For others it was just another day at the office as career extras. But the arrival and departure of the cast and crew involved in the movie “42” left a lasting impression on several paid and promotional extras who are already calling the scenes shot in Chattanooga at the Historic Engel Stadium an historic event.
The film, starring Harrison Ford and Chadwick Boseman, centers around Jackie Robinson, (played by Boseman) who became the first black baseball player in the major leagues and Branch Rickey, (played by Ford) the executive who signed Robinson. The title “42” refers to Robinson’s now-retired uniform number.
Residents from Cleveland and as far away as Stone Mountain, Ga., came to Chattanooga to be a part of the movie. Many of their sentiments were identical in describing the thrill of being in a Hollywood movie and the excitement of watching a remake of history.
Jill Culpepper, a manager at Whirlpool Customer eXperience Center in Cleveland, said being involved in a Hollywood film was on her “bucket list” of things to do and being an extra in “42” lived up to her expectations. Her special moment in motion pictures came the morning of June 5. It was raining. Her 19-year-old daughter, Kaytlin, was with her.
“We arrived at Finley Stadium and a shuttle bus arrived within three minutes,” she recalled. “The experience was overwhelming — walking into Engel Stadium, an entire area filled with hair, makeup and wardrobe — not to mention a few men were receiving hair cuts. Red lipstick was everywhere! I was asked to go to ‘Hair and Makeup’ — an extra’s dream come true! Hair and makeup for me was almost like a dream. The people in that section were extremely patient and dedicated. My hair is very thick and chemically straightened, but they invested 1 1/2 hours and 3 pounds of pins to make 1940s waves in my very thick hair.”
Culpepper said there were a couple of scenes where she and other extras were filmed in the crowd, something she especially enjoyed since she dreamed of being a Hollywood actress, like Audrey Hepburn, but did not pursue her Hollywood dream. This was the next best thing, according to Culpepper.
“The film crew was very good to provide explicit directions for us to help make our experience even better,” she said. “We received snacks and lunch and they provided raffles for various items. It was so cool. It was so fun. I always wanted to do this! This was a wonderful experience and I completely enjoyed my interactions with the team from Southern Hollywood Events. They are very friendly!” Culpepper, who moved to Cleveland in 1983 and attends First Baptist Church there, added, “This is something I would definitely do again. I was so impressed.”
Sarah Ritterhouse, who works in Cleveland at Hyperbaric Services of East Tennessee, said she started acting and modeling at age 14, but enjoyed the challenge of acting better. The 19-year-old said she did not know what to expect on her first day on the set of “42,” since other sets she has been on were all different.
“This set had makeup, hair and wardrobe fittings,” she said. “Each morning women are told to come in rollers and light makeup. You normaly work all day until 7 or 8 p.m. even 9 p.m., and the crew stays even later. You don’t get your call time until after you get off work and it can be as early as 6 a.m. However all of this is worth it to the actors because there are very few jobs that leave a legacy like the film industry.”
Ritterhouse, an assistant marketing director with The Academy of Mutual Interest in Motion Pictures, an online social website for film buffs, added, “On this set I learned about the technicalities of the production for this particular film. I met a lot of really great people, some that I had met on other sets and made several new friends. It was great to see the bonding that other actors have for each other after several days on set. Films play out better with good chemistry on set. It’s long days but I’ve learned so much! It was a good experience. I would love to do it again but if I don’t act anymore, I am grateful for this experience.”
Renelda Batts traveled from Stone Mountain to be on the set of “42” in Chattanooga. The 23-year-old said “Being in this atmosphere of film production is fulfilling enough for me. Even if I am not actually seen in the movies as a featured extra, I am able to witness the most important, yet usually unseen, background work that goes into making a film viewable. The sense of urgency of everyone around me, the impromptu demands, and the various set designs created for scenes, all fascinate me so much.”
Batts, who received her bachelor’s from the University of Georgia with a focus in studio art and interior architecture, said “It is wonderful having the opportunity to be around both of my passions — acting and architecture — relating to set designs. To me, acting and entertaining, along with designing goes hand in hand. It all forces me to use my creative, adventurous side. Most importantly, it also allows me to come alive in this world instead of just simply living. I believe when you come alive, that is one way of knowing you are in the right direction to fulfilling your purpose in this life.”
Having worked as a featured extra in the action-adventure “Fast and Furious 5,” Batts confessed, “I cannot begin to explain the wonderful experience I had being on their set. Although specifically, this film ‘42’ puts me in awe. I knew from the moment I got the call to be a featured extra that this was an opportunity I could not pass up. The powerful historical presence this film aims to portray will undeniably make this film a classic.
“Aside from the story line, the atmosphere and the people on this set have inspired me. The cast, production staff and background workers I was around made the work environment a joy to be a part of. The 1940s vibe has taken over the set and it could not be any more mystical and beautiful. Seeing everyone in their 1940s attire has been one of the greatest experiences I will take with me. Moreso, I have met so many wonderful people, from the very talented and friendly Chadwick Boseman to the wonderful extras working along with me.”
Boseman, the co-star of “42,” posed with Batts and other extras on a closed set on June 1. Several background performers said they were impressed with his kindness and humility after the shoot. After the production team wrapped filming in Chattanooga, the cast and crew headed to Macon, Ga., leaving behind several starstruck fans and extras who got their wish to be in a Hollywood film and meet others with similar dreams.
Now they are poised for its scheduled April 12, 2013 release date, hoping that the film, like Jackie Robinson, will be a game changer.