the alarm went off shortly after 4 a.m. we had gone to sleep around midnight. my call was at 5:30, while joe and kirk came later in the alphabet and so had to be there an hour later. but i was their ride, and we left together, 20 minutes later than i wanted. the casino was about 20 minutes away without traffic and the freeway was jammed. we took an early exit and sped down the old strip, a little nervous as we rushed toward the 'o' theatre, wondering if they would tell me to go home if i was 10 minutes late.
i suppose i should start at the beginning.
remember that day when i was sick and posted the video of r.e.m. and the muppets? well, that afternoon i got a phone call from a friend [kirk] whose wife works at a casting agency and had just told him that 'ocean's 13' was in vegas and needed 200 extras and proposed we leave the next day and go be in the movie. i was sick, tired, and told him i would call him back. within a few minutes i decided i wanted to do it-- a couple of phone calls would take care of my responsibilities at church [that's one reason why we have counsellors] and opportunities like this don't come along everyday. as cool as it would be to see brad pitt and george clooney, what i [and kirk] really wanted to see was steven soderbergh, the man behind 'ocean's 11 and 12', 'erin brockovich', and the great 'traffic'. that would be cool.
a very sloq oil change on friday held us back a bit, then up to salt lake to grab kirk, pick up joe back here at byu, and we were off to vegas. we stayed at a friend of kirk's [thereby greatly cutting costs and making this trip feasable] where i slept on the floor and tried to off any cockroach i saw [trip total: 4].
we were to report for costume fitting at noon on saturday. we left an hour early to make sure we could find the place and did so within 15 minutes. we were in and out before 12. they loved my shirt [tj max, thank you] and gave me some gray pinstripe slacks to wear and a number to pick it up.
we went out for good sushi, ran around the strip, checking out the bellagio in all it's class, trying on clothes that cost as much as my car at ceasar's palace, and had dinner at a wolfgang puck restaurant in the mgm grand. three fountain shows at the bellagio and we headed home, renting and watching 'ocean's 11' and falling asleep to 'ocean's 12'.
monday morning got us in a long line of extras, mostly amidst aspiring actors, eager to show off their talents of being able to sit at a slot machine or silently sipping a drink. i got my pants and dressed, happy that everything was working out without a hitch, feeling a little strange as the grips pushed their carts past us, watching, as it were, from the wrong side.
breakfast was catered by the hotel/casino and was quite good [especially the hashbrowns]. we ate in the theatre where cirque du soleil performs their 'o' show, and after a while a couple of 2nd a.d.s came and explained things.
'today we have bernie mac, andy garcia, and al pacino.'
who else can we add to the 'ocean's' movies? how about al pacino? sure.
actually, it seemed like a natural progression. wow. to see al pacino. the godfather.
yet, despite all that, i was a little bummed that george clooney and brad pitt weren't going to be there--they're the ones i think of when i think of 'ocean's 11'.
they called a large group of 'casino gamblers' [which is what we were] to go out, but not our row.
and we waited.
thoughts began to come: what if they don't need us? what if we spend both days just here in the theatre?
right out that door and down the hall are bernie mac, andy garcia, and al pacino, all being directed by oscar winner steven soderbergh....
and we're in here.
we didn't come with a ravenous hope of being discovered or schmoozing with anyone; we were just independant filmmakers who wanted to see what a big set of a great director is like.
we hung out right by the doors, so that whenever they called for us, we would be right there. and sure enough, it worked.
by luck and grace, we managed to not get placed in some obscure background, but at the outer row of video poker machines--the camera was still a ways a way, but we had a chance of being seen.
as we were waiting around for something, i was straining to see mr. soderbergh. i thought i saw him: a guy standing near the camera who kind of looked like him and wasn't doing much but looked focused. when i saw him move toward the camera as they called 'rehearsal', i figured it was him. [he not only lights his own work, he operates the camera, too].
we heard some applause, and i looked across the masses to see bernie mac in a bright orange blazer and pink shirt [stars are easy to recognize in costume, thankfully]. we saw a propmaster, holding the cane andy garcia carries in '12', and soon saw mr. benedict himself. but what was really exciting was when we noticed the stand-ins, just behind me [at a machine] and right in front of kirk [who was assigned to mingle with some other gamblers], for one of them was about the size and complexion of mr. al pacino.
sure enough, we heard some more applause, and around came michael corleone, al pacino.
he looks like he looks. dressed very sharp, his character is obviously in line with terry benedict [andy garcia was also dressed to the max]. while near us, his general action was to walk past us and then into the section where the other two charaters were.
for being one of the legendary actors of cinema, it was nice to see that he was not a complete dink. everyone professionally gave him his space, but i also saw him joking with an older couple of extras. that was very cool.
and i have the honor of having used the same restroom as him.
for they are human, like us.
am i in the movie? i think i'll be able to freeze the dvd and see my back. thankfully, my shirt stands out well.
lunch was a nice box lunch, again courtesy of the bellagio, and then back to the same spot. when the camera wasn't on us, we gathered togethed and tried to see across the crowd to what mr. soderbergh was doing. not quite the educational experience we had hoped for, but we didn't complain.
jokingly, i said i wanted to go up to him and ask, 'are you peter andrews?' i'll let you look that one up for yourself, but it would put me ahead of the usual adoring fan. i could even compliment him on rating the 'ocean's 11' stock at 1500 and pushing it two stops while holding a great image.
speaking of an over-excited camera assistant, i saw that there was another camera operator for 'b' camera, and this is one more reason to stay and watch the credits of a movie--you start to recognize names, especially if you've read about them in magazines. and sure enough, the 'b' operator was duane manwiller, whom i've read about, seen pictures of, and who worked on 'solaris' [also soderbergh's]. i would have had no problem introducing myself to him, as i doubt camera operators get recognized by extras very much, and it would have been fun, but i never got close enough.
the 2nd a.d.s told us they usually do 8 hour days, 10 at most, which left us baffled, as i have never heard of regular days that short-- 12 is standard here in utah, and i thought that was industry standard. but our day did go long, a little over 12 hours for those of us with 5:30 calls, and so we got overtime pay [the bonus of bigger shoots is more money for everyone, even the extras].
the downside is that they evidently worked faster than planned [hard to imagine, since it seems like we only did four or five shots that day], and so they didn't need us for the next day.
we went out for dinner at the venetian that night, watched 'ocean's 12' at home, and concluded our trip.
i think in the end, after we get paid, the whole adventure will have cost me about $30. not bad for a weekend in vegas with a couple of good friends and a day on set in steven soderbergh's new movie, next to al pacino and andy garcia.