Famous Extras

  • Nigel Peever

    Actor

    After reading the thread about "to extra or not to extra" how many famous people can we name who are down as having done extra work. You must be able to prove it with a link or verifiable quote.

    I started at wikipedia (so of course it's true) and I got Lisa Riley Mandy Dingle 6 1/2 years on Emmerdale.

    "After some early roles including extra work on Coronation Street and an appearance in Butterfly kiss which was directed by.... etc"

    Ruby Wax appears in a crowd scene in Chariots of Fire.

    Your turn guys and gals, The game is afoot!

    Copy and paste the list onto your message so first two are Lisa Riley, Ruby Wax,

    • 28th Oct 2010
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  • Forbes KB

    Actor

    Derek Martin, Charlie Slater in Eastenders, recently admitted on Loose Woman to having got into the "acting game" by first being an extra, and then by getting to old and fragile to do stunt work!

    Some of his early "credits" are er, dubious to say the least but who's gonna argue with 735 episodes in the BBC's flagship soap!

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  • Monty Burgess

    Actor

    Jean Claude Van Damme in Breakdance. Bruce Willis in The First Deadly Sin.

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  • Mark Kempner

    Actor

    Bill Tarmey (spewlling?) went on to become Jack Duckworth in Corrie. He nearly turned down a few lines as Jack...coz he thought he'd lose out on the regular GUY IN PUB Extra...sorry SA... work.

    I'm certain I've seen some actors who are now famous but appeared as SA's in various progs in their early days.

    Graham Cole was an SA on the Bill before progressing to PC STAMP for many many years

    I bet there are heaps of story's that we will never know and or get admitted too by some "NOW" famous stars.

    There is no shame in it whatsoever.....though it is annoying when someone comes up to you at a party or whatever to say: "Oh I've just been told, you were in an Epp of Eastenders or whatever

    Umm...yep...one epp....and they go: "Oh right what as an extra?"

    Umm no..it was a main role for that particular Epp ...!!

    IN a loud and belittling tone..."Yeah but as an Extra...right?"

    ....my reply....what do you do?

    Oh I'm an accountant!

    Ahh...right.....you mean you just tidy up someone's desk...right?

    "Umm...no I'm an accountant....!"

    "No you mean...you make coffee for the office manager?"

    ...they got the hint in the end...and buggered off to bore somebody else!!

    It's the British way.... lets pooh poo whatever we can...God forbid anyone should do well for themselves at anything!! There again, I have heard SA's telling me they are regulars on Holby and making it out to be like leading roles and the like....so in a way - as I said on the other thread - a "few" SA's do ask for it sometimes.

    ....sorry...I digressed a bit!!

    • 28th Oct 2010
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  • Karen Kennedy

    Actor

    Keira Knightly and Emma Bunton in The Bill (there are lots of "celebs" who started in The Bill but these are the two I can think of straightaway without Google!)

    • 28th Oct 2010
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  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    Good game, Nigel, though I'd say that it points out how thin the lines can be drawn, and how grey the distinctions between minor parts and supporting work can sometimes be. I can understand why often soap supporting actors can get promoted in status because there is a sense in which most soap acting is kept close to the actual personality of the actor (with a few honorable exceptions - June Brown, for instance, is a formidable character actor of many, many years standing), and the demand for range is not as important as the need to portray a character in an honest, straightforward way.

    Being a Lisa Riley or a Bill Tarmey (i.e. a longstanding supporting artist of many years standing ultimately promoted to lead actor) is not quite the same thing as being an aspirant lead actor who spends early years doing occasional support work to earn their dues (as, I imagine, was the case for e.g. Keira Keightley - and, it could probably be said of most of the leading actors in our business that they all have at least one or two supporting credits from early in their career when they were unknowns just starting out - Ewen Macgregor was, indeed, once 'Man in Phonebox' and so on).

    With that said, even many 'habitual' supporting artists who go on to mainstream success are more well rounded performers than might at first be apparent. Bill Tarmey, for instance, was not a totally unknown SA even when he was first employed on Coronation Street; he was, I believe, a locally known singer/entertainer, who worked the club circuit, and so the producers were probably well aware that he was a talented performer and comedian, with experience of working an audience, already - therefore asking him to step up the game was hardly a high risk strategy. Equally (and I am going only on vague recollection of the character here, as I wasn't born at the time!), I believe Jack Duckworth started out as a character who was, you've guessed it, a salt-of-the-earth club singer type - so they asked Bill to play (initially, at least) what he knew best, and got an accurate portrayal into the bargain!

    To make what might be a ridiculous comparison - one of the best known 'unknown' success stories I can think of is that of Harrison Ford, who was, so it's said, working as a carpenter on George Lucas's sets, when Lucas elected to cast him in a lead role (not in 'Star Wars- that came later) but in 'American Graffiti'. This is true, as far as it goes, but the story slightly underplays the fact that Ford was also a well trained actor who was paying his bills by working his additional occupation of carpenter at the time. No doubt when he was screen tested, he did it as only a pro would know how. Similarly, one of the heroes of my youth, Doctor Who's Tom Baker, was (relatively) notorious (in some circles at least) for having been chosen to play the Doctor, having been 'discovered' working on a building site - this story was again true, as far as it went - Baker's career had stalled to such an extent at the point he was cast that he had started doing labouring work to earn some extra cash. However, the fact that he had also racked up a large number of low budget features, and worked with a variety of significant directors and performers for about half a decade before he took on his most famous role, is convieniently ignored.

    It's a thin line as I say - Michael Caine tells an interesting career story in his famous book on film acting (if you read between the lines). On the one hand, he makes the typically determined statement somewhere that 'If you choose to act in support, you'll always stay a supporting actor' (or words to the effect). Yet, you can tell from his own words that the majority of the jobs he did for his first decade in film were, basically, support work of exactly this kind. He may never have been an extra, as such, but he was habitually given parts of one or two lines, which weren't much more prominent. As he tells it, his biggest break, 'Zulu', came only when the casting directors, who felt he was wrong for the part of Gonville Bromhead, had their first choice fall sick, and because of the tightness of the shooting schedule, had to bring Caine in to take the part. Of course, it went on (justifiably) to make his career. Presumably, what he was doing was always shooting for the bigger auditions and never quite winning them until the day he finally fell lucky. And that *is* the sort of success story we can all take seriously.

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  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    So, to sum that up for the sake of the game, Harrison Ford and Michael Caine (?)

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  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    Oh, and I misspelled 'Knightley'

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  • Esther Eden

    Actor

    I think Brad Pitt started off his career doing extra work, at least that's what I remember reading somewhere.

    On wikipedia it says ''Pitt's onscreen career began in 1987, with uncredited parts in the films No Way Out, No Man's Land and Less Than Zero''

    So if it's uncredited, I'm going to say that it was extra work! - so I'm adding Brad Pitt to the list.

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  • User Deleted

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    Peter Jackson in Lord of the Rings...

    • 28th Oct 2010
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  • User Deleted

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    I'm pretty sure Sean Connery started as an extra. I think a couple of the stalwarts in Taggart also got started this way.

    • 28th Oct 2010
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  • User Deleted

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    Marilyn Monroe in something... can't remember what though. I've seen the clip; the main couple are coming out of a church or something and Marilyn says 'hello' to the lady. And that's it.

    • 28th Oct 2010
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  • Rory Mccallum

    Actor

    David Bowie was an extra in the film 'The Virgin Soldiers' He said nothing just looked pretty!

    But it was a great film directed by John Dexter in 1969.

    The swinging sixties!!

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  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    It's often forgotten that Bowie actually trained in mime when he was a very young man with no less a tutor than Lindsay Kemp, so he's always been a stage performer of sorts. Of course, his inimitable acting career only really took off years later, once he'd become well known as a rock icon.

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  • Forbes KB

    Actor

    What?? A trained actor doing extra work!! Whatever next! The shame!!

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  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    I think it's actually an interesting thing that, once again, attitudes have changed dramatically within the industry in the last 30-40 years. I've been informed by older actors that, back in the day, extras tended to be drawn almost exclusively from within the ranks of Union members, so they were *all* trained actors, and being on set as an extra was once, as it still seems to be in the US, an important step towards getting your face known to those producing TV and film works who might, in due course of time, be auditioning you for more substantial parts.

    But, since those days, and the general withering in Union strength, being a supporting artist has (as has everything else) become the prerogative of everyone across the board - indeed, many casting directors much prefer to source extras independent of Union restriction because they can be paid at more variable rates. I would assume that one of the reasons that what can be read as 'snobbery' towards being an extra has arisen partly because casting directors now see it as proving nothing - instead of being a necessary, and useful, job for a trained actor to undertake, it becomes seen as a job that anyone can do, and an actor who wishes to be taken 'seriously' should not be touting their services as an extra. I don't support the development, but it does explain why there seems to have been a shift in attitudes towards 'lead acting' and 'support work' - I have even had casting directors try to actively dissuade me from accepting extras work when they know that I have been drama school trained, and pursue a regular career as a mainstream actor.

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  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    And now, back to the game ;)

    • 28th Oct 2010
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