‘42’ extras hope to spot themselves in movie

pramati@macon.comApril 11, 2013 

Normally considered a bad omen, the number 666 turned out to be lucky for Macon’s Darnell Ellis.

A production team member gave the 55-year-old Ellis that number while he waited to be fitted for wardrobe on the set of “42,” which shot in Macon last June.

Ellis not only was picked to be an extra in the movie -- as part of a crowd shot on Second Street -- but he also picked up some nice perks along the way.

“I met a lot of really nice people, and they paired me with a really pretty girl,” Ellis said, laughing. “It was the first time anyone ever paid me to get my hair cut.”

Ellis said he was paid an average of $100 per day for his five days on the shoot -- enough money to fix an issue with his mother’s car that cost more than $400.

Ellis is one of hundreds of Middle Georgians who were part of the movie-making action in Macon. Some had previous experience as extras on other films -- including the Clint Eastwood flick “Trouble With The Curve,” which shot in Macon last May -- while others stepped onto a movie set for the first time.

Amaris Hawkins, a 24-year-old Macon teacher who worked previously on Tyler Perry’s sitcoms that are shot in Atlanta, had never worked on a movie set until “42.” However, she was chosen as an extra and a stand-in for the actress who plays the landlady for Jackie Robinson and his wife in the film.

“It was a good experience, to see how they put things together,” Hawkins said.

As a stand-in, she was able to get the chance to interact with the movie’s star, Chadwick Boseman, who portrays Robinson, and even was able to eat lunch with the crew.

“He’s very ambitious how he works,” she said of Boseman. “He’s a very hard worker and was involved in a lot of research (into the role). My experience as a stand-in, you get to interact with the camera crew and the director, and (you learn) how exact you have to be. With (being an) extra, when it’s time, you just stand in the back and do your thing.”

Many of the local extras planned to get dinner and then see the movie en masse Thursday night. Most of the extras said they want to watch “42,” paying extra attention during the Macon-shot scenes to see who and what they can recognize.

“I look forward to seeing it,” said Neill Calabro of Gray, who has appeared as an extra in several movies and plays a peanut vendor in the stadium crowd scenes. “I love to see movies that are made in the area. ... Looking for people you know is always fun. It changes the way you look at movies.”

Mike Vinson, a 38-year-old from Perry, was recruited when the casting call went out for baseball players. As luck would have it, the extra who was supposed to play first base didn’t show up that day, and Vinson was pressed into service. It gave him the opportunity to work with former Atlanta Braves pitcher Pete Smith, who served as a technical advisor for the baseball sequences in “42.”

“They gave me one of those itty-bitty 1940s gloves,” Vinson said. “We were doing warm-up drills, and (the infielders) were slinging the ball to me as hard as they can. Somehow, I snagged every one. Harrison Ford was sitting on the third base line, and they told me that if I dropped one, he’d make fun of me.”

Vinson also plays a guy selling programs in what was the section for black fans in the stadium.

“We’re big sports nuts, so we would have seen the movie anyway,” he said. “But it would be really cool if I was in (the movie’s final cut).”

Bowden Oakes, 63, a commercial estimator from Macon, said he won’t have to sweat whether his scenes ended up on the cutting room floor. He serves as an extra, playing one of the reporters interviewing Robinson, and his scene was part of the movie’s trailer.

Oakes said one of the most exciting parts of working on the movie was seeing the real Rachel Robinson -- Jackie’s widow -- spend part of the day in Macon, watching some of the baseball filming.

Between “42” and “Trouble With The Curve,” the movie extra business has kept 38-year-old Chris Dunn of Warner Robins busy. Producers relied on Dunn, who organizes the Middle Georgia Baseball League, when they were looking for extras for the baseball scenes.

“I was waiting for a phone call from (‘42’ producers),” he said. “Their need (for baseball extras) went from 60 to 80 to 120. It was like, ‘Oh my goodness!’ ... I was scrambling for players.”

Dunn said he put out a notice to players across the state, and someone even drove in from the Bronx to try out. Dunn himself worked as an extra, playing a coach in one scene and a member of the St. Paul Saints in another.

Dunn also will be watching “42” for both its story and the scenes shot in Macon. “It’s a great story, it’s history, and I want to be a part of it,” he said. “I think it’s going to be one of the biggest baseball movies around.”

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service