"We who are about to extra, salute you!"






Tuesday, October 6, 2009


My alarm was set for 4:15 but I awoke at 3:19 because, well...because. I lay there a little while

but knew I was done for the night so got up, dressing in black pants, a black top, hanging 5

big strings of black and gold beads around my neck, donning a black jacket with yellow scarf,

plopping a Penguins cap on my fluffy white hair, and inserting the white handles of a couple of black and gold pompoms into the edge of my purse. It had been at dinner time the evening

before that the agency had let us know we were to wear either Penguins or Pirates fan gear

or else black and yellow stuff. A quick trip to the local Walmart proved fruitless in garnering

Penguins or Pirates gear as it was wall to wall Steelers and we had been forbidden to wear

Steelerisms. A thorough checking of the departments wherein are sold clothing items for

women, men, and even boys turned up exactly one Penguin shirt and no Pirates, and it was

in a completely wrong size...hence the beads, the single-to-be-had Penguin cap, and the black

and gold pompoms, which I purchased.


I was out the door at 4:24 in pitch blackness and silence and 40 degrees to head over to my

daughter Laura's house as she was also an extra. We were to be at the Robert Morris city

campus at 6 AM, so we had been informed, and live about an hour east of the city. There was

not another car on the road as I drove the 10 or so minutes to her house through the very

rural countryside and forest where we live. She was waiting for me in her stepson's black

Toyota, which the agency had said they wanted to use in the filming, too. I transferred to her

car and the two of us headed off westward in the night, stopping in Murrysville to get gas as it

only had a quarter of a tank, but we were totally unfamiliar with this car and just could NOT

find the release for the door over the gas cap. So we went our way with our quarter tank,

knowing after we got on the Parkway East in Monroeville there would be no gas stations.


As it was still so early, the traffic into the city wasn't bad and we made good time, much

better than usual, arriving at Grant street about 5:15. We did our series of turns, passed

a corner with a big fence around it at Ross and 3rd that was filled with obvious movie

trucks and trailers, continued on down to Second Avenue, turned left, went past the new

jail but couldn't find the entrance to the assigned parking lot. We backtracked to 2nd and

B St. and stopped in an empty lot in a VERY dark and utterly grungy area and I got out

the paper from the agency which said in very big letters...LOST?? Call Kara at 412......

So I did. Kara was in her car and she had no idea how to tell us what to do. We headed off

past the jail again, going further than it looked on the little map they'd provided, finally

finding the entrance to the lot. It's a simply enormous lot and we were told to go all the

way down it and park right near the eastern edge of the jail, which we did. We were the

first ones there and so we set about trying to figure out how to open the blankety blank

gas door. A policeman was wandering around in the lot and I asked him if he knew and

he came over but couldn't figure it out, which made us feel somewhat better. Laura found

the car's manual in the glove compartment and finally discovered there was a latch to flip

waaaay back under the dash. Two or three more cars came up but then a man appeared

and told us to move over and park by this tall concrete wall as they were going to be

fencing off the section where we were so that movie gear could park there. We did that

and a few more cars came, but nobody had any idea of what was what. I called Kara

again and, well, Kara was lost. Yep, the person we were to call if we got lost was...lost.

So I had to tell HER how to find the parking lot.


We were all wondering when the shuttles would come to take us up to Robert Morris

and one or two white shuttles did appear, but they were always not for us. As no more

cars were coming down to our area, we finally decided to drive up nearer the entrance

to see what was going on. The lot curved just enough so that you couldn't see that from

where we were. Lo and behold, tons of cars had now parked up near the gatehouse and

people in black and gold were standing around in clumps wondering about shuttles. Our

paper had said it was two blocks from the parking to where we were to go, but it was more

like 10 and uphill. A few souls did set off on foot in the dark, but you have to go through

that really, really yukkyish area and we decided, along with most folks, to wait. At 6:30

a shuttle shows up. There are almost 300 people trying to get on it and it holds 10. There

are a lot of big sturdy young men who rush it ahead of all the females and I narrow my

eyes and mourn the utter loss of chivalry. It takes a while for the doors to open and one

football-player-sized young man pushes his way inside and the rest are about to follow

when a more slender man hollers, "Wait! Let the ladies go first!" I smiled at him and

told him he was a true gentleman. Several women got on and there were a couple of seats

left and so I was trying to get on. Trying being the operative word as the step up was as

high as my mid-thigh. I grabbed onto something inside and Laura boosted me from behind

and I made it into a third-row seat, with her getting in beside me. Now Laura has legs

that don't quit, long Bambi legs, so she gets in easily. Another woman tries to get in and

can't manage and both Laura and I lean and grab onto her to haul her up. I have no idea

who designed these horrible shuttles, but it was definitely not a short, older woman. Ack!


Then we are ready to go and a young man comes up and says, sorry, someone will have to

get off as he is a real policeman, though dressed in black and gold, and is playing a cop

in the movie and has to be up there NOW. No one who has struggled so hard to get on wants

to get off and Laura suggests that she and I scootch over closer to the older woman to my

left and there would be a little room for him. We do and he manages. Heading along 2nd

Ave. past the jail, we nearly get side-swiped twice by other vehicles, but survive, turn the

corner and head up Ross past that corner which the driver refers to as Base Camp, where

the trailers are.


At Robert Morris we take an elevator up to the 4th floor where we stand in a long line

while a single person sits at a table across a hallway signing us in and giving us more

paperwork to fill out. Cheryl comes out of a doorway to my left and greets us. Cheryl

is a Crowefan who posts on ConstantCrowe and it was only yesterday that I managed

to track her down and make contact with her. I knew she was local and going to be an

extra from reading a post on Murphsplace. We'd sent each other pictures yesterday so

we'd recognize one another. She had taken a bus downtown and so hadn't been part of

the whole parking lot scenario and was already registered and waiting in a small room

there that held about 30 people.


Laura and I were directed to go up to the 6th floor next to wait in another line at another

table where we had to show proof of identity and then report to wardrobe to be approved

in what we were wearing. They liked my outfit just fine, but added a solid gold-colored

cap for Laura with a gold P on it for Pirates to brighten her up more. This was at the front

of a stadium-seated room that could hold about 300 people and we found seats and waited

there for two hours. I had brought along a book but couldn't seem to get in the mood to

read it. That was a shame, alas, because it was a very BIG book and I lugged it around in

my purse all day, along with a bottle of Coke, some snacks, an umbrella, and various sorts

'n sundries making the thing weigh about 30 pounds.


What I mostly did that two hours was talk with Laura and some other women and watch

as people filed in to have their wardrobe checked. There was a rack of clothing hanging

at the very front of the room and some people had other shirts or jackets loaned to them.

We were an entirely eclectic group, which, I'm sure, is what they wanted.


Now I must mention about my leg because the whole rest of the day, for me, was based on

that. On January 6th I stepped on a mat outside my door upon which there was no ice, but

UNDER which lay unseen ice, and as the weight of my left foot came down on it, it skidded

sharply sideways, taking my foot with it. I ended up with both leg bones broken through

low down, a large triangle broken off the end of my tibia, and every bone and ligament

and tendon in my left ankle completely scrambled and my foot angled way off to the left.

So I've had two surgeries on it, the latest in May wherein they removed the two long

screws that went through both leg bones but left the 8 other screws, the big plate, the K wires,

etc. Alas, the removal of the long screws resulted in the rebreakage of the large triangle

at the bottom of my tibia so that it was more separated from the main bone than it had

been in the original break. Anyway, I do walk on it now but haven't really taken a step

since January 6th that hasn't hurt. And I still do stairs one step at a time, putting both

feet on each. So that's my background for what comes next.


At 9 a young man announced that we were to follow him so we did, and in a vast stream

of black and gold humanity, started down six flights of steps at a very quick pace. There

was simply no way I could go down in my usual careful way and so I had to go down them

just like I was a non-gimp. At the 4th floor landing, Cheryl came through the door from

there, which pleased me greatly, and was with Laura and me for the rest of the time.

We crossed the lobby, went up some steps to the door, crossed 5th Avenue and walked

quickly to the corner of 5th and Ross, where we, um, well, stood...for the next hour.

Laura, Cheryl and I had ended up somehow right at the curb in front. While we waited,

a woman walked around with a platter of cut-up fruits and a cup of toothpicks, and

there was coffee if you wanted and a few other things.



This is called the Bridge of Sighs, after the one in Venice, and connects the old (mid-1880's)

stone jail on the right in this picture with the old stone courthouse on the left. The black

building in the background I still think of as the US Steel building as it was built for them

but is now UPMC (part of the huge University of Pittsburgh Medical Center buildings all

over the area). The silvery one between them is the tallest of the Mellon Bank Center

buildings.  This is looking toward the corner where we waited, which would be on the right

past the stone jail and just where you can see the modern windows.



This is looking the opposite direction, southward on Ross and was taken (not by me) from

the middle of the intersection there. It was on the sidewalk on this corner we first saw

Russell. He had walked up Ross from the Base Camp further down and Cheryl, standing

to my left, poked me and said, "It's him."


He was standing there in a very typical Russell pose, feet apart, cigarette in his left hand

near his hip. He was dressed like this: (all Russ pictures thanks to Rosy at Accidental

Sexiness...I couldn't take pictures as we were forbidden both cameras and cell phones on pain

of having to put $20 in a bucket and having our equipment taken from us)



This was taken a bit later and when he was on the corner, his sweater was pulled down neatly

over his belt. He crossed 5th, then crossed Ross directly toward us, just veering off slightly

to our right as there was no room for him to get on the sidewalk there. But he came very close

and flashed one of his big, closed-lip smiles at us. Cheryl hollered, "Go Bunnies!" when he

was very close and you could tell he liked that. He continued on about a quarter of a block

down our sidewalk where there was a big indentation in the Mellon building on that side and

a number of film people working on things. We saw him slip on a grey jacket that had strips

of duct tape stuck on it here and there.



He practiced a few times running out into the middle of Ross as though he were being chased.

He'd use his hand and turn to indicate to other people what he wanted to do, then he'd go

back over to the sidewalk.


Our job in this first shot was to be background for his doing that. We were to cross Ross at

the corner as though we had just left a Penguin's game and were heading back into the city.



The Penguins play in the silver dome you see here, which means in the film we would have

walked from there to the corner of Ross and 5th. You see the black tower, then two tall

silvery towers to its left. Mellon is the central one of those three towers. We were on the

corner of it further to the left end and Russ would run out from the lower building with

the white top. If you know what you're looking for, you can see some of the old stone

jail just to the left of that white top. The rather bright red building nearby is Robert

Morris where we waited. Base Camp was near the medium-sized dark peach-colored building

more to the left.  Notice the little green park-like area to the right of the base of the Mellon

tower as we filmed there later.


Our big task was to cross that corner of Ross at 5th. They had the first 20 or so of us head

out, then another clump wait 5 seconds and follow, and so on. It didn't look terribly

natural so after a few times of that they decided to start the scene with some of us already

in the street and others spaced out behind. They picked Laura and me to be the lead two

as they liked our look together. She's 5'10" and had on 3" black boots and I'm 5 4 3/4 and

was in tennis shoes. We explained that we were mother and daughter and they liked that

even more, so we held hands as we went. We got to our spot in the street and they would

say, "Rolling! Action background!" and we would finish crossing the street and go part

way down the block of 5th toward Grant. Then they'd holler "Reset!" and we'd go back to

our position in the street and do it over again...and again...and again...until we lost count

of how many times. Then there were times in between when they let traffic through and we'd

stand on the original curb again for a while. They never closed Ross entirely, just for small

periods and it was kind of interesting to stand there in such a huge black and gold clump

while drivers going through gawked and wondered what the heck was going on. And, too,

any pedestrians who wanted to cross the street had to make their way around us as we

waited since we totally filled the whole corner and beyond. They looked at us oddly, too,

wondering why we just stood there when we had the light. There were also times when

pedestrians ruined the shot. One man came up and just leaned on the light post, staring

at us while we walked, for instance. The AD was always trying to get pedestrians to hurry

and move out of the shot. It seemed to us they could have just blocked the sidewalk on our

side further down, but I guess they didn't have a permit to do that.


When we were in the street waiting, we knew Russ was doing stuff just a wee distance to

our right, but we were supposed to look ahead and not to the side to be ready for action.

Anyway, we crossed, recrossed, rerecrossed...a LOT. I have new respect for scenes now

in movies where the characters are doing something and folks are just crossing the street!!


After a long while of street crossings, the same young man who'd led us from the Robert

Morris building came by again and told us to follow him. He walked at a smart clip all the

way down 5th along the side of the Mellon tower, then cut across a plaza on its Grant St.

side (which had some steps, yes) then turned right again so we were in that little park

between the Mellon and black UPMC tower. On the side of the park closest to the Mellon

tower is a wide walkway with trees closely planted on either side. It slopes back up the hill

toward Ross and at several points has a series of wide steps. The trees were still green but

someone had stuck clumps of artificial amber-colored oak leaves (they were not oak trees)

in them as well as had scattered individual oak leaves all along the walkway. (I pocketed a couple as a souvenir of the day.)


We waited here a bit, standing, then practiced going back and forth up and down the walkway. Then a clump of our extras who had changed into blue scrubs and one who was dressed in a white coat as a doctor were stationed at the Grant St. end and we were supposed to walk toward them as they walked toward and through our fan group. We did that several times then they decided they didn't like that and got rid of the medical group. Then we were told that Russell would be running through the center of our fan group in the same direction we were headed (toward Grant and away from Ross) and we were to let him through while also not getting in the way of the big steady cam which would be following him on the side both Laura and I were on and to which we would have our backs turned. We were not to look back at where he was coming from, but we were to know nonetheless he was coming, and move out of his way. On one take a girl just to Laura's left was about to get run over by the camera, so she grabbed her and pulled her off to the side, where they got pinned in by a trash can and had nowhere to go.


So for a while without Russ or the camera we went up the walk and the steps to the wider area at the Ross St. end and then went down the walk and steps then "RESET!" would sound out and we'd go back up to the top and down again...over and over. Then they decided there were too many of us and they began to cull folks out and send them back across Ross St. It was like being eliminated from Survivor Island....you didn't get to be in the scene. "You," they'd say, "and you and you and you...go back across Ross."  You sort of held your breath, waiting for the axe to fall. But even though Paul Haggis himself was directing this scene, they still seemed to like Laura's and my look as well as Cheryl's (she IS a Penguins fan and had on a Penguins jersey and a cap,

which sat backwards on her dark hair), so we stayed, and a man practiced running through

our midst as we walked back down several more times. Then we were back up at the wider

space again and Russell was right there in the middle of it. A woman came up behind him and

ran her fingers through the back of his hair, ruffling it up a little for the scene. He's so used

to that he didn't blink or even seem to notice. They had him made up to look like he'd already

been in a fight and his lower lip was split and he had a big red abrasion in the top center of

of his forehead. It looked quite real. He was wearing the grey jacket with the duct tape. At

one point he was leaning on the edge of a covered bus stop there and a guy was saying loudly

that if we looked at the camera during shooting, we'd end up on the cutting room floor, and

Russ gave one of his big closed-lip smiles at that, too. He must be terribly used to being in

the midst of tons of unprofessional extras.


We did the run/walk again...me waving my black and gold pompoms with one hand and

hollering, "Yea, PENGUINS!"...which for me is truly great acting as I'm about as non-

sporty as you can get despite living in probably the most sports-minded city in the world.

I felt truly quite strange yelling that, I did! Very...unnatural. Heh heh!


Russell some moments I'd see him had on the grey jacket, then he'd have on a Pirates

jacket, black with gold insets in the shoulders that tapered down the full length of the

sleeves. The purpose of this was that he was being pursued and sees this group of fans

leaving the game and tries to run in amongst us and blend in so they can't find him.


Then they decide there are STILL too many fans and so the elimination begins again,

but Cheryl, Laura and I remain again. This time we are much more widely spaced as

we begin our walk along the top section toward the stairs. Haggis has taken a group of

about 6 fans and posted them in a clump by a wall on one side, facing each other as though

discussing the game and they are told to stay there and not move.


Russell was about 15 feet behind me before the next take began and he still had on the

grey jacket and was pointing in the direction he was going and seriously talking with

another man about something. His finger, though, was pointed directly at me and though

we knew I had nothing to do with what he was saying, it was still kinda funny as he kept

it there a long time as he talked. Haggis kept wandering through us, looking here and

there, saying things. At one point someone off to the side did something dumb and Haggis

was about three feet in front of me where he'd paused to look at the dumb thing then he

lifted his eyes, met mine, and we exchanged a silent, "That sure was dumb, wasn't it?"

sorta look.  I latched eyes with Russell several times, more just an acknowledgement of

awareness of existence than anything. We were told most severely not to approach the

actors and we didn't. I looked at him once, though, when he was looking back and thought,

"Gee, I wish you knew I'm the Jo who has libriscrowe.com....sigh."


Then we did the walk up and down some more and I'd lose track of him as we weren't

supposed to look for him anyway and I was concentrating on getting myself down steps

like a normal person and not dissolving into a puddle of anguish...talk about your acting!

Russell would arrive at the top of the first steps, pause, take off the grey jacket revealing

the Pirates' jacket beneath, then dash along more deeply down the steps into the crowd.


On the last take, I had no idea where he was when the director yelled "Cut!" and we all

stopped, but there he was about two feet diagonally to my left and his right arm was

around Elizabeth Banks. It was the first I'd seen her and I hadn't until then even realized

she would be in the scene, too. The only thing he said all day that we could hear was at

that moment and he said, "Did they say cut?"  Heh heh!


Then we went BACK up to the wider top part and stood around some more. I was near

the edge of the walkway where all the equipment was stationed and Russ was about 15

feet away with Elizabeth, staring into a monitor, his brow knit, studying the take. They

all decided it was a go and we didn't have to do it again. We milled around for a while,

me keeping track of where Russell was as, goodness, just how often does one get to see

Himself up close and personal and engaged in his day job? I've been to three concerts,

spoken to him on the sidewalks of New York at 1 AM, but this was different.


I was glad to note I was the only one who had pom poms, so if that scene makes it into

the movie, that should help locate me...as well as the fact I was the only one with fluffy

white hair. And I managed womanfully during the takes NOT to limp!!


After a while he crossed the street over to that indentation in the building on that side

where a lot of activity was going on. Laura, Cheryl and I walked the block on the Mellon

tower side of Ross and crossed at 'our' corner to where they were giving out free canned

drinks in ice chests, apples, coffee, etc. I had just gotten a Coke when the AD said, "Filming

in two minutes." They didn't really MEAN that, it turned out as it took much longer, and

I was really REALLY thirsty by then and so popped it open and swigged down a bit. THEN

the AD said for us to take our places, so the open Coke can went into my coat pocket where I

hoped it wouldn't splosh too much.


This time they arranged us differently and Laura and I were just over the curb on the far side

of the intersection with Cheryl not far in front. A pigeon flew down and bobbled about on the sidewalk right in front of Cheryl shortly before action was about to be called, and I whispered loudly, "Don't kill the pigeon!" and her shoulders shook with laughter. About 10 or so other

fans were there on that side, too, ahead of us and then the crossing at Ross was filled with carefully-spaced people. We saw our cop, the one who'd gotten on the shuttle, dressed AS a

cop and with a gun in his hand near the indentation area that Russ would run out from. There were several cops there. So while the action was going on there, we again would do our walk down the slope of the block. "Cut! Reset!" and we'd go back to our positions uphill. By this

time my 30 pound purse with the pompoms hanging out its side had mysteriously gained about 75 more pounds and as I walked over and over and over, I began to fantasize I was Robert DeNiro in "The Mission" hauling his huge net of armor up the side of the waterfall. Laura was getting really worried about me (she was a nurse) as there was no way I could not limp at this point, but I said I had to hang in there through the scene since we were part of it and it would look odd if we suddenly disappeared. So, barely able now to stand, I still went up and down, up and down, up and down the sidewalk until reset, I was sure, was actually a four-letter word and not a five.


It was also warm by then, having gone from 40 to around 70 degrees, and I had on a long

jacket as the scene is supposed to be taking place in November. Of course Russ in his jacket

or two jackets atop one another, however that worked, would be quite fine with his clothing,

as was Laura, who gets cold easily. But it takes a lot of cold to get me cold and I was really

overheated, standing in sun, and exercising briskly whilst lugging around a 567 pound purse.

At 2 PM they announced a break for lunch and Cheryl carried my purse for me from there

to Robert Morris where we, in a mass of humanity, stuffed ourselves through the entrance

doors, down the steps to the lobby and I stood there terribly wobbly while young men

advanced on the elevators. We were to go up to the 4th floor and I could in no way climb

four flights of steps, though some were doing that, thank goodness. The elevator had a small

capacity and when we did get on, people kept stuffing themselves inside and I was afraid

my left foot would get stepped on. On the 4th floor there was a room with several long

tables set up with a buffet on them in the middle and a gigantic swarm of people already

in line. I couldn't possibly wait in such a huge line so asked a young woman if she'd mind

letting me in, and she did, but Laura said she wasn't going to eat and Cheryl, still with

my purse, I think wandered off to get in line, though I lost sight of her and wasn't sure.

The food didn't look all that good and was mostly hot and all I wanted was cold, cold, cold.

I got some rice and a piece of what might be chicken and then some salad and a cup of

water. There were 300 extras on the 4th floor and a room to sit in that held maybe 30.

On the 6th floor a couple dozen real crew had the room that held 300, but we weren't

allowed to go up there. I scrounged a seat in the little room by some miracle, but just

couldn't eat. For one thing, the plastic fork I had to cut my chicken with bent when you

just looked at it hard and there was no way to use it to get a piece of meat off. I spooned

a bit of rice in my mouth and drank water. I'd taken three Bufferin with my Coke back

up at the corner a bit earlier. Laura came in with my purse and said that was it. I was

holding my paper cup with water and my hand was shaking so badly I could hardly

drink out of it. Cheryl came in and said she was leaving, too, as she'd checked the

schedule and we weren't going to be in any more scenes with Russell that afternoon

anyway. So she headed off to her bus stop. There was, of course, no shuttle running

to the parking lot that time of day, so Laura and I walked. She couldn't believe I

could manage that as it was about 10 blocks, but I find sheer teeth-gritting will power

can get you most places. We passed the Base Camp and as Laura, yes, had her cell

phone (it had been on vibrate) I got her to take two pictures of it for me to use here.




The bottom one shows the line of trailers for actors and is where Russ came from this morning

when he walked up Ross to 5th.



This picture is taken from the south looking over the city and shows the black tower, the Mellon

silver tower and the two-stepped white-roofed building across Ross that Russell ran out of.

The triangular red building beside that is Robert Morris. Down and to the left is the peach-

colored building by Base Camp. Between that peach building and the Mellon tower is a squat

grey building and just beyond that is the castle-like old jail. In contrast, the new jail is the

4-sectioned red building right by the river. Laura and I walked down Ross, under that raised

roadway (the Boulevard of the Allies) to that vacant corner just south of the roadway. There

was a curved, broken concrete wall along its edge and we sat there for a while, then continued

on past the new jail. This is the main entrance to the jail and is where they'll be filming later

this week. The inmates can't have visitors those two days.




This is what the old jail/courthouse looked like before the big buildings went up all around it.



And this will forever now be 'our' corner as where the reddish car with the tail lights on is

where we crossed Ross over and over and over. The green hill in the distance is across the

Monongahela River and is part of the ridge of Mount Washington.


I made it all the way to the enormous parking lot and sat on a curb just inside its entrance

while Laura went down the rows of cars to get the Toyota. We asked and asked but never

found anybody who could tell us what to do with it if they wanted to use it in the movie.

And that was more than just as well because later we found out if we had, then they would

have separated Laura and me and she would have been in the car all day and not seen

Russell (this was her first time to see him in person) and, besides, we didn't have enough

gas anyway. We made it back to Murrysville on fumes and stopped at a Sunoco where she

also noticed the right front tire was low. We dropped the Toyota at Jeff's office (he's a

doctor) and took their Aspen back to Laura's house, where I transferred to my little

white Chevy and drove home. Today it's my right leg more than my left that hurts. When

I walk without a cane, I favor my brokened left leg by putting more weight on my right,

and with all the favoring I did Tuesday, every muscle in my right leg knows it has been

trampled by enraged elephants stampeding toward a waterhole. But I did it and I wouldn't

not have done it. It was a great experience and I enjoyed being with Laura and Cheryl as

well as seeing Himself doing what he does better than anybody else.