The Girl Russell Crowe Talked To

20 Sep

Extra work is often thankless and tedious. You usually show up with a bag of your own clothes, sit around for hours on end until you’re taken to set and told to sit and pretend to talk or drink or eat or walk by ‘casually’. It’s an easy job but can be a long and dull one. Some do it for a career. Some, like myself, do it to gain experience, screen time, and just be in a movie. Somehow in the projects I’ve worked on, I’ve come away with the best experiences. Experiences I never dreamed of having. Noah was one of those experiences.

I have been working on Noah, directed by Darren Aronofsky. It’s a retelling of the story of Noah’s Ark. It’s very trippy (very Aronofsky) and dark. It stars Russell Crowe as Noah as well as Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Connelly, and Emma Watson. I was cast as a refugee.

On Monday, we were shooting in the camps. They built a “tent city” of probably close to 100 tents with real and fake fires scattered about. They placed the refugees, soldiers, and other characters throughout the camps and gave us all actions. The scene was Noah walking through the camps and seeing the horrors that exist there.

I was handed a massive piece of prop meat as big as my body almost. As I was standing on my one (the place I start my action. Movie term, very fancy), Russell was on his one, looking at me. He started laughing and said to me and his stand in, “Look at that piece of meat they gave you. That’s a Flintstone piece of meat. Why would they give you that?” I panicked and tried to play it cool, the entire time thinking “Holy fuck, Russell Crowe is speaking to me.” I said something along the lines of “Well, maybe they thought I had a big appetite.” It was one of those moments where you say something and then think “No. No, that was not funny.” He smiled and we were setting up the shot for the first take when he yells “Ok, we gotta get this girl another piece of meat!” Another extra behind me said he’d trade and handed me his smaller piece for my large one. “Ok, mate, now you’re dead. I just saved your life,” he said, turning to me. He explained how in the reality of the movie, I would have never gotten far with that meat and would have been attacked and eaten. He’s very into this movie.

As they were setting up the shot for another take, he stepped up to me again. He said ‘What’s your action?” I replied it was to run. He responded, “Ok, when you run by me, turn over your shoulder. The camera is right there and we’ll see your whole face. Got it?” I said yes, again completely tingling with the fact this man was speaking to me so casually and kindly. So we did the take. I did the look. After the cut, he was coming back to one and said to me ‘Did you do the look?” I told him I did. ‘What shoulder did you use?” I turned and showed him how I did it. “Good job, girly,” he said, winking at me. Throughout the rest of that angle, every time he walked by, he would smile at me. It was one of the most surreal moments of my life.

Earlier that day, he had taken it upon himself to talk to the extras during a large group scene by the ark (yes, they built a REAL ark). There was a secondary camera on the group of refugees as they shot another scene with Russell and Ray Winstone. He came over and gave a speech about how we all need to stay alive on camera. He told us his character, our characters, the plot, and started to swear before he realized that there were children in the group. “I wish there weren’t kids here so I could swear and give a more passionate speech,” he joked. Β He called out individuals he had been watching and corrected them on what they should be doing and thinking. He pumped the shit out of this group. It was that moment that I saw how much he loved this film and his job. I have never seen an actor, especially a huge star like Russell Crowe, speak to the extras or any one who is not the director or crew for that matter. Everyone else agreed they had never heard of this happening. It’s usually the second second assistant director and PAs that tell you what to do and give you direction. Here was the star of the movie coming over and talking to us as peers, as fellow actors, as a part of the film. It was so motivating and so special, I don’t think I’ll ever have that type of moment again on a set that huge.

After Monday, I became known as “the girl Russell Crowe talked to.” I was telling to story to a fellow extra while we waited in the woods to run out to the ark in fake rain and 5 or 6 people turned and go “Oh my God, that was YOU?!?! What did he say??!?!” The girl I was talking to told me I looked very calm and cool talking to him and several others thought I knew him for some reason the way we were speaking to each other. I felt better about it after hearing that because the whole time he was talking to me, I was having an out of body experience thinking “Be cool, don’t freak out, this is normal, this is awesome, don’t freak out.”

I am writing about this because it is totally incredible and because it was a moment I have frozen in my heart and has a personally meaning to me. When Russell Crowe won his Oscar, the Burlington Free Press wrote an article on the show, featuring a quote from Russell’s speech. I took this quote and put it in my scrapbook from high school. I almost have it memorized.

“If you grow up in the suburbs of anywhere, a dream like this seems kind of vaguely ludicrous and completely unattainable. This moment is directly connected to those childhood imaginings, and for anybody who’s on the downside of advantage, and relying purely on courage, it’s possible.”Β 

It was this quote that I thought of as he was speaking to me. I was standing there, on a set, in a badass costume, with Russell Crowe speaking to me, giving me direction, as a peer and helpful buddy. Yes, I had thought of turning my head as I ran by but it was him suggesting it out of nowhere that inspired me. He had no reason to speak to me at all after he had the prop meat switched. I’m not sure if he thought I was bummed I didn’t get the huge piece of plastic flesh or if he just wanted to help an aspiring actress out a little bit. Or maybe he thought it would look great in the shot. I’ll never know his motivation and I don’t need to. It was a moment that I can relive over and over again. It was a moment where I truly believed that dreams come true. If you work hard enough and find the opportunities that arise, you can pursue and achieve anything. I was on a set with Russell Crowe and he spoke to me as if I was part of it all. Not as a number, not as a body. As a performer. As an actor.

It is a crazy dream. One that many will give up on. One that maybe doesn’t turn out the way you wanted such as I don’t think I’m going to marry Leonardo DiCaprio any time soon or be the next “It” girl. But it’s moments like this one where I feel I’m on the right path. Even if it doesn’t get any bigger and better than this, I have this moment to remind me that this is what I am meant to do. That the A-list movie star that spoke to me on set was in my position once. That he dreamed of being an Oscar winner and making movies. And now he does it. So why not me? And that’s all there is to it. Why the hell not? If I keep at it, keep loving every set I work on, keep loving the costumes and running through fake rain alongside gladiators and shampooing my hair 4 times because the black grease won’t come out, and don’t stop smiling for the week post shooting because I got to be an actress, why can’t I tell this story on an Oscar podium someday?

It’s all happening….

34 Responses to “The Girl Russell Crowe Talked To”

  1. Katherine (@Tricky_Forehand) September 20, 2012 at 10:49 pm #

    Sounds like an amazing moment. Even got a lump in my throat reading this. I’ve gone back to that Academy Award speech from time to time. It can happen.

  2. GrannyM September 20, 2012 at 10:57 pm #

    That’s a beautiful story. I hope all your dreams come true.

  3. Peg Barbato September 20, 2012 at 11:16 pm #

    That was terrific for you, hold onto your dream and who know you may pass it on to another actor.

    • ithoughtyouwereshorter September 21, 2012 at 12:21 am #

      Thank you! I hope someday I do get that chance! πŸ™‚ Thanks for reading!

  4. Mary September 21, 2012 at 12:23 am #

    What a wonderful experience! He’s truly a nice guy, isn’t he? I loved his Oscar speech too. Dream it then achieve it! Why not? Good luck, Rachel!

    • ithoughtyouwereshorter September 21, 2012 at 12:25 am #

      Thank you! Yes, he’s absolutely lovely!! My admiration for him has only grown more! Thank you for reading πŸ™‚

  5. Sting Tomaro (@hdbat1) September 21, 2012 at 1:11 am #

    This is a great story and you have a great attitude. I predict that you will go far!! I wish you all the best!

  6. Ryan David Ewell September 21, 2012 at 1:43 am #

    That is a very very cool story! Thanks for sharing. Keep up the good work! I’m so glad it’s making you happy πŸ™‚

  7. Cheryl September 21, 2012 at 4:26 am #

    Russel retweeted your post and I read it. What a lovely story and experience for you. Hope to see you on the Oscar podium some day.

  8. meagan September 21, 2012 at 7:53 am #

    This is so sweet! Glad you had a wonderful experience filming Noah with Russell πŸ™‚ I wish you all the best πŸ™‚

  9. Cherrylmaree September 21, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

    You are an inspiration in your own right…thank you for sharing your lovely experience and best of luck for the future.

  10. flytjadori sig September 21, 2012 at 5:53 pm #

    He was here in Iceland last summer , making the movie – Noah
    I was working there – – a driver for the crew – and one of the extras , told that he and the group he was in , where all playing – bodies in a scene –
    And when he came back from the set — he was happy as a clam — he told me that while they where lying on the ground , pretending to be bodies — and there came a small time off — then – Russell , went to the bodies , where they where on the ground – and talked to the all , individually —–

    • ithoughtyouwereshorter September 21, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

      Thank you for sharing that! I was so impressed by how wonderful he is!! I’m so happy to hear other people had the same experience with him!

  11. jim September 21, 2012 at 6:10 pm #

    That is really great for you, and he genuinely seems like a down to earth, really cares about others type of person, but i guess i still feel that, that’s the way it SHOULD always be !

    • ithoughtyouwereshorter September 23, 2012 at 5:55 am #

      It should always be that way! I agree! I’m so grateful that I learned he was that kind of person! It was so wonderful! Thanks for reading!

  12. Martha September 21, 2012 at 7:52 pm #

    I work with Sarah McNulty who told me this story today (and sent me this link). My daughter is a senior at EHS and an aspiring actress, so I forwarded it on to her. Thank you so much for telling this story; it brought tears to my eyes, and I KNOW it will inspire her to stay the course and follow her dream. Plus, it’s great to hear about nice, gracious people in the industry. All the best to you — looking forward to Noah!

    • ithoughtyouwereshorter September 22, 2012 at 6:52 am #

      Martha, that’s so wonderful to hear! I too was an aspiring actress at EHS! How sweet of Sarah to share πŸ™‚ Tell your daughter the most wonderful things can happen if she just keeps at it. You really find some of the most incredible human beings working in this business, both big and little stars πŸ™‚

  13. Megan Castran September 22, 2012 at 1:16 am #

    I LOOOOOVED your story… I had a similar experience with Oprah and I truly believe the Universe brings us these experiences when we are really aligned with our thoughts and actions…beautifully written and I can’t WAIT to see you looking over your shoulder in THAT scene-love Megan xxx

    • ithoughtyouwereshorter September 22, 2012 at 6:53 am #

      Thanks, Megan!! Definitely keep a look out! Hopefully after all that you can see me! πŸ™‚ Thank you, I completely agree πŸ™‚

  14. Krista September 22, 2012 at 1:33 am #

    Hey Rachel, I saw your blog on Russell’s twitter, I’m also a refugee! Russell is so awesome and I loved reading your story!

    • ithoughtyouwereshorter September 22, 2012 at 6:53 am #

      Krista! That’s awesome!! I still can’t believe he tweeted it! Hope you’re having as much fun as I am! πŸ™‚

      • Marilyn September 22, 2012 at 9:21 pm #

        I will look for that take you described when I see the movie. (I am a beyond huge Russell Crowe fan.) I don’t usually read stories that are sent to me, but the opening paragragh pulled me in. I enjoyed your piece and it’s obvious you have a writing talent as well! Everyone who reads your piece will be there in your shoes, talking to him. I couldn’t read fast enough when you were describing the camp and your meeting. I was physically feeling the effects of adrenalin and that , my friend, is the sign of a good writer. Remember this, you will never forget him and that moment….and neither will he. He will always remember you πŸ™‚

      • ithoughtyouwereshorter September 23, 2012 at 5:49 am #

        Marilyn, that’s so incredibly kind! I’m so flattered and so glad you liked the post! It’s a ridiculously unbelievable story that I still can’t believe happened but I’m so glad people have liked reading and have felt what I did. Thank you so much, I can’t tell you how much this comment made me smile πŸ™‚

  15. Lorraine Shaw September 22, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

    Great story…so happy you had this experience. As a Russell Crowe fan from the beginning I have read of many, many of the kind things he has done for others and
    how he is so very involved in the making of the ‘entire’ film. If everyone he has touched would write about the incident we would have pages of comments….He is daMan, a real good guy.

    • ithoughtyouwereshorter September 23, 2012 at 5:51 am #

      He certainly is! Thank you so much for reading! It’s so wonderful to have people respond positively to this story. Thank you πŸ™‚

  16. Lincoln L. Hayes September 22, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

    Reblogged this on Lincoln bLogs and commented:
    My girlfriend’s story about working (and talking to) Russell Crowe on the set of “Noah”.

  17. Paige November 18, 2012 at 12:00 am #

    this is so cool! I had a somewhat similar experience working on The Spectacular Now (with Shailene Woodley, Kyle Chandler, Miles Teller, and Brie Larson). I was in a party scene with Miles Teller and he talked to me as if he had known me forever. What was even cooler, was that a few weeks later, I got to visit the set again (but at a different filming location) because my godfather was part of the crew and I got to meet Shailene Woodley (who is very kind and down to earth). Miles was there and he actually remembered me from the party scenes. I absolutely LOVE working as an extra!

  18. ithoughtyouwereshorter November 19, 2012 at 2:22 pm #

    That’s so awesome!! It’s the best when you get to talk to people you never dreamed of meeting and they are really cool and down to earth! Thanks for sharing! I’m so glad people have had such positive extra work experiences because I’ve had a few not so good ones as well! πŸ™‚

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