“I was told an hour ago that forty-four extras were coming to audition for 5 parts.” Suzanne Massingill of Barefoot Models and Talent tells the thirty five guys in the room, most of them standing.
A small white board on the wall read:
USS INDY SAG-AFTRA Auditions
Shoot Date Starts June 19
Have your Head Shot
Hearing a song playing softly in the background, I felt the “Radioactive” testosterone in the room. Hell I was radioactive. Nervous Excited. Explosive! Despite all the stress, I could have proudly worn my nephew Zach’s “I pooped today” T-shirt. We were all, well, they were all a handsome well-groomed group of guys, but we were cramped in our own flatulent filled higgledy piggledy office scene bubble. Even the military guys, both active and retired, were tense. So tense, one guy said, to no one in particular and everyone who arrived after him, “If you’re on time, you’re late.”
All the tension was an indication of how badly we wanted to be a part of the first big screen movie to honor the men and the memories of those who served on the USS Indianapolis.
Shut the front door! That’s what I would have told you if I didn’t see Hannibal Pictures producer Richard Rionda Del Castro and director Mario Van Peebles walk in through the same door I did. Van Peebles, a little shorter than I expected, was the Lenny Kravitz of LA Law or was he the Ice-T of Law and Order? I’ve seen him and that captivating smile on a couple of episodes of Nashville recently. Yeah, men of color get gigs on a show about country music. And I don’t think he’s even related to Darius Rucker.
The producer came out of the room, not to make a curtain call but to welcome us. He said, “I’ve been trying to make this picture for 10 years.” He went back through the door, or as I like to call it the portal to Hollywood fame.
Suzanne called the first name on the list.
“He left,” someone said. Great, I thought, one less person to contend with.
I looked around and saw five guys wearing shorts. Limbs intact.
I watched how people were walking around the room. No amputee I’ve ever met walks perfectly. There’s usually a hitch, a leg whip, or a limp. Nothing obvious, but some can hide it pretty well. Still, nothing as glaring as me in my cargo shorts. The carbon fiber and titanium catches the eyes of Suzanne, several hopeful extras, and most importantly, the producer.
The guy to my left was called and came out smiling after being in the room less than thirty seconds.
The guy to my right was in there for like an hour, but it was really just minutes. After a couple muffled rounds of laughter he sat back down next to me with two pages from the “shooting script.”
Audition: (more than 15 seconds but less than 120)
It happened so fast I couldn’t even describe the room I walked into. I only wanted to answer their questions without puking or farting from my mind’s gastrointestinal excitement.
I walk in and shake the hands of four people including “Rick” and “Mario.” The producer asked questions like Rambo going all M-60 on Hope, Washington.
Producer: How old are you?
Alan: 47, but no Military experience, I’m a born amputee. (Cool! I wanted to work that in)
Producer: That’s alright, can you swim?
Alan: Lifelong swimmer, taught by a lifeguard (True story)
Producer: We’ll be shooting lots of scenes in a large water tank, any problems with prolonged periods of time in standing water (My Dances with Wolves name is Stands without a Leg…in Water)
Alan: No I’m a floater too. (Did I really just say that? Yep, me and the Baby Ruth in Caddyshack and oh, BTW happy 30th anniversary to The Goonies)
Producer: Any problems being in the water with actors around you?
Alan: No (Really? Is this a question someone wanting a part as an extra would say yes to? Says the guy who is two degrees from Nicolas Cage and Kevin Bacon)
Mario: (pointing at my prosthesis) How far down does your real leg go? (Stump: The Librarian knows this one)
Alan: About six inches below the knee.
Producer: Okay we’ll be shooting with actors behind you, in the tank.
Alan: I know the story, I read In Harms Way. (I didn’t have time to say I was a librarian or that I never would have known about this story or been so fascinated by history without the movie JAWS)
Producer: (to assistant) Take a headshot
Mario: (to iPhone holding assistant) Get his leg! (You had me at hello, Mario)
Producer: Em, yeah, a full body shot.
Mario: Thanks for coming in.
Alan: (with a half smile to Mario) Thanks for the opportunity.
Alan: (eye contact with producer) I really hope to hear back from you. (No one will cooperate more fully with the animatronic sharks than me)
Producer: (eye to eye with me) You will.
I still haven’t heard anything from the casting director of USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage, but it’s only been three days. No matter the outcome, the experience has been amazing. While I wait, another opportunity to be cast as an extra showed up on my radar, but it wasn’t quite right for me because I actually have a leg to stand on. If you’re interested, there is a horror film being made in Alabama by Legless Corpse Films.