Well, it’s time to share another personal Hollywood story of mine with all you movie buffs out there.
The year was 1980. Hollywood had welcomed me to the City of Angels with her not so open arms. However, I would not be so easily discouraged. After loading myself up with the latest copies of both Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, two must have industry trade magazines, I had somehow managed to get called up by my casting agency requesting that I show up at the old Beverly Hills High School for a movie audition. I was excited to say the least! The only information I was given was to dress up as a high school student in the 1960’s and to be on time if I wanted to be in the audition. By the way, I was also told the film would be a comedy! So, off to Beverly Hills High School I went. Maybe there was some movie magic in that Hollywood sign after all.
When I finally arrived for my audition, I couldn’t believe the size of the crowd that was already gathered outside the casting area. There must be some kind of mistake I thought to myself as I shuffled through the line of similarly dressed high school students. I decided to keep mostly to myself and try to get into some type of character if I was going to be competing with so many other actors. I had decided that when my name was called, I would give them the audition of a lifetime. I would make them choose me over all the other students auditioning, or so I thought!
After what had seemed like an eternity, a stocky, scowl-faced woman carrying a bullhorn starting barking out orders to the crowd to break up into two separate groups- male and female. We were told to sign in and to have our ID’s ready to show as we passed through to the front of our perspective lines. We were all told that we would receive our daily pay of $45 and one free nutritious meal hot off the catering truck for our efforts, but only after everyone else, and I mean ‘everyone else’, had first been through the line at least once.
It suddenly dawned upon me that I was experiencing my very first ‘Cattle-Call’ audition, better know as an ‘All-Call’ or what the acting industry refers to as an extra’s casting call. My heart sank! Did I miss something? What had happened to my acting debut, my shining star was suddenly fizzling out before it even started to burn! Oh well, I guess I would just have to work my way up from the bottom of the acting catering food chain so to speak like all the other great actors had done previously. If legends like Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert Di Nero, Jimmy Stewart, and my favorite western movie star John Wayne did it, then so would I, even if it took a few years more than what I had naively anticipated.
After thinking about how these amazingly talented actors probably started their own careers, it didn’t bother me quite as much to be part of the extra’s casting call. After all, I would be working on my first movie, The Hollywood Knights, starring Tony Danza and Michelle Pfeiffer. I decided I would learn as much as possible by listening and watching every little detail that transpired on the movie set. I was not disappointed. We all worked long hours, learned the difference between a boom operator and a gaffer, the Director and the First Assistant Director, and mostly importantly, the differences between the main stars, the supporting cast, and the lowly, but somewhat important extra actors…like ME… and all the other me’s that came before and after ME!
I tip my hat (or in my case, my ballcap) to anyone who has ever had the courage to walk, hitchhike, take a bus or train, drive or even had the luxury of flying out to Los Angeles to follow their dream. To become whatever it is that is buried deep inside their heart of hearts, whether it be performing in front of the camera or working behind the scenes. I was an extra in The Hollywood Knights and very proud to have been a part of a movie that helped launch the careers of Tony Danza and Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Wuhl, Fran Drescher, and a few more supporting actors, directors and perhaps, just perhaps, a few ‘extra actors’ as well.
I may have not been a ‘Knight in Shining Armor’, but I was an immortal part of the 1980 comedy classic film, The Hollywood Knights and for that I will be forever grateful.
And there you have it…just another story from the vault of The Hollywood Contender.
- Zac Efron’s teenage crush on Michelle Pfeiffer (hollywood.com)