1. I Was an Extra in Casino Royale

    By Guest writer on 2006-09-10

    In August 2006, Grant McIver (CBn forum member ‘erniecureo‘) joined the forums to tell his story of being an extra on the set of the 21st official James Bond film, Casino Royale.

    Each new entry had us coming back every day to hear more about what it was like to be involved with such a massive film.

    Today, CBn is very pleased to present the story on the main page. Please take note that each page of this article will represent a new entry of the story, as originally posted on the forums. And with that…

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    I Was an Extra in Casino Royale

    Written by Grant McIver

    First, some background.

    When I was ten, my father took my older brother and I to see Diamonds Are Forever at a local theater. Until then, the sum total of my exposure to the world of 007 was an overheard conversation in the line to get into the school cafeteria. Two older kids were talking about a movie where a guy got killed when he fell into a snow thrower. It sounded cool, but my seven-year-old mind quickly moved on to more pressing concerns, like long division and passing notes to the cute girl in the seat in front of me.

    Then came Diamonds Are Forever.

    How to measure the impact of this movie on a ten-year-old boy’s psyche? From the opening gun barrel logo to the cruise ship denouement, I was riveted. Suffice it to say that my world has never been the same. I’d found my role model.

    Flash forward thirty-four years. I was now living in the Czech Republic, where I’d gone to teach English. The teaching gig had lasted four months, and then I’d taken an international marketing job for a local manufacturer of high-end sports socks. That job, too, had palled, and I was unemployed and planning to return home to the U.S. in the beginning of May. Earlier that year, I’d heard that the new Bond film would be shooting scenes in a nearby town (Karlovy Vary), so I’d told all of my friends and students to keep me posted if they heard anything. I’d hoped to go down and watch a day or two of shooting. One day in early April I got an SMS from a former student. It read, “The 007 movie is looking for extra actors. Hotel Termal, Karlovy Vary, April 8 at 14:00.”

    On the appointed day and time, I put on a suit and caught the local bus for the 30-minute ride to Karlovy Vary. From the bus terminal it was about a 15-minute walk. The Hotel Termal is a dark grey monstrosity designed and built during the height of the cold war. All glass and concrete, it is sorely out of place in this beautiful spa town.

    I confidently followed the Casino Royale signs to an upstairs banquet hall.

    A pleasant young guy stood at the doorway, holding a sheaf of forms. He rattled of a question in Czech, to which I replied, “Prominte, nerozumim Cesky.” Or in English, “Sorry, I don’t understand Czech.” After eight months in the Czech Republic, my language skills were still woefully inadequate.

    He looked startled, then handed me a form and in halting English, gave me instructions in filling out the form and waved me toward a desk in the corner where a young guy and girl were sitting. There was a place on the form to list any unusual talents, so I didn’t hesitate. I wrote, “Pilot, scuba diver, snow skier, motorcycle rider, former armorer in the US Marine Corps” (all true), and then, “ballroom dancer, competitive fencer, experienced in judo” (these were slight exaggerations–I can do all these things, but no one will mistake me for an expert). The guy took my form, scanned it, and his eyebrows went up.

    “You are American?” Fortunately for me, his English was excellent.
    “Wow. This is unusual. Do you live here?”
    “Yes, in Sokolov.”
    “I see. Do you have a work permit?”

    I didn’t. But I didn’t want this chance to disappear, so I lied. “It’s being processed,” I said. “I expect it in a few days.”
    He nodded, and gave me a slip of paper with a number on it. “Wait in the line over there,” he said, indicating a group of people waiting to be photographed. “We will take your photo. Then if you are chosen, you will be contacted.”

    I went over and stood in line behind a young guy, two middle-aged women, an older guy of about 70, and a svelte brunette of about twenty who would not have looked out of place on the cover of Glamour magazine. When my turn came to be photographed, the photographer had me hold up my number in front of me, like a mug shot. He took a head shot, then a profile, then a full-length shot. Since I stand six-four in my stocking feet, he had to back up a couple of steps. Then he said, “Okay, now an action shot.”
    “Excuse me?”
    “You must move,” he said. “Do something to show action.”
    Feeling silly, I turned away from him, then spun back toward him in an “action pose.”
    “Excellent,” he said. “Once more, please.”
    I complied, and he snapped a few more pictures. The people waiting in line were trying to hide their smiles.
    “Okay,” he said. “Thank you very much. Next?”

    I dropped off my card with my number on it, and started to leave. Then a thought struck me, and I turned back and walked over to the couple at the desk.
    “Excuse me,” I said.
    “I don’t mean to sound impatient,” I said, “but do you know when they will contact us to let us know if we are to be in the film?”
    “You should hear something by the end of April,” he said.
    “Thank you.”
    “Oh, pardon, Mr.”–he glanced at my form–“McIver?” He looked a bit apologetic.
    “Since you are from America, I should tell you that we cannot pay too much here,” he said. “We can pay only one thousand crowns a day. And if you do not have a work permit, the government will tax you twenty-five percent.”
    I laughed. “Hey,” I said. “If you choose me for this film, I’ll pay you a thousand crowns a day!”
    He smiled and replaced my form in the stack. “Thank you,” he said, “But that will not be necessary. I wish you good luck.”

    As I left, I put my earphones in and turned on my iPod, then selected the “James Bond theme.” I walked the rest of the way to the bus terminal feeling guardedly hopeful.

    I might just be in a James Bond movie, I thought. How cool is that?

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