Extra credit: Intrepid reporters crash casting call for ‘Lone Ranger’
Intrepid reporters crash casting call for 'Lone Ranger'
The promotional photo for “The Lone Ranger” features Johnny Depp dressed as an over-the-top Tonto with a big black bird on his head. It should have been a sign.
After all, this is a man who played a drunk pirate in multiple installments of “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
So, when word broke that Disney was holding an open casting call for Depp’s new movie on April 1 in Moab, colleague Rachel Sauer and I looked at each other and said, “Yes.”
We subsequently learned via email that the Sande Alessi Casting agency, whose casting credits include the aforementioned “Pirates of the Caribbean” as well as “Glee” and “The Social Network,” wanted to hire locals of all ages, ethnicities and sizes to be extras. No speaking was required.
They wanted, and I quote, “extremely flexible,” “old wrinkled,” or “limbless” people. Gymnasts, bodybuilders and twins were welcome, the email news release read.
Without specifically saying what the extras would do, the agency’s requests indicated it was casting a diversity circus — emphasis on circus.
Rachel and I clearly wanted a seat at this “people-watching” parade.
We left Grand Junction at 10 a.m. April 1, in Rachel’s rented orange Dodge Caliber because her car was in the shop. I wore the flattest shoes I owned to accentuate my shortness. I’m approximately 5-feet tall, and the casting company wanted people 4-foot-5 and shorter, so I wanted to seem as short as possible. (There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.)
The 6-foot-1 Rachel had purchased platform heels in a dairy cow pattern to make herself appear 6-foot-6 because the casting company also wanted extremely tall people.
We got to Moab shortly before noon when we expected the lines would be shortest. We were greeted by a line so long it wrapped halfway around the Moab Valley Inn.
So we joined up, our current color headshots, measurements and driver’s licenses in hand, just as the email directed.
We filled out audition cards that wanted all our basic information and included a line for “special abilities.”
Here’s where our expectations about a non-intimidating, normal event floated away in the early spring Eastern Utah breeze.
I wrote down that I play piano and flute, which I do but haven’t in a while, and that I snowboard, which I do, but is probably not applicable to “The Lone Ranger.” In Moab. In July.
Rachel wrote that she can make balloon animals, do yo-yo tricks and write Chinese. She thought about mentioning she also can belly dance. Seriously.
In other words, we were trying to prove we were neat and weird to strangers all in an effort to get marginal, nonspeaking parts in a Disney movie.
After the cards were filled out, we had nothing to do but avoid the man selling $1 bottles of water and talk to those around us.
Two women nearby commented on my shortness, and I did seem extra short because I was standing next to a “NBA power forward” in cow heels.
After an hour, we were ushered into the hotel ballroom with nearly 250 other people where the show got even better.
A man with the Sande Alessi Casting agency welcomed us and asked if anyone in the crowd had a talent to share. (Crickets. Crickets.)
He suggested gymnasts. The flood gates opened.
Several young adults got up and did standing back tucks, back handsprings and some flying twisty things. The crowd applauded, and Rachel and I began to feel a little less optimistic about our chances of standing out.
The young adults’ confidence prompted nearly a dozen other people to get up and share their special abilities. Many were from Grand Junction. It kind of became the running joke.
An older gentleman with snow white hair and a Santa Claus beard showed his sweet whip skills. A young man made bird calls, and a young woman barked like a dog, prompting a real dog to start barking.
A man told a dirty joke. (It’s a Disney movie!) Another man got up to say he was raised by clowns and had learned how to laugh hysterically as a talent.
Sprinkled among all these talented people were flexible women who did yoga poses and pulled limbs in directions I’m not entirely sure were safe.
All of a sudden, Rachel mentioned she can put her leg behind her head but did not want to be an exhibitionist.
The casting director met with every person in that room. When she came to us, she wanted to check Rachel’s height without shoes.
Sidenote: What a job. Casting directors must hear all sorts of stories from aspiring extras. For example, the man in front of us came to the casting call to get a date, which the casting director screamed out to the rest of the ballroom.
Anyway, the casting director took a look at my card, noted I was short but told me to get another photo taken because the one Rachel took wasn’t “period” enough.
No problem. Once all that was done, and our cards were turned in, Rachel and I retreated to a restaurant across the street to debrief over a burger and a wrap. We laughed so hard at how ridiculous we became in a mission to get nonstarring, nonspeaking, highly-likely-to-get-cut roles in “The Lone Ranger,” which is scheduled for a summer 2013 release.
The Moab scenes will be shot in June or July the casting director said, but she wouldn’t divulge when any of us would be needed or what we would be doing.
After lunch, considering we were in Moab, Rachel took scenic Utah Highway 128 home. I’d never taken that road before, so she was excited to offer me the experience.
And just as we thought our adventures would stay in Utah, the car’s gas light went on near Utah/Colorado border, where the words “No Services” are an understatement. She had failed to check the gas gauge in Moab.
We were going to be stranded in the middle of nowhere in eastern Utah in a Dodge rental car!
Would a big back bird attack us? If so, would it be the one from Depp’s Tonto bandana/headdress? If so, would we get a movie credit?
Well, we survived, and truthfully, it wouldn’t have been a real movie audition without coasting into the Conoco in Loma for gas.
Now, we wait to see if we have what it takes to be in a Disney movie.