Thousands line up to be extras for Batman film here
9,000 seek 3,000 'Dark Knight' jobs
June 20, 2011 4:00 AM
Katharine Bodner, 19, of Jefferson Hills, right, hands a profile picture over to Pittsburgh Film Office intern Claire Dempsey on Sunday as hundreds of people attend a casting session for "The Dark Knight Rises" at the Omni William Penn hotel, Downtown.
By Barbara Vancheri Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Ryan Searcy isn't usually the one being photographed as he holds a sign with a number in front of his chest.
That's because the Uniontown man is a prison guard at the State Correctional Institution Greene near Waynesburg. But his "have uniform and brawny build, will travel" motto took him to an open casting call for "The Dark Knight Rises."
PG VIDEO: CASTING CALL DRAWS THOUSANDS
The father of four, who has appeared in some plays but no movies, was among nearly 9,000 people who flocked to the Omni William Penn hotel over the course of four days for the chance to appear in the conclusion to Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy.
"Maybe I'll get killed by Two-Face or something. My kids were really excited about it, so I had to go, even though it's Father's Day. They're all waiting for me to get back home so we can have dinner," the 37-year-old said Sunday.
They came in sports jerseys, business attire, Jimmy Buffett T-shirts, panama hats, "Ghostbusters" caps and, in one case, a Steel Man costume.
William Moreno, 39, of Carrick could save some makeup artist a lot of time, given his nearly 60 tattoos, including "Battle Tested" on his neck.
"I think it'd be great just to be seen in a movie, a movie of this caliber. Batman, God, who isn't a Batman fan? I figured I'd stop down and try my luck and maybe my kids and grandkids will see me on TV one day."
Tammy Smith from Smith & Webster-Davis Casting of Los Angeles expects to hire 3,000 extras for the Pittsburgh leg of filming July 28 through Aug. 21.
So having a pool of nearly 9,000 is just about right, she said Sunday before one last address to the hopefuls about availability, stamina, abandoning cell phones during filming and being early to the set, given the city's road construction and traffic jams.
"You need a lot of people to choose from. Not everyone will be selected. Not everyone has the same availability. You need so much more than you're actually going to cast," she said.
The ratio of men to women during the open calls ended up roughly 60-40, which Ms. Smith called ideal. There are more roles for men to play policemen, perps or "someone on the dark side of things."
No matter the gender, though, she says, "We've seen a lot of great faces. A lot of people who were perfect for the movie came out. Sometimes people hear the types we're looking for, and their perception of what they are doesn't always match what we need. But in this case, the right look came out."
The bat signal attracted attention from all over the world -- a real-life cop in the Midwest, a Chicagoan who advertised online for a free or cheap ride to Pittsburgh, an actor in Hawaii who booked a flight until he realized it was an open invitation for potential extras, not supporting roles for professionals.
The hours will be long, the pay wouldn't cover the heating bill at stately Wayne Manor, and extras may be a mere speck over Christian Bale's caped shoulder but this was a rare chance for average people to be in a movie.
Jonathan Martin, an architect from Weirton, W.Va., didn't make the cut for "Super 8" but decided to give "Dark Knight" a try. Jess Hurst, 20, from West Mifflin came dressed as a businesswoman while fellow college student Sarah Galata, 19, of Homestead opted for a shirt celebrating the old "Invader Zim" Nickelodeon show.
"I thought that the experience of being in the movie would be kind of cool and I just dragged her along," said Ms. Hurst although Ms. Galata said she's big into Batman and other comic books, not as much as others but "pretty up there."
Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington were no slackers in attracting interest but Dawn Keezer, director of the Pittsburgh Film Office says, "It's probably the busiest we've been regarding a film in the number of phone calls and inquiries we've received at the film office."
People from all over the world called her office although she had no idea if they followed through.
"I think it's primarily because people know the story. They know Batman. We've always been very lucky that people in the southwestern region really want to participate and be a part of these projects."
Smith & Webster-Davis Casting has been working with Nancy Mosser Casting of Lawrenceville, and hopefuls can still register at mossercasting.com where the movie is listed by its working title of "Magnus Rex."
Ms. Mosser said of the first day, "When we arrived at the William Penn Hotel an hour before we were to start, there were about six or seven people downstairs in the lobby and I said, 'How did you get in?' ... and they said, 'Oh we stayed at the hotel last night. We're here from D.C.' "
They came from across the country and across the river, some taking advantage of the opportunity while already in town. After all, as Ms. Smith said, "If the guy in the cape has no one to protect, that looks really silly."