Originally published in The Patriot-News on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2011.
To say I am a Batman fan is an understatement. Growing up, I had the costume, the action figures, the sleeping bag and the toys. I used to parade around my house, leaping down stairs singing “Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-BATMAN” in full bat costume. My first prayer was for a Batman towel set to complete my collection (I’m not proud of that).
So when my brother, Ben, told me that the latest Batman film by Christopher Nolan, “The Dark Knight Rises” was looking for extras in Pittsburgh, it didn’t take me long to clear my calendar and round up my entire family (father, mother, brother, older sister and her husband) to join me.
What awaited us was explosive.
The location was Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. The scene was a football match between the Gotham City Rogues and the Rapid City Monuments. The experience was unforgettable.
Dressed up in our black-and-yellow gear (the Rogues’ colors) complete with winter coats, scarves, hats and T-shirts each emblazoned with a letter that spelt GO ROGUES, the Hatmaker horde was ready to go bright and early Saturday morning.
We had to be at a shuttle stop at 7:30 a.m. in order to catch a school bus taking the extras to Heinz Field. Once there it was a shuffling game. Shuffle through this line, fill out paperwork, shuffle to the next line, shuffle to the stands, shuffle to the seats.
We were placed in the middle of the sidelines with a perfect view of the camera crews, actors and Steelers players (as the Rogues’ team) below. The left of the field looked like a disaster zone, the goal post had fallen, cones were in disarray, and a huge part had been lifted from the ground.
That’s when I knew, really knew, that this was going to be awesome.
It was also painful.
About an hour after we sat down, the heavens broke and rain pelted us for a good 30 minutes.
Christopher Nolan, the director of the film, was a champ though. While the football players fled for shelter, Nolan stayed cool, put on his raincoat (although he didn’t bother with the hood) and continued to work on getting the right camera angles and directing the crew.
We extras simply huddled under umbrellas, trying desperately to stay a little bit dry.
When it stopped raining, the sun came to dry us off. Which was nice, until it wasn’t.
The scene was meant to be winter, but the weather was decidedly summer. Which meant every moment between takes people were shrugging off layers of clothing, using their umbrellas as parasol and desperately trying to find a way to stay cool.
Extra should really be short for “extra-long wait,” because that was the majority of what we did.
We had arrived at the stadium at 7:45 a.m., we left the filming at 7 p.m. In between was approximately five hours of cumulative wait time as they rehearsed shots, set up cameras or rigged the stadium with explosives.
When we were in action our tasks varied from singing to the national anthem, cheering on Hines Ward during kick-off, and attempting to flee the stadium after 60 explosions went off.
The futile attempts to run away were definitely my favorite moments. Evil villain Bane (played by Tom Hardy) infiltrated the stadium with his military-style thugs, who keep the crowd at bay with guns.
Despite the fact that we knew the guns were fake and that we shared jokes with the actors during break times, when the director yelled “Action!” they suddenly became terrifying. So we screamed, we ran, we crouched down or tried to climb fences.