There used to a simpler, more blissful time when the Movie Extra was a dependable, undisruptive influence on movies: they would turn up, do their bit and head home for the day, their pockets nicely lined with a small but fair fee, and their egos sufficiently massaged to stop them ever having unjust aspirations to conquer the world of “real” acting.
But then, we discovered that there was actually a clandestine history of Extras not doing as they should have, ruining scenes either by badly over-acting, or simply being bad at things normal people manage every day, like not walking into doorframes, or eating convincingly. Their actions, whether conscious or otherwise stole focus and ruined their scenes, and it seems the rabbit hole goes even further, with more revelations of useless and destructive Extras emerging all the time.
Very occasionally, they can be a positive influence, like the careless cab driver who almost killed Dustin Hoffman on the set of Midnight Cowboy and unwittingly inspried the unscripted line “I’m walking here”! But mostly, they’re a toxic influence, when they get ideas above their station.
With that in mind, we’re offering a second portrait at the Extras who ruined their scenes, revisiting the concept to bring you ten more idiots who shouldn’t really be trusted with even the minor roles. There was almost a place for humble attention seeker Conan O’Brien, whose background appearance in How I Met Your Mother completely overshadowed the entire scene in the foreground, but since that was done in the name of charity, and sight gags don’t get the praise they deserve, the talkshow legend gets a pass. For now.
A special note has to go to Ken Levine who fought back against an over-zealous Extra who attempted to avoid being hit by any pies in a pie fight scene by requesting everyone pay special attention to not getting her. Levine’s response was to tell everyone to hit her. Justice.
Abusing John Malkovich
John Malkovich is a wonderful actor, whether it’s seducing his sister and impressionable young debutantes in Dangerous Liaisons, attempting to kill the president in In The Line Of Fire, or unsuccessfully trying to execute a stuffed bunny in Con Air, his range is astonishing. He even managed to play a really bad actor in Johnny English.
But poor Malkovich was completely upstaged on the set of the very good, but hugely smug Being John Malkovich, by a rogue Extra who took it upon himself to flaunt employment law and acceptable artistic practices to get drunk and ding a can of beer off the actors head from a moving car. How wonderful…
…Except the claim is total horse-plop – no more than the Director’s Commentary shenanigans of odd-ball director Spike Jonze. Malkovich himself confirmed that the scene was in fact scripted, and that no such drunk Extra existed. The thrower of the can was in fact John Cusack’s writing partner, as Malkovich told Reddit…
“Spike Jonze wanted to cut it because we were late that night and he felt no one would be able to hit me on the head with a half full can of beer from a passing car, and about 70 or 80 sets of hands shot up on the crew saying they would like to try. eventually the task fell to johnny cusack’s writing partner and he nailed it on the first try.”
This article was first posted on September 24, 2013