I might not have gone to see The Post if I hadn’t worked for one day as an extra on it. Even though I’ve been a background actor a handful of times, I had yet to see any of the episodes or movies that I’d worked on. So, I wanted to check this out to see if perhaps made it in.
My scene (yeah, I’ll call it my scene) was in the first five minutes of the movie. Robert McNamara disembarks a plane and talks to reporters. (They did a hell of a job with Bruce Greenwood. Having not known a thing about Robert McNamara before seeing The Fog of War and then, years later, arriving on a set, seeing an actor a hundred yards away and thinking, “Damn, good casting for McNamara,” that’s a job well done.) Matthew Rhys (as Daniel Ellsberg) exits the plane behind him and eyes him suspiciously as he hears McNamara’s comments to the press.
Since it was an Air Force base, they needed ambient military personnel. I was playing an Air Force MP. The uniform, with its attached whistle, its white gloves and its blue pants tucked into and blousing out of black boots with white laces, made me feel more jaunty than bad ass military. It was also killing me because it was July and those uniforms were really authentic, i.e. wool.
The focus was pretty tight on the press and the airplane staircase that Greenwood/McNamara walked down. The two other MPs and I seemed to be there just to fill in in case there was a wide shot.
After watching this thirty second scene a few minutes into the movie, I realized they didn’t use a wide shot. I don’t even know if I was left on the cutting room floor by Spielberg because you have to be filmed for that to happen.
I really enjoyed the movie. It is, however, hard to lower expectations any further than, “Maybe I’ll see my blurry self for a fraction of a second.” If All The President’s Men is The Force Awakens, then The Post is Rogue One, a less sexy, more expository prequel. The themes of feminism and free speech in the face of the abuse of executive power make clear why this story is being told today. And also Meryl Streep. Always watch Meryl Streep.
My one day on set leaves me in awe of the scope of a movie like this. I was one extra who worked one day on this movie. I went in a day before for a costume fitting where wardrobe gave me an authentic military uniform from the 1960s, of which they had many different sizes. On the day of the shoot, production assistants corralled hundreds of extras and told us where to go and where to stand just in case they wanted to use us in a shot that day. We were all paid in the neighborhood of a hundred dollars.
Hundreds of professionals working in makeup, wardrobe, production, lighting, sound, and photography, tens of thousands of dollars, thirty seconds of movie.
While Hanks, Streep, Odenkirk, Letts, Cross, and dozens of other actors weren’t needed that day, I did at least get to see Steven Spielberg. He wore a newsboy cap and designer jeans. It was a little hipsterish for a septuagenarian. I was hoping for more of a Hitchcock, suit on set every day kind of thing. He also carried an unlit cigar around with him on set, which proves that enough money and fame will prevent even your closest friends from telling you when you’re being a douche.