Okay. The title may be grammatically atrocious, but it sure grabs attention!
About five years ago, I flirted with movie stardom. My husband, who has acting credits, turned me on to background acting. I learned that background actors, or extras, are vital in a movie. Imagine the “Ten Commandments” or “Pirates of the Caribbean” without the extras. For this reason, production crews and background actors treat each other with respect. They need each other. They eat the same yummy catered meals and all-day snacks. During the long hours of shooting, the background actors stay in an area called “holding” while waiting to be called. Some play cards, others read, others sleep. When I did background work, I solved crossword puzzles and ate and ate while waiting for the call. It was like being in a cruise ship. One could really get bored, too.
The movie “Spy Next Door” starring Jackie Chan gave me my first featured extra role. In this film my husband and I played the roles of husband and wife. While having dinner in front of a teppan chef in a Japanese restaurant, a feral intense martial arts fight broke between the Jackie Chan character and the bad dudes and they ended up dreadfully close to our table. My caring “husband” helped little ol’ distressed me away from the fast and furious action of karate chops, high flying kicks, and airborne chairs. After the shoot, I was quite convinced that my award-winning performance would lead to a juicier role for a senior Filipino babe. When the movie came to the theater near us, my husband and I went on the first screening and anxiously awaited our scene. Surprise! It never came. It had been cut.
Little did I know then that background work was preparing me for dealing with lung cancer. During shoots, extras are totally not in control. Talk about my nose being pulled by someone at every turn! Before a scene was shot, a production assistant went to holding and picked me out as having the right face. They do “faces” there. “Follow me,” she said. I hear those words a lot nowadays in the cancer center! When a production assistant yelled, “Ready, camera, background!” the word background might as well had been my name. When I heard it, I did what I had been told to do. No questions asked. No complaints lodged. No mutiny secretly plotted. One scene would be shot many times. Over and over we did the same action. At the cancer center, my arms get shot over and over for bloodletting. At the shoot, a camera would be placed right in our faces for close-up. At the cancer center, my whole body is placed in the CTscan tube for a close-up of the innards.
During one break, I happened to be all alone in the background-women’s restroom. I was on the way out of a stall when Jackie Chan walked in and closed the door behind him. Suddenly I was eyeball to eyeball with THE Jackie Chan in a toilet! We were both startled.
“Is that okay?” He asked, his Chinese eyes opened wide.
“Is that okay what?” I asked back, my Filipino eyes opened wider.
“That I’ll use the ladies’ room. The men’s room is too far away. I need to go now.”
“Ah, THAT! Sure, that’s okay,” I assured him. “But first let me get out of here.”
And we laughed and I skedaddled out of there still laughing.
“It’s a wrap.” The Director shouts those words at the end of the movie shoot day. I so looked forward to those words all day that day, just like I look forward these days to the Onc’s words “It’s stable” after all the bloodletting and CTscanning are done.
So there we have it. Reel life and real life. They’re similar except for one thing. I could have walked away from the background nose pullers in a heartbeat. But I wouldn’t even dare think of aggravating the cancer center nose pullers. It wouldn’t be a good idea.