Friday 1st Jan 2016
If you need someone to fake-eat a real sandwich in the background of a wizard movie, call me. I’ve just gone professional.
My performance as ‘No-Maj woman’ in Fantastic Beasts is already generating Oscar buzz. You might spot me a few metres from the back of Colin Farrell’s head, in a performance my mother describes as: ‘Incredibly moving. Probably.’
In all seriousness, it was a total joy to be an extra. Even more fun, between you and me, as a journalist posing as an extra. Colleen Atwood dressed me, Fae Hammond chose my make-up, David Yates directed Ezra Miller in the same room as me. It was an honour to step into one of J.K. Rowling’s stories.
Okay. Now that I’ve said all the lovely things, let me take you through a day in the life of an extra. Wriggle into my vintage black heels and relive the experience with me.
Tuesday. Cold. Grey. Ominously windy.
Arrive at Warner Bros. Studios. Surrender mobile phone to security, immediately feel liberated from Twitter addiction. Jump in a mini-van. Comfort a man who is praying that the make-up artists don’t shave off his moustache.
Shimmy out of modern clothes. Stand still while a girl called Jess drapes you in a black and gold flapper dress, stockings and a fur-trimmed coat. Get in trouble with someone called Joy for calling the clothes ‘old’ not ‘vintage’. Sorry, Joy.
Sit in the make-up chair and watch as the hair on your head disappears into a 1920s bun with crisp waves. Don’t flinch at all when an excellent stylist called Lou paints curls onto your face with actual glue. Get eyebrows and lips painted onto face.
Wait in an orderly line for costume designer Colleen Atwood to check every detail of your outfit. Wait excitedly as she finds you a black felt beret from her rows of vintage hats. Lose your mind with happiness when she slips a pair of round, tortoiseshell glasses onto your face and someone says, ‘You look like you could be Harry Potter’s aunt in those!’
Wait in a giant room with 100 other extras. Eat biscuits, make tea and try to catch the guy with a Boston accent speaking in his real voice. Read Sherlock Holmes mysteries and listen to people’s life stories.
Follow instructions from an assistant director, stand neatly in line again for costume inspection. Wrap hair in a purple scarf to protect it from the rain. Walk carefully through shallow mud to the New York set. Wait outside the corner of ‘The Diner’.
Sit in a booth next to two lovely gentlemen extras in suits. Quickly suggest we pretend to be a spy, a professor and a private detective.
Poke the salami sandwich in front of you to check if it is real. Accept a dare to take a sip from a cup of soda to check that it’s real. They are both real.
Practice fake talking.
Shove a handful of Skittles into your mouth like a confectionery ninja.
Try not to blush when Ezra Miller and Colin Farrell walk into the room.
Be very quiet. Save any audible breathing for in-between takes. Mime words at strangers.
Look over the top of your glasses quizzically several times like someone who definitely wears glasses in real life.
Move lettuce across your plate in an emotionally significant gesture.
8.11pm – 9.40pm
Alternate between discreet background acting, waiting, whispering without actually making sound, watching David Yates direct the actors, listening to the camera guys talk, letting the make-up artists touch up your burgundy lips and wondering what time, day and month it is now.
Return to costume and make-up headquarters. Find the tent shaking, people speaking in panicked whispers. Get evacuated because there are gale-force winds threatening to collapse the whole thing. Take out all 23 hairgrips from your hair and wipe off your lipstick in the mini-van.
Get the train home. Read email asking you to come back the next day to do it all again.
The next day. A Wednesday in November. Cold. Not as windy.
2pm – 10pm
Get home. Wash glue off face. Fall asleep in full make-up. Dream about wizards.
There you have it. A day in the life of an extra on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.