In honor of seeing Jason Bourne this evening – hope to post commentary tomorrow – I’m reposting here one of the most enjoyable LiveJournal entries I ever wrote, which describes the experience of working on The Bourne Ultimatum in London during the spring of 2007.
in character and in the CIA.
I’ve spent the past two days on a new job working as an extra in The Bourne Ultimatum, now shooting for a summer 2007 release. Here are some highlights of this experience thus far…
EXT. FINCHLEY ROAD UNDERGROUND STATION, 5:50 AM.
JP arrives at the underground station and is dismayed to see Metropolitan Line tube services northbound are operating with “severe delays”. This forces him to wait in the chilly open-air train station for at least 20 minutes before the first train of the day arrives. Thankfully, it’s a service that goes to Uxbridge, which is exactly where he needs to be at 7am.
EXT. OUTSIDE UXBRIDGE TESCO, 7:05 AM.
After calling a local cab company from a sketchy free-phone inside the Tesco, JP is surprised to see a Saab speed up to the far curb facing him at a distance. He thinks that it might be the taxi cab, but is cautious as the car is unmarked and there is no taxi decal. But when the car speeds right up to the other side of the street, and then to the door, JP realizes that it is the “ride” and gets in as the Indian driver speeds off. Ten pounds and fifteen minutes later, he’s deposited at Pinewood Studios, walking right on to the back lot and the street where Sean Connery endures an Aston Martin crash in Goldfinger. Several other 007 locations are instantly recognizable.
EXT. PINEWOOD HAIR & MAKEUP ROOM, approximately 9:15 AM.
Disagreement and conflicted orders fly amongst the production staff over what to do with JP, who is the only new arrival of the day. “Should we shave his head?”, “Should we give him glasses?”, “Should we ask him to play two characters for the shooting schedule?”, they wonder to each other and then to him in side statements. Resolution is reached with the decision to ask him to step into a brief hallway scene immediately as one office intern character, then return to the makeup room for a costume change to become “Will McArthur”.
EXT. HAIR ROOM, 10:30 AM.
JP sits down for a hair trimming with a hairdresser who says she’s “freelance”, in a thick, slightly boozy British accent. She has just enthralled her previous smooth-talking client with stories of meeting other stars as they passed through Pinewood for various films. JP is worried that she may give him an extreme buzz cut, but is relieved when that turns out to not be the case, though he is wistful to see his sideburns drop off in favor of a conservative “prim” look.
EXT. PINEWOOD STUDIOS STAGE, 2:30 PM.
JP settles in to his post in the CIA conference room, meant to be in the government-heavy areas of Washington DC, with a set so authentic that it has American plugs on the walls and Poland Spring and DeSani water sprinkled across the desks. He keeps busy on and off the set, eventually being released for the day at 7:00pm.
EXT. FINCHLEY ROAD UNDERGROUND STATION, 5:40 AM.
It is again cold in the open-air station as JP ambles down the platform. There are no delays on this instance, and he gets on the Uxbridge train within three minutes of arrival, giving a silent nod to the train staff who were apologetic just 24 hours before.
EXT. UXBRIDGE HIGH STREET, 6:40 AM.
JP is met by a new friend from the shoot, an American expat coincidentally named Russ, who drives a very American minivan from his house 50 miles away to the studio, and was benevolent enough to come slightly out of his way and make sure that JP and one other extra did not have to pay for a taxi. Russ, an older man aged at least 55, eagerly asks younger (and sleepy) JP for advice on getting work in London theatres. JP gives him his contact details in anticipation of a further conversation. They are joined by Eduardo, a Brazilian DJ who has recently moved to London and is trying out acting in between music gigs. Driving just ahead of the van (on his own Harley Davidson) is John, another extra, who has a full time job on a UK-American air base.
EXT. PINEWOOD STUDIOS STAGE, 9:45 AM.
Joan Allen comes into JP and “his co-worker” Brendan’s cubicle area for a brief makeup touch up. JP had been disappointed that Allen, an actress that he enjoys and respects in her screen roles, had constantly vanished right after takes on Friday. He looks at her and says with a smile, “Ms. Allen, I am impressed by your intelligence on-screen.” Joan twitters her eyes as she receives makeup and says, “oh, thank you!” in a heartier voice than her screen delivery suggests. At the same time, JP is tsk-tsked by Allen’s attendant who had been eavesdropping nearby, and seems to think that it’s an unwritten rule for extras to not speak to featured actors. JP notices that Joan Allen disagrees with this belief, as she sits down for a moment in his chair for further touch-ups from another attendant, and makes a point to converse briefly with him and Brendan. As she leaves, Joan shakes JP’s hand with a genuine smile and reiterates, “Thank you, that was a lovely thing to say.”
EXT. PINEWOOD STUDIOS SMALL STAGE, 12:40 PM.
The entire production crew is treated to a complimentary lunch of curries, salad and ice cream. This is supplemented by free coffee, fruit smoothies, fruit and candy throughout the day.
EXT. PINEWOOD STUDIOS STAGE, 3:30 PM.
JP and Brendan watch with interest as Paul Greengrass and the rest of the production staff work with the principal actors (David Straithairn and Joan Allen) for a series of reaction scenes. JP is intrigued by the similarities and differences visible to him in/between theatre and film directing.
EXT. PINEWOOD STUDIOS OFFICE BLOCK, 5:25 PM.
The “extras supervisor” informs JP that his next call is Monday morning at 10am. He walks off into the sunset and is glad to have a day’s break ahead, but then called to the set again.
Fun on the set.