STAND-IN ROLE IN TRAVOLTA MOVIE HITS THE RIGHT MARK
NOT EXACTLY A SHOT AT FILM IMMORTALITY, BUT A GOOD CHANCE TO GET A LOOK BEHIND
THE SCENES OF A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE.
By RICH DREES
Times Leader Correspondent
Sunday, January 16, 2000 Page: 6G
GRANTVILLE, Pa. - As technicians bustled and I looked into the unblinking
lens of the movie camera, the camera operator turned to the director of
photography and said ``This is going to be his close-up.''
It's a pity no one will actually see my face once the movie is released.
Such is the life of a motion picture stand-in.
Sort of live mannequins, stand-ins are used on movie sets to allow the
camera operator and lighting crew to perfect the shot while the actors are
My own adventure as a stand-in took place in late November and early
December in Harrisburg on the set for the film ``Numbers,'' a comic retelling
of a Pennsylvania lottery swindle. The cast features John Travolta, Lisa
Kudrow (``Friends''), Ed O'Neill (``Married ... With Children'') and Chris
Kattan (``Saturday Night Live''). The film is directed by Nora Ephron
(``Sleepless in Seattle'').
When I found out that local people might be cast as extras, I made the trip
for the open call. A casting agent told the hopefuls that no decisions were
being made on the spot.
A few weeks later I was contacted to see if I would be available for two
days of work as a stand-in for Kattan. I knew I wouldn't even be visible in
the background, but I accepted. (Eventually I would be paid $240 for a day and
a half of standing in.)
The set was at Penn National Race Course outside of Hershey. The day I
arrived, a production assistant in charge of the extras introduced me to Sarah
Carlson, a local woman who would be Lisa Kudrow's stand-in. We were given
copies of the costumes - the coat Kudrow wears, Kattan's shirt - so the crew
could make sure clothing was lit correctly.
We were joined by Tony Brazas, who has worked for Travolta for several
years, first as his driver and more recently as his stand-in. On the set, we
watched Travolta, Kudrow and Kattan rehearse a scene a few times. For the next
two days, we would have to copy those movements.
Travolta and Kudrow sat on benches for most of the four-minute scene.
Kattan, however, moved around a lot. Fortunately, both Brazas and camera
operator Schaer helped make sure I hit my marks.
When it was time for the actors to film the scene, stand-ins retreated to
behind the cameras. Minivans brought Travolta, Kattan and Kudrow to the set
from their trailers: Travolta has his own, while Kattan and Kudrow were in
By lunch time, the scene had been shot from three angles; a master shot and
After lunch, we repeated the morning drill, standing still while the
technicians worked around us. With five o'clock and dusk, Ephron declared a
wrap for the day.
The second day of shooting was much like the first. Finally, after lunch,
an assistant director let me know that I was done. Walking through the parking
lot, I passed the actors' trailers. There was no sign of Kattan. But his
stand-in was about to leave the set.