoor scenes, even with slo-mo.
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  #47  
Old 09-26-2012, 12:31 PM
Cat Whisperer Cat Whisperer is offline
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That's so cool! We went to see the movie again last weekend, but I didn't realize I had to look for someone I know in the scenes.

I'll look next time we watch it - we loved the movie, and will be buying the blu-ray. And yes, the stinger is one of the best I've ever seen.
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  #48  
Old 09-26-2012, 01:34 PM
kenobi 65 kenobi 65 is offline
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Got my Blu-Ray disc in the mail from Amazon yesterday. I'll have to go in and look for you in that scene, now that I know where you are.
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  #49  
Old 09-26-2012, 02:26 PM
Alka Seltzer Alka Seltzer is offline
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Has anyone managed to get a screen-grab yet?
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  #50  
Old 09-26-2012, 03:35 PM
thelurkinghorror thelurkinghorror is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alka Seltzer View Post
Has anyone managed to get a screen-grab yet?
Photoshop contest!
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