The following blog post contains spoilers for the upcoming The Dark Knight Rises as well as some strong language. Bloggers Discreation Advised!
So, yesterday was a big day for me because I got a chance to live a life long dream to be in a major motion picture. Not just any major motion picture, what is sure to be the biggest movie of 2012.
This is my experience as an extra on the set of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
To start things off, I'll talk about how I got to be an extra. Basically, the local news was advertising that the production team behind The Dark Knight Rises were looking for unpaid extras to take part in a fictional football game between the Gotham Rogues and the Rapid City Marauders.
I wasn't going to let this opportunity get away from me and so I signed up and a few weeks after I signed up, I got my set and info pack:
So the Saturday of the shoot finally came and I took a shuttle bus from the Mellon Arena down to Heinz Field, transformed for the day as Gotham Stadium. I got there at about 6:30 in the morning and arrived at the field at around 7. I sat down in one of the numerous seats and you can tell that the stadium looked very different, part of the field was lifted up, there were signs for the Gotham Rogues all over the place and there were fans in Gotham face pain and make up.
This is what the stadium looked like and this is the only shot I was able to get from inside the stadium:
The stadium was never full, I would guess that they was about 20,000 people there all day, maybe even more. And Heinz Field seats about 65,000 people for a football game. About half of the seats were filled for much of the day.
Director Christopher Nolan was there along with the producers, cinematographers, director of photography, and the special effects wizards along with some other crew members. And the Gotham Rogues were actual players from The Pittsburgh Steelers. People like Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward, Troy Polamalu, Heath Miller, James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, and more. Hines Ward, apparently bigger than he's ever been after winning Dancing With The Stars, had a double on the set with him. Also, former Steelers coach Bill Cowher came back as the coach for the Rogues.
Even Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravenstahl was there as the kicker for the Rapid City Maruders.
Finally, after everybody has settled in at about 7:30, they started shooting. The first thing shot was The National Anthem sung by a young kid and we had to do the scene about eight times, six at the start and then two more times during the day.
One of the things I like about how Christopher Nolan directs is that he's not like any other director where he's sitting in a chair near the camera making sure the scene goes the way he wants it to. He walks around the camera making sure the shot he wants is right.
After the National Anthem where I had to move twice around the stadium like everyone else, at about 9:30, they moved us one last time and I got very lucky to get a seat right near the endzone where you can see the scoreboard straight ahead. I had one of the best seats in the house. The only problem was that it was the sun was out all day, it was about 87 degrees out and we all had to wear coats and winter gear because the movie takes place in the wintertime.
Next up, they shot crowd shots, cheers, and applause for the soundtrack for the scene. After that, the next scene was the kickoff of the football game where Hines Ward, as far as I know playing himself because the back of his shirt said Ward on it, catching the ball and running in for a touchdown. That scene took about seven takes to shoot in a span of an hour.
After that, they prepared us for a big explosion shot where the stadium explodes. We had numerous practice takes to prepare for the explosion with the announcer making the explosions sounds. It took them about three hours to put all the explosives on the field. They were about, I wanna say, 35 different explosives ready to blow up.
While they were preparing for the scene, they brought out the three Tumblers with the second one featuring Hines Ward on top of the Tumbler.
Also, during the breaks inbetween shooting, they gave out free t-shirts and raffle prizes like a flat screen TV, tickets to The Dark Knight Rises premiere in either Los Angeles or New York, round trip Delta tickets, portable DVD players, Ipod Shuffles, Ipod Touches, Batman memorabilia, movie memorabilia, vintage trading cards and comic books, and even a Chrysler car. I ended up with none of the major raffle prizes but I did win a free t-shirt, even though it doesn't fit me:
What's funny is that at the part of the stadium where I was sitting, the Production Assistant for our section was nowhere to be found and the PAs were responsible for throwing everybody free t-shirts and because the PA was nowhere to be found, people went crazy trying to get a T-shirt. They asked more for T-shirts than for raffle prizes. And when they finally had someone come and give away t-shirts, I was lucky enough to catch one of them but again, my shirt was too small.
Also, on the stadium's jumbotron, they played the trailer for The Dark Knight Rises on the big screen. This seriously made up for the fact that they didn't show the trailer when I went to see Harry Potter the weekend it came out. When the name came up, it felt like a Comic Con panel, people lost their minds and cheered wildly.
So, finally, after three hours of putting the explosives on the field, they gave us three more practice shots without the explosives going off, because this is a one shot only scene. So, after all that, we finally shot it with the explosions and they told everybody to act scared and panicked and that's what we did. They even gave out earplugs for the people to cover their ears. After the explosions ended, the field was covered with dirt all over the place.
Finally, at around 5:30 in the afternoon, they began shooting the final shot for the day. The shot was the arrival of the character Bane, played by Tom Hardy, coming out from under the area where the players walk out of the locker rooms and looking around, letting out some dialogue, and killing a man by breaking his neck.
When Bane came out, it would be the first time we'd see Tom Hardy on set and the crew asked us to act as if he was the character Bane and not shot and holler and cheer for Hardy. After the shot was done, the stadium roared with applause as the crew introduced us to Hardy, his second film he's shot in Pittsburgh, the first being the upcoming Warrior, and after we finished shooting the scene four takes later, he helped to give away the car at the end of the day.
The day came to an end as both Hardy and Christopher Nolan thanked everybody for coming out and barring the heat and Nolan helped to give away the tickets to The Dark Knight Rises premiere.
So, at 7, I left the stadium...and then, the worst part of the whole experience began...trying to leave the stadium. When I walked down the walkway to leave the stadium, all you can see is the back of peoples' heads trying to get out of there. There were only three different lines and the largest and the longest was the one I was in to get back to the Civic Arena. There were so many people there, not to mention the fact that it was humid out and a couple of people actually passed out because of the humidity and heat. And I waited in line for 45 minutes. I was literally standing in a line waiting to get on the shuttle bus for 45 MINUTES. It was bullshit, they needed more assistants to help control the lines better, there were only three assistants out there to guide everyone to the three buses going to three different places.
Finally, at about 8:30, I finally made it to the Civic Arena parking lot and on my way home. Finally, at about 10:30, I was so tired that after I got my shower, I went to bed at about 11 and slept for almost 12 hours. Keep in mind, I don't usually go to bed til about 2, 2:30 but I was just so pooped while working on the computer, I just said "Fuck It," and went to bed.
So, after all of that, I woke up this morning feeling a lot better. So, besides the pain-in-the-ass way I had to get out of the stadium, this was probably one of the best days I've ever had. I had a great time watching them shoot what is sure to be a great movie and I'm going to be so happy when I tell people that I was an extra in the film.
Would I do it again? Depends on what the movie is and when they shoot it because I really don't think I would be able to work when it was as hot as it was.
But now the question is, will I be able to see myself in the film and if not, will they credit extras in the end credits? Either way, I have the proof that I was in the film and here's the ultimate piece de resistance that proves I was on the set. My set pass:
And that was my experience as an extra on The Dark Knight Rises.