As a kid, I constantly dreamed about acting. I imagined what it would be like to create the magic behind the scenes and write the scripts that built the stories. Time passed, life happened, and I never made that dream come true. However, I do check in with a local company, Heery Casting, for occasional work. I missed the filming of Limitless in 2009, starring Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro, but when I heard they were returning to film The Silver Linings Playbook, I immediately applied. I have always admired Robert DeNiro. A true natural, his movies have profoundly affected me. It was only just before Hangover 2 released that I discovered Bradley Cooper is from Jenkintown, only one town over from my own birthplace.
I waited anxiously for the call, which I finally received near the end of October. The location was a cozy diner in Upper Darby and I was to bring a Halloween costume. I arrived early, which gave me time to make friends with some of the other extras. After some waiting in the holding area, we piled in vans and headed to a quiet neighborhood. We did a few quick shots as trick-or-treaters, then headed to the diner for more waiting in the parking lot. The crew members were scattered about communicating on headsets to organize who would go where. Taking the opportunity, I made sure to keep moving away from the outgoing vans that were carrying extras back to the holding location.
Eventually, we were herded into the diner and people were placed, filling the space like sardines. I spotted a table remaining empty in the middle of the room and slid myself into a seat at the counter directly across from it. I soon found my intuition was right as Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence came in and sat at the table.
I spent from 4pm until 4am on the set, adrenaline keeping me wide awake the entire time. I laughed. I nibbled cold French fries. I spent hours getting to know the incredible people in the seats around me. Most importantly, I soaked up every moment like a sponge. Being so close to the action allowed me to see how much effort is put into every moment of a film. While David O. Russell directed, the crew worked furiously to keep the extras quiet and moving when needed. When a better camera angle was needed, they swooped in to remove a seat and change the lighting. When squeaking counter seats were creating a distraction, they appeared with oil to grease each one. And all the while, they still worked with a smile and pandered to my penchant for playful banter.
The night was unforgettable. I went home floating on a cloud. When the next day came, all I could think about was getting back to the set. I wanted more. If I was an addict, I would have been doubled over from the withdrawal.
This video was not taken by me, but was from the same day I was on set.
Thankfully, I was called again. This time, the location was in the city. There was a much larger crowd of people and I wondered if I had made the right decision. Would the second time be as fun as the first? Would I be able to get as much out of it as I did before?
It wasn't long before I was assured it would be another memorable day. A more formal scene, we headed over to the Ben Franklin House. We were placed throughout the lobby and balcony hallways. Finding a crew member I recognized, I said hello and he sent me right upstairs with a few others. Wondering if I would be within view of a camera, I was thrilled when Bradley Cooper walked by and stood at the end of the hallway with the gathering crew members.
Again, I was in awe as David and Bradley hashed out the scenes, deciding the best camera angles and how it would be performed. As the day went on, I was placed in prime spots as the stars walked the hallways. David would read their lines, each time with different inflection and timing. They would repeat and repeat until they had what they wanted.
At the end of the day, I left with the same feeling of adrenaline and satisfaction. A dreamy smile plastered to my face. For so long I wondered what it would be like, and even though I didn't pursue the career I wanted, I spent two amazing days entranced with being in the center of it all. Hopefully, it will lead me to more days like this to come.