By now I guess I better tell you what movie I’m gonna be talking about, luckily there’s been an insane (and in my opinion excessive) coverage of how the film Rum Diary based on the book with the same name written by Hunter S. Thompson is being filmed in the island with the actor Johnny Depp as Paul Kemp.
Lets take a moment now to acknowledge, yes, I said Johnny Depp. The dude from Pirates of the Caribbean. THE Johnny Depp. Mr. Depp. Sir J. Depp.
It will also be a good time to bring up the detail that we were dressed by two times Oscar winner, Colleen Atwood. No wonder I wanted to keep the clothes. Also, she’s just as brilliant as you would expect.
The set was the Tetuan street in Old San Juan. They replaced the old San Juan Star sign and filled the streets with old cars, beautiful cars, including police patrols and everything. The scene was a manifestation in front of the San Juan Star. There were two main groups of extras: onlookers and protesters. As you can imagine, some where going to be protesting and some were going to be watching what was happening.
I was an onlooker.
I thought I was going to pass out at least three times before reaching the set area. When we got there we did another line up and one of the set assistants persons that ruled many others began picking extras and placing them in their cue positions.
Bunches of extras got picked up and placed strategically along the sidewalks and inside the lined cars and I stood there until only three of us where left. I got placed on the very end of the set, far away from where the manifestation was set up. And I thought, well, there go my chances on having any camera time. Not that I was counting on it, it was more like I wished for the best but prepared for the worst.
The cast person coordinator assistant who ruled some others gave me indications of what I and a mister that was with me had to do. The clearest thing was that we will NEVER LOOK BACK.
It was all simple and nice and we even rehearsed our little parts. We also chatted a little and it turned out this was the sir’s third day on set. He was an expert extra.
Then a guy wearing super mega big sun glasses stepped inside a taxi that was parked right in front of me. I looked at him all “waz?” because he was not dressed for the scene. He was wearing cargo blue jeans. The sir (his name was Nando) that was with me in the scene points at him and goes “oh, look, that’s Johnny’s stand in. You are gonna have him just in front of you! You ARE gonna see him!” “NOOOOOO” I responded. “yes you are, he’s going to be inside the taxi… and then probably out… yep, you are gonna have him RIGHT HERE” “NAAAAAAAAAH” I responded. “you don’t believe me?” he went, and I told him that no, I was not calling him a liar, I just couldn’t believe such thing because it meant that I had to pass out RIGHT THERE and NOW.
He laughed at me and said “you just wait.”
We continued chatting and listening to directions from people. Down the street the rehearsal of the manifestation began and it was LOUD.
And then at some point while we were talking and looking around the sir, Nando, goes “look, Johnny’s here” to which I responded with *is dead*. I whipped my head around and sure enough, about five feet from me Mr. Depp was talking with the director.
That’s when I had THE MOMENT. The one where I went, that’s Johnny Depp, and this is me. He’s there and I’m HERE. We are in the same place. I can SEE him, with these TWO EYES. OMGJESUSCHRIST aaaaaaaaaaand … all is well, we are professionals, I will not stare or die here. Specially NOT STARE.
If you are wondering if I managed to not stared, I must say I sorta won but also failed. It’s hard to not look when you want to so I did but then if he was looking I tried not to. It was complicated.
It turned out that he had to walk right pass us and every time the scene was cut he had to walk up the street again and the first time he did he looked at me AND GAVE ME THE NOD. In caps not because it was important but because it was the phrase of the day, every once in a while just for the fun I would look at the extras with whom I was talking and go “he gave me the nod” (talk about a good facebook status: Johnny gave me THE NOD).
You know how in movies the director yells ACTION! And every thing begins rolling? In real life, depending on what’s happening in the scene, there are many ACTIONS yelled and several cues for different things. For the extras the cue is “BACKGROUND ACTION”. If a car needs to enter the scene after the extras are moving there’s an “ACTION CAR”, etc.
For Mr. Depp the cue was “ACTION JOHNNY”, so that day I referred to him as Johnny.
My cue was changed and the next time the camera rolled I ALMOST FELL, but was saved by the sir beside me, the scene rolled and was wrapped. Apparently my stumbling was not caught on camera or maybe they liked the reality of it.
After that I was moved, along many other extras (by now I had made friends with three of them) to fill space in another shot. It meant that we were not in the shot, we were just filling the space for the moments when the camera moved pass the place. We were free to do anything we wanted, which was moan about our dying feet, laugh, be hungry and moan some more.
At some point here Johnny walked in front of me and I found my voice to say “Sir” and he found the cutest smirk to say “hi” and wave. Girls, he is not as pretty as he looks in the screen.
He is about A GAZILLION TIMES PRETTIER. And I am not exaggerating there.