[The Sandoval Signpost (Web edition) is pleased as punch (diet punch that is) to bring you the humor and insightful human observations of Daniel Will Harris, author of My Wife and Times. We continue this entertaining series with Daniel’s discovery of his own mortality. —Ed].
My 15 minutes
By Daniel Will Harris
really was a dark and stormy night—the night I was in
my first movie, a memory brought back by last week's Academy
The movie was Halloween II, and my wife and I were "extras."
Extras are the people in the background who are kind of like
props with legs. If they do their job right, you never notice
It was a "night-shoot," so we arrived at 8 p.m.
It was already dark, cold and wet. Because extras are at the
bottom of the movie making "caste system" (think
"untouchables"), there weren't even chairs for us
to sit on. They expected us to sit on the cold, wet curb for
three or four hours *in the rain* until they were ready to
shoot. My wife was appalled by this.
Since she's never afraid of authority figures, she soon spied
a prop police car and she suggested we get in where it was
dry. I thought this was a *very* bad idea. Before I knew it
there were six of us huddled inside the car.
I was terrified that an AD (assistant director) would find
us, send us all home without pay and yell, "You'll never
work in this town again!" I only stopped worrying when
I fell asleep, along with the everyone else in the car.
We woke when someone banged on the hood and pointed towards
the catering tent, because dinner was being served at midnight.
Since everyone else had eaten, we lowly ones could eat what
was left. We clambered out of the car and had a surprisingly
Around 3 a.m. the rain stopped, the lighting (which always
takes hours, even when it's not raining) was done and they
were ready for the first shot. We were an angry mob (shades
of irate villagers with torches in Frankenstein) throwing
rocks and stones at the infamous Halloween House. It sounded
like great fun until we were cold and unable to feel our fingers
which made it difficult to throw rocks well enough to break
We stood in front of the scary-looking hovel which was just
a badly maintained house in an otherwise nice South Pasadena
neighborhood. The AD informed us that we were angry (duh),
and we wanted the guy with the hockey mask out of the house!
Of course I can't imagine that we wanted him coming out *at*
us, but they never give extras much to go on.
The lights switched on, as bright as day, but made to look
like night. The director and camera rose on a crane in the
middle of the street. The AD yelled "Quiet, people, this
is a TAKE!" and then we heard "action" and
we started throwing rocks and stones at the windows.
The thing we weren't doing was yelling, because 1) it would
upset the neighbors, and 2) they would add *professional*
yelling in post-production.
They replaced the glass and shot the scene a few more times,
then moved on to a scene with Donald Pleasance talking to
police men (extras with moustaches) while we milled around
directionless in the background.
At around 6 a.m. they paid us $20 in cash, and we went home.
Months later the movie came out and we're on screen for about
a second. You can see my wife because she's wearing a snow
white coat. You might be able to see me because I'm overacting
right behind Donald Pleasance.
We did extra work on a few more movies, including a big three
day stint on a Dyan Cannon TV movie where she spent one entire
day yelling the same line, "Dace, Jess!" until it
was burned onto our brains (clearly it still is!), and we
discovered our that new friend, "Chalet" a beautiful,
tall African American woman who worked in the garment center
location, was actually a man. Shades of Midnight in the Garden
of Good and Evil.
My career as an extra skyrocketed to include such impressive
non-speaking parts as a hot dog vendor on the TV show Cagney
and Lacey (the crew said they were very impressed because
my acting was "so big" it could be seen from across
My last, and I mean last, extra job was a few years ago when
John Carpenter was filming "Village of the Damned"
in our small town. It starred Christopher Reeves (whose acting
was brilliant in person—he was also extremely nice off
the set), Kirstie Alley (the less said the better), and Mark
Hamill, who said I could have read his wallet if he hadn't
After three long nights filming (at a big $40 per night),
my appearance on screen consists of my left arm. My wife's
role is bigger—her ear has a tantalizing brush with
fame as the camera glides by.
My favorite review of this movie was, "Village Of The
Damned is one of the worst movies I've ever seen—everything
about it was bad." Well, surely not my wife's ear or
my left arm.