After sending off a couple of emails and not hearing anything back, I thought my bid to take part in a Hollywood film had stalled. However to my surprise I got the call ten days before filming asking “would I be available on 21st & 22nd August?” I said of course and looked forward to trying on my costume. Would I be a British officer, a Nazi, a French refugee? Well I went to the Redcar Leisure Centre and was offered a British privates uniform. Trying it on I realised it was going to be as itchy as anything wearing it for 10 hours a day! Incidentally, the uniforms were made in Poland for £100 a piece.
Monday 21st came and we were asked to register at 8:30 am and wait in the large hall of Redcar Bowl. There was 1000 of us along with 300 crew members milling about. It felt like the first day at a new school or college, people from all walks of life; students, managers, bouncers, cleaners, and a day service organiser.
I got a dresser to help put me into my uniform. The attention to detail was amazing. I had my uniform checked 5 times on the first day to make sure it was all correct. The kit I had was quite complex with extra bags and a rolled up cape attached, it looked good, but meant I couldn’t take any of it off without having to be re-dressed.
The waiting around and queuing was the most challenging part. From queuing for costume there was line for make-up. The substance applied resembled chocolate sauce and it was put all over my face, ears, neck and hands. Then I had some conditioner applied to my hair to make it look a bit rough. I had stopped shaving and so had some stubble to add to the effect.
Breakfast was on offer, they always say an army marches on its stomach well we were all well fed and watered. The assistant director (Michael) and director (Joe Wright) give us a talk about the importance of being an extra and what we would be doing over the next few days.
Lunch came and went and we waited and waited and finally got onto the set at 4:00pm. The scene was immense. The set was terrific and exceptionally well staged.
There was only the one scene lasting a minute, with James McAvoy coming over a sand dune to see this amazing site in front of him. The sand dune was in fact on the back of a lorry with JM slowly looking through the grass with the camera behind him. I was situated in a long line waiting to board a boat (to be added later by CGI special effects). You may get to see me if you pause the DVD in the right place. Also there will be 30 of me as the cinema version will replicate the 1000 extras into 30 000. The scene itself even if it was padded out could last no longer than one and a half minutes. But it was shot with 5 cameras and we had 9 takes. A third AD (assistant director) stood with us and was in costume in case he appeared in frame. By the end we were all tired of standing it was 7.30 pm before we wandered off the beach and back to get changed and have something to eat.