My Movie Debut
Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers. I hope you get to spend it with loved ones. We here at Le Blog have lots to be thankful for starting with readers like you.
This past Saturday, we celebrated Jodie Foster’s birthday. I took the occasion as an opportunity/excuse to share my Jodie Foster story. I have been telling it for about 25 years now, so I’m always a bit reluctant to trot it out again for fear that everyone has heard it already. But a few readers hadn’t, so I went ahead and told it all again. Then I figured, hey, why not just make a post out of it and share it with everybody. So here you go.
In the summer of 1990, Little Man Tate was filming in Cincinnati. A friend of mine and I responded to a cattle call for extras. We went downtown, filled out a form and dropped off a snapshot of ourselves. Then we waited and waited for a call. If you got a call back, you would be told where to report the next day. My friend got his call first. He was in a classroom scene. When the teacher announces the subject of the class, several students get up and leave. He was one of those students, but unfortunately for him he ended up being just outside of the frame of the shot. So he isn’t actually visible in the movie.
I am. If you know where to look, you can see me in a scene about an hour and twenty minutes into the movie. After Harry Connick Jr. hits the kid in the head with a globe, he meets up with him in a cafeteria. I’m in the scene’s establishing shot to the far right. I found a really crappy copy of the movie on YouTube and took the screenshot above. You can’t really make out the details, but I circled the fuzzy blob that is me. Now run out and watch the movie in high def and you can see what I looked like when I was 19.
The scene I was in was filmed at the Cincinnati Club. We were all held in a room awaiting our call. We waited and waited. There were some very basic pastries and coffee. I had too much of the latter given how long we had to wait. Every now and then, someone from the production would show up and give us instructions. We were told not to make eye contact with Jodie Foster or to address her in any way. If we were overheard by anyone making reference to John Hinckley, we would be asked to leave. At the end of the day, we would be given $50 in cash and if we wanted one we could get an autographed picture of Foster, so don’t ask her for an autograph.
After a few hours and many cups of coffee, we were called to the set. I decided to make a quick stop at the men’s room so I could be comfortable during filming. Too much coffee, remember. I was in a hurry and I guess I wasn’t looking where I was going because I just about plowed into this little woman in the hallway. I apologized profusely for nearly knocking this woman over. She didn’t say a word, but she seemed to me to be shocked. There was something about her reaction that I couldn’t put my finger on. I was in the wrong for not looking where I was going, but she seemed way more upset about it than I would expect someone to be. Especially after my quick and sincere apology.
As she walked away down the hall, I started to process what had happened. She looked vaguely familiar. She was wearing sweat pants and no make-up. Nothing glamorous about her at all. But she kind of looked a little bit like Jodie Foster. As I watched her walk away, I grew more and more confident that I had just about knocked over Clarice Starling.
I went about my business and hurried back to the set. They had us sitting at tables pretending to talk without actually saying anything. We had plates of cold food in front of us that we weren’t supposed to actually eat and a stack of books. The idea was we were studying during lunch time. The guy I was paired with was a theater guy. He’d been an extra in a few other movies that had shot in the area and fancied himself a professional. He got angry with me once for trying to upstage him. It was pretty funny how seriously he took it all.
This scene was between Harry Connick Jr. and the main kid (Adam Hann-Byrd). Foster wasn’t in the scene, but she was on the set because Little Man Tate was her directorial debut. Then the little woman in the sweat pants came walking out on to the set to start setting up shots. Yep, it was Jodie Foster. Thankfully, if she was mad about what had happened in the hallway, she didn’t recognize me. She didn’t interact with the extras at all. They had people who wrangled us on her behalf.
After about an hour of shooting, we were released. All in, I spent about four hours there and got paid $50 which was a pretty decent deal for a college student on summer break. I didn’t wait in line for my autographed picture of Jodie Foster, but I did get a story which I have been telling for years.