Tuesday, September 15, 2020

88. I Was Yelled at by the Director of Forrest Gump

 After what has turned out to be a fun experience capturing a screenshot of my brief moment in the new film, "Bill and Ted Face the Music" (click here to see the shot on my website), I have found myself remembering with happy reminiscence, the year and a half in the 1990's when I spent as much time as I could hanging out, getting paid, and sometimes appearing on screen, as an Extra in countless movies and TV shows.

The best part of those days since then, has been the line I have thrown into any "Two truths and a lie" game, when I include the statement, "I have worked on one Oscar-winning film."

It's not a lie. It's one of the truths.

Robert Zemeckis, the Oscar winning director of the film, almost sent us all home before we even made it to the set. A group of us guys were hired to be the All-American football players who meet President Kennedy. He took a look at us as we got off the bus from the wardrobe department, and asked, "What's this? What the hell is this? Where are my football players?"

None of us were bulky the way football players are supposed to be.

"Send 'em back," he said disgustedly. "Get me some football players."

The guys I was with were instantly dejected. A few turned back toward the bus. I stood awkwardly, wondering what my angle would be, how I could stay. Robert Zemeckis himself bailed me out, though.

He looked at me and asked, "How tall are you?"

"Six feet, half inch over," I said.

"Okay, you can stay. We need a stand-in for JFK."

The scene is the one where Tom Hanks meets John F. Kennedy, along with the other All-Americans, and makes a big deal out of having to pee.

They used real footage of President Kennedy, removed a woman from the shot, put Tom Hanks in her place, and had an actor with a killer President Kennedy voice, say the lines that the President says in the film. In between takes, I was placed on the set to stand where Kennedy stood, while the crew set up lights and wondered around me taking light meter reading.

How do I know, you might ask, that they were using this particular shot of Kennedy and removing a woman from the shot, to be replaced by Tom Hanks?

Because...I snuck behind the set, where the special effects guys were working on the clip live in the moment while we were shooting.

It was easy to find my way back there. I wasn't being used during the actual shooting. I just had to listen for, "Cut," and make myself available to stand.

So, while everyone was shooting, I found the computer area, and became fascinated by the process I was watching. They blocked out the woman's presence, inserted Tim Hanks, and placed the actors lips over President Kennedy's, saying the line, "I think he said he has to pee."

I was standing there watching, transfixed, when I missed the word "Cut" out on the set. a moment later Robert Zemeckis came back to see how his special effects were going. I turned around as he came in. We made eye contact. He did a double take, then walked right up to me and said, "Aren't you...supposed to be....OUT THERE!? How did you even get back here? Get out of here!"

I was a little embarrassed, but as I walked back out to where the lighting guys waited for me, a realization landed on; I wasn't fired...AND....I was just yelled at by Robert Zemeckis. THAT'S SO COOL!

That was also the day I learned one other thing, something that I think remains true today; that Tom Hanks actually is the most normal, fun, and unpretentious actor in all of Hollywood.

But getting yelled at like that, that memory is gold for me. That's probably my favorite moment of getting in trouble in my whole life.

Peter Wick

September 15, 2020