Sharing Steve :: New Stuff
Friday, July 22, 2005

Now we know which of Steve's peeps takes care of Roger

Hamilton Spectator (Ontario, Canada)
July 22, 2005 Friday Final Edition
She loves Hollywood North; The talk
Suzanne Bourret

Dahlings, can you imagine five days with Antonio Banderas? Or hanging out with Steve Martin, Eugene Levy and Kiefer Sutherland?

Retired secondary school teacher Marlene Castura probably wouldn't argue that breathing the same air with Hollywood honchos, as a background actor, sure beats sitting around the teachers' lunch room.

She has been zombie lurking through the alleys off Hamilton's John Street in the pouring rain, she endured frigid winds while performing in a gravel pit north of Toronto and she stood in a club scene for more than 12 hours on a concrete floor in high heels. Not entirely glamorous, but Marlene loves the work because it's interesting and varied and she rarely does the same thing twice.

"I have had wonderful jobs. I would have paid to watch Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger dance their hearts out in the movie, Chicago. Instead, they were paying me to be background. It was a thrill when Richard Gere told us on his last day on set that he had never had so much fun as on this film. We all felt the same."

Marlene worked four days on the Steve Martin and Eugene Levy film, Cheaper By The Dozen 2, before it moved up to cottage country for six weeks.

"Steve Martin is actually a low-key, quiet and unassuming kind of guy. However, when the cameras roll, he is so animated, energetic and alive. His yellow Lab, on set, too, was lovingly cared for by Steve's driver. Eugene is also low-key, but when the cameras roll, he is hilarious." And what were the background actors doing? Imagine, she says, getting paid for having fun sailing, canoeing, rowing, throwing Frisbees and playing soccer.

After that, Marlene was on the set of Take The Lead, with Banderas, at The Royal York Hotel. She finds that as many films wrap up in the Toronto area, new films are starting.

Marlene says the initial thrill for background actors is the first time they see a star on set.

"It's as if that individual has stepped off a page in a magazine onto the set."

They all have a good look checking out their height and size and are usually amazed at how slim the actors are.

"Gene Hackman is very tall and Kate Hudson is very tiny."

She says once the actor starts to work you see the concentration, the skill and the dedication that makes that person a star. Russell Crowe, Ed Harris, Richard Gere and Bruce Willis are all a presence, having star appeal.

But at times, she says it can be difficult to concentrate.

"I was in Tottenham on set in The History of Violence. We were shoppers in a mall when Harris did something which caught my eye. For a moment or two I lost focus and simply watched him as if I were watching him on screen. This trance was broken when I locked eyes with the director, David Cronenberg. This was a no-no for a background actor. We are not spectators. It never happened to me before or since. I attribute it to the intensity of Harris's acting style, which stops people in their tracks."

The thrill, she says, is never knowing what is around the corner. She has to be available around the clock and often rises at 3:30 a.m. to get to Toronto early. She always leaves two hours before call time to ensure she's prompt on the set.

It's a real adventure because she never really knows until she gets a phone call where she'll be going or what she'll be doing.

Marlene has always enjoyed going to movies and says she has been inspired by good films. And now she can observe how films are made.

"There are fascinating techniques used in scenes that look so realistic on screen, yet are filmed so differently than you would imagine. I've seen how vehicles are blown up and how a truck plows into zombie extras who are running toward it without anyone getting hurt."

And she has seen stunts go wrong.

"I stood by a property manager as he watched in horror as three police cruisers driven by stunt drivers unexpectedly collided. No one was hurt. When someone asked whether they owned the cars, he said, 'We do now.'"

The night she played a zombie for the sci-fi film, Resident Evil, was memorable. They were lumbering through areas they had never been before and were attacking and bringing down soldiers and parachutists who were firing blanks at them.

"Can you imagine running toward soldiers shooting at you? In reality, we wanted to flee, but the director turned us around to face the guns and kept us moving forward."

All this was done in pouring rain, but Marlene wore a garbage bag under her clothing to prevent being soaked.

If you think life in Hollywood North sounds like a fun retirement project, you're right.

Says Marlene: "Retirement can and should be a lot of fun ... you can explore any avenue you always wanted to try. Like any stage in life, you should go for it."



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