FROM EXTRA TO ACTOR
Over the years I’ve had a few requests from students reading the book asking if I would tell a story from my experience working on the movie.
Here is as look back. I Hope you enjoy hearing some behind the scenes stuff.
I was living in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when I got the call from my agent to come audition for some movie that was coming to town, to be directed by some big Hollywood director. It turned out it was “The Outsiders” and the director was Francis Ford Coppola. So I went out and got the book, and decided to create a monologue from one of the character’s speeches. I was hoping that the character of Randy was small enough that they might look at local talent to cast, so I memorized the speech he has with Ponyboy in the blue Mustang outside the Tasty Freeze.
The first audition was with the local casting director, and it turned out they were only casting for “extras.” Extras are the people in the background who don’t have any lines. Of course that would be fantastic to do that job, but I was also hoping to have a speaking part! I was an actor after all, and although it takes a lot of professionalism to walk back and forth in the background a hundred times, while the real action takes place in front of you, I wanted a shot at something more. So I asked the casting director if I could perform the monologue I had prepared. She was a little surprised by my assertiveness, but said, “sure.”
When I finished, she had a smile on her face, and seemed impressed.
They ended up casting me to do stunts in the big rumble scene. No lines. Yet. We did stunt training for two weeks with the stunt coordinator, Buddy Joe Hooker. They had us doing tumbling, rolling, falling, fist fighting, and all the time, they kept the Greasers and the Soc’s separated. They wanted to create a real feeling of animosity amongst us all. Even the star Soc’s kept themselves separated from the star Greasers. They put them on separate floors of the hotel they were staying in, and gave the Soc’s all the perks, hoping to raise the animosity amongst them. Which it did. And Cruise got so into his character that he didn’t bathe for weeks. He stunk.
I got a call that I was being pulled from the big rumble scene to be put in another scene, at the Admiral Twin Drive-in movie theater. They gave us a list of the types of clothing to wear. On the paper was stamped an image of an eagle, which was used to give Tom Cruise his fake tattoo on his arm.
On the night of the shoot, Francis Coppola, the director, decided he wanted to have a scuffle happen inside the concession stand while Ponyboy and Cherry were talking about the conflicts between the two groups of kids. “Not all of us are like that.” She says. “Sure,” says Ponyboy. “That’s like saying all you Greasers are like Dallas Winston,” Cherry retorts. And just then a fight erupts in the other line. Francis wanted to hear some dialogue in our fight, so before I knew what was happening, he gave me a line to say, and I found myself shoving the Soc with real hatred and growling, “let’s take it outside!”
I wasn’t an extra anymore. Those four and a half words qualified me as cast member of “The Outsiders” and earned my acceptance into the Screen Actors Guild.
Tell all your classmates and hard working teachers, to . . .