Rachel Buchanan finds her big chance for film stardom is hobbled from the very start.
THE advert was boxed, single column, easy to miss: ”The Hobbit Official Extras Casting Call 2012”, the heading said. Then: ”The journey continues for 2012 and we are once again seeking EXTRAS.”
Readers were referred to the entertainment section for more details. The requirements were very specific. I was too tall to be a Hobbit (women had to be under five feet) and too solid to be an Elf (”slim, athletic” and between five feet five inches and six feet four inches).
I had one option left. The filmmakers also wanted ”WOMEN – with character faces”.Advertisement: Story continues below
The word character was obviously a code for something. I guessed it meant a little bit weird-looking, maybe even slightly ugly. Or maybe it meant plain but with one knockout facial feature such as a big nose, a warty chin or luminous cauliflower ears. I have a big nose. When the light is right, I also have a cleft chin. I’d do.
”Mum’s going to be a troll,” one of my daughters said.
Across town, my brother Ben had also noticed the ad. Ben was going for ”BIG MEN – with character faces – five nine and over.” Ben is six foot and has a bigger nose than me. The casting call was on the Saturday at Belmont Hall, next to the Belmont Primary School on the Western Hutt Road. Neither of us had heard of Belmont before.
I arranged to borrow our parents’ car. I said I’d take Ben, too. In the days before the audition, I speed read The Hobbit. This was easy because The Hobbit is a book full of action like something on Xbox. The wizard, Gandalf, bullies Bilbo Baggins (the hobbit) into joining 13 dwarfs on a mission to reclaim the dwarf treasure stolen by Smaug the Magnificent, an evil dragon. Along the way, Bilbo bamboozles Gollum with riddles then finds the magic ring, helps the dwarfs escape from goblins, he saves the dwarfs from flesh-eating spiders, Mirkwood elves and suspicious Lake men, he opens the hidden door into the dragon’s lair, etc etc.
The best character is Beorn, a man who becomes a black bear at night. The second best character is Bard, the Lake man who shoots a black arrow into the soft spot on Smaug’s dragon belly and so saves the people of Esgaroth. Ben wanted to be Bard. I wanted to be Beorn. There are no named women characters in the book. In fact, I can’t recall the word woman being used at all by Tolkien.
Saturday arrived. I picked Ben up at 12.15. I already knew that Prime Minister John Key had changed industrial relations law so local actors and crew could be paid less for working on the movie but my brother also told me The Hobbit was going to be the most expensive film ever made. Actually, it was going to be two films. He had a friend working in wardrobe. ”She is ageing leather with mink oil,” he said.
Twenty minutes down the motorway, we noticed a line of cars, then lines of people. I veered across three lanes. Belmont Hall was there, just below the blackberry bushes and gorse. A small hollow was thronged with blond teenagers and a few rotund middle-aged men with beards and black T-shirts. They held slips of white paper. Of course, they had camped out or arrived early. I went down a shingle road by the Hutt River. Some cars faced forwards, some faced back. It was gridlock. I told Ben to get out and save me a spot in the queue.
We prospective EXTRAS worked together to unblock the narrow road. I got out onto the motorway again and parked, three kilometres south, down by the river. I began to trot back towards the hall, hopeful and excited. My phone beeped. It was my brother. ”Hey Rachel where you. I’m done!” his message said.
I was a bit surprised that he’d got in so fast. Then beep, another message: ”I’m by the roundabout.”
Half an hour later I got back to the hall. There were thousands of people, and the little hollow was now packed tight as a mosh-pit. Still, my brother stood out, smoking happily by the roundabout.
”Let’s go,” he said to me. ”But I want my turn,” I said. He looked at me with hard Hollywood eyes. ”You’re really going to wait in this queue?” he said.
He hadn’t waited. All it took was a couple of ciggies and a bit of charm and he was in, right down the front.
I would not be a ”WOMAN – with character face” in the most expensive movie ever made, but as my brother and I started the long walk back to the car, I realised I had already been cast as an extra. I was ”CHAUFFEUR – with sunburnt face”.
Source: Rachel Buchanan, theage.com.au