I’ve just re-registered myself as a film extra. It can be great fun, you earn a bit of extra cash and the catering is usually more than generous. The downside is interminable hanging around and sometimes being treated like cattle.
You’d think a characterful, plump chap like me would be in great demand. I can look positively Dickensian given a couple of mutton-chop whiskers. But I’m rarely invited to join the throng. I think they want most people to blend in. After all, one wouldn’t want folk identifying the chap laying in the road after yet another Casualty coach crash as the same one working the thresher in Lark Rise, would one?
Besides, the costumes never fit me. I thought I’d developed friendly relations with the wardrobe crew on Remains of the Day. I was in their cabin on a regular basis getting an extra dart put in my trousers or having my coat let out. Until someone heard them exclaim “Oh, no, they’ve cast that fat bloke again!”
As for being treated like cattle, when filming Canterbury Tales dozens of us poor extras, dressed in heavy armour, had to stand in the rain outside Wells Cathedral (which itself was standing in for Bath Abbey) for an entire day. It rained so heavily that after a while the brown dye was washed off our boots and we all ended up with one blue one and one pink one. They must have been recycled from a pantomime.
On the same occasion my helmet wouldn’t stay open. In the break I approached the huge muscled blacksmith operating the bellows in the mediaeval forge set up on the greensward. Excuse me mate, can you fix my visor? Sorry love, came the reply, I’m just an actor.
Half of Bath worked on the Joseph Andrews set. This rollicking romp took over many locations in the city and outlying villages. One of my friends was the envy of the rest of us as she was set to earn almost treble wages by including her dogs with her in the inn scene. Her glory was short lived however when one of her mutts grabbed a whole leg of lamb off the table during a break in shooting and belted off down Norton St Philip high street. Silly people, they should have used fake food!