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Location, Location, Location

As Film Extras, They Travel Hundreds of Miles for the Remote Chance to Play Nameless Faces in a Crowd. It's Not for the Pay.

June 27, 2004|Brenda Arechiga | Brenda Arechiga is a freelance writer and screenwriter in Los Angeles.

Sometimes it's the extras themselves who take the creative approach. One pair of 18-year-old brothers whom Crumley cast as soldiers in "The Patriot" later staked out her home in Alabama, following her to Chicago as she began prepping "Ali." Crumley says the boys slept in their car for several months, finally renting a motel room after shooting began. They turned 21 before the shooting was completed.

Emmerich's comparison to the circus may be more true than he realizes. The dominant form of entertainment in America until the late 1930s, the circus was also known for disrupting families and depleting towns of its children, who chose to sneak away from their parents for a more exciting life with the charismatic ringmasters and animal tamers.

Several months after the release of "The Patriot," Emmerich ran into one of the extras on a street in Los Angeles, where he had moved to pursue an acting career. But the authenticity, eccentricity and humanity that make these extras good for what they do rarely meets Hollywood's impossible standard of superstar beauty. Emmerich, only half in jest, says: "I feel like I ruined this kid's life."

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