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My Movie Debut

little-man-tate

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.

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Posted on November 24, 2016, in personal musings and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. Very cool. I once held a door for and shook the hand of Bill Murray. There was almost photographic evidence, but my best friend botched the picture.

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  2. And here it is! So cool.

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  3. That is a great story Lebeau, and sounds all in all like a terrific experience too. I myself have never been an extra on a movie, so it’s great to get an in depth explanation of what it is actually like. I’ve heard over and over again how much time is spent waiting on a movie set, whether for lighting or weather conditions or actors or what have you. Well, sure enough it sounds like you did your fair share of waiting too. At least you were an extra in a film that was if not a big box office hit at least somewhat high profile, as it was Jodie Foster’s first theatrical release after the mega-hit Silence of the Lambs. I’m curious, since you were an extra did you go to see Little Man Tate on the big screen when it released, or wait until home video?

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    • As it turns out, I was in charge of the movie theater on campus at the University of Kentucky at the time. If I remember correctly, I was able to book a sneak preview of the movie before it was released in theaters. I could be mistaken on that, but I know we showed it. I remember watching the movie with a packed audience and a friend of mine shouted “That’s lebeau!” when I appeared on screen. Otherwise, I might have missed myself.

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  4. I’ll tell you something I’ve thought about when I see a crowd scene in a lunch room or bar or whatever and a crowd of extras are chattering away in the background behind the lead actors. What are these extras chattering on about anyway? You were in just such a scene, so let me ask you did you think in advance what you’re going to pretend to talk about? Or do you just blather on making up random things on the fly when they call action?

    Also, just curious but how do you upstage someone as a background extra? Was your random chattering much more interesting and engaging than his was? Anyway if you proved to be a threat to him you were probably doing very well.

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    • LOL

      We were miming a conversation without saying anything. So sometimes, I was just moving my mouth and not even thinking about anything. We did a few takes and on one of them I just started goofing around. We had decided that we were going to be studying for a test. My partner was turning pages in a book and I was kind of reading over his shoulder. On the one take that made him mad, I started freaking out like I had forgotten there was a test. Not majorly freaking out because that would have gotten me in trouble. We weren’t supposed to draw attention to ourselves. But I did get a little animated. He was not amused at all and told me to knock it off. Mostly, we just nodded our heads, moved our mouths, turned pages and pushed food around on our plates.

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      • Well after hearing your story I really think the Oscars need to add a Best Extra to their ceremonies. If it played out as well on screen as it does in text then yours would have gotten an Oscar nomination for sure. 🙂

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        • I’d like to thank the assistant who was in charge of casting extras, Jodie Foster for taking a potty break at the same time as me, the crafts services guy who brewed all the coffee, the professional extra who taught me so much in such a short amount of time, of course my parents for making all of this possible, and who else? I know I’m forgetting someone. I didn’t prepare. I thought for sure that extra from Cape Fear was going to win. It’s just such an honor to be nominated alongside such a talented group of people with nothing better to do than hang around a movie set for $50 a day.

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        • I’m sorry Lebeau, but since you’re an extra and seated at the very back of the auditorium, the orchestra started playing you off while you were still walking towards the stage…..

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        • You know how the tech guys have their own awards ceremony that doesn’t even get televised any more? Extras don’t have that.

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        • Good point. They should.

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        • We don’t even get in the credits. Sadly, that means I don’t have an IMDB entry.

          My ex-wife does though. And precisely no one saw the movie she was in.

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        • Technically we could consider you to be a box office draw, can’t we? I mean your friends and family paid good money to see you in your cinematic debut in Little Man Tate, right? I think that qualifies you for an entry on IMDB’s page right there.

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        • I’m pretty sure my friends and family have never seen Little Man Tate save for my buddy who was in it (and cut) and the other buddy who saw it at the free screening and identified me. I may be box office poison.

          Since we’re talking extras, I also appeared in an After School Special about Suicide. It was called Life Pact. Super cheesy. The whole class burst into applause when the suicidal teen signed a life pact instead. No Oscar winners in that one.

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        • Ok, I hate to agree with you, but you’re box office poison. What the hell happened? I think you need to write up your own career in film Lebeau!!

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        • It would be a very short article.

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        • What The Hell Happened to Lebeau? Meteoric rise as a film extra, many expected he would become Hollywood’s Next Big Thing….. then poof. Let’s get the real scoop in the next WTTH write-up. Hold back no punches Lebeau, this epic story must be told! I suspect some bridges were burned. I mean jeez, even before you did your first day of filming you were already acting like a prima-donna, pushing Jodi Foster around!

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        • I used all my newfound clout in Hollywood to get Battlefield Earth made. Ooops.

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        • Man, that is funny. Funnier still is picturing this all going down.

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        • “I used my clout in Hollywood to get Battlefield Earth made.” With that comment, you sir win the internet today.

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