The caterers brought steak, cod, and lobster ravioli. The rich feast was enough to feed a small village. I sat in the tent with my pleather pants – my astronaut helmet carefuly placed on the table, with a pirate to my right and an Army soldier to my left. The soldier slyly concealed his iPhone and snapped photos of Bradley Cooper, who was a few tables away, laughing and talking with Julia Stiles and David O. Russell. The pirate scolded him, “You better put that away before they see you, or they’ll kick you out!” The soldier smiled but continued taking photos with stars in his eyes. I laughed at the scene and wondered, “How did I wind up on a Hollywood movie set in Pennsylvania with the Sexiest Man Alive?”
As much as I’d love to casually say that being a movie extra on The Silver Linings Playbook was like “no big deal,” it was a real trip. There’s the A-List talent within spitting distance from you, running lines and taking direction, there’s the fleet of Black Escalades that whisk them away as soon as their shoot is over, and there’s the pack of assistants who cater to their every whim. As I overheard Bradley say to his Ray-Ban Wayfarers wearing assistant in between takes, “Can I have a little less of the chicken skin next time?” He duly obliged. That’s not to give the impression that everyone is idly passing time and trying to outdo each other with the most outrageous demands, because they’re not. The crew is hard at work setting up shots, and as an extra, and being the lowest in rank on set, you’re given specific rules:
- No photos of the stars
- Do not speak to the talent unless they speak to you first
- Do not wait by their trailer after the shoot
- Do as you’re told
- You are working. Be professional
Being a movie extra is like being a servant. You are there to simply assist in the film. You can easily be replaced, although I doubt the producers could find as nice a spaceman suit as mine. And following protocol, since Bradley Cooper didn’t initiate a conversation with me, I didn’t start one with him. But really, what would I have said to Bradley Cooper anyway? He kinda looks like my improv coach, I thought Limitless was fun, and I liked The Hangover, but I’d totally take funny men Ed Helms or Zach Galifianakis over cool guy Cooper any day.
I won’t enter the debate over whether Bradley Cooper robbed Ryan Gosling of People’s “Sexiest Man Alive” title, but I will say that every time I was on set there were tons of screaming girls just off camera professing their love with “I <3 Bradley” signs, neighbors of the surrounding area and local cops posing for photos with him, and people outside his trailer waiting for a glimpse of the movie star. Did they like Bradley Cooper because he was a great actor or because he was famous? I don’t know. After being on a movie set and brushing shoulders with Jennifer Lawrence, Julia Stiles, and Bradley Cooper, fame seems a lot more relative, but still kinda sexy.