Typecast: Seeking "upper middle class" extras

The stars will come out February 25-26– or, rather, the wannabe stars will come out. Okay, the wannabe extras will line up outside Carver Recreation Center for the casting call they've eagerly awaited since Evan Almighty was announced in January.

And luckily for the sequel to Bruce Almighty, it shouldn't be too hard to find plenty of folks who can portray the upper middle class neighbors needed to flesh out the set going up at Old Trail, Crozet's newest neighborhood. Also needed: congressmen, congressional staffers, police, construction workers, and– ahem– reporters.

Totally out of luck: kids. "Don't bring children," pleads extras casting director Tammy Smith's informational recording at 818-771-8100.

The number of extras needed each day varies from between 12 and 30 people to several hundred, according to Smith. "We're recreating Congress in Richmond with about 300 people," she says, a scene that will be heavy on congressmen and staffers.

Casting for the Richmond shoot, which will last about a week, will occur in Charlottesville. "We're killing two birds with one stone," says Smith in a phone call from Los Angeles, where she had to assemble 600 extras the next day for Dreamgirls.

Would-be extras are advised to dress the part. Congressmen should be suit-wearing males over 40, their aides in their 20s and 30s. Construction workers should wear their hardhats or other suitable blue-collar attire. And those who aren't congressional or constructional are instructed to wear "nice casual."

War of the Worlds was the largest casting call in recent Virginia history. In December 2004, 2,500 people showed up– "maybe more– " in Lexington to vie for the two hundred or so extras needed, says Andy Edmunds in the Virginia Film Office. "It was," he recalls, "a ton of people."

Evan Almighty, directed by UVA alum Tom Shadyac and starring Morgan Freeman and Steve Carell, could give War of the Worlds a run for its money.

In Evan, Carell, newly elected to Congress, inherits the "almighty" mantle and is instructed to build an ark. Old Trail, a new golf course community under Afton Mountain in Crozet, stands in for suburban DC, and the set of a partially completed subdivision is well under way.

The open casting call– "I hate the term 'cattle call,'" declares Smith– runs from 10am to 1pm and 2 to 6pm February 25 and 26. There's no need to bring head shots– photos will be taken there.

Smith sits down with groups of people and tells them about the movie and what to expect– most importantly, that they're talking 12-hour days. "When you accept, you've got to know that," she says.

And after she talks to them, "I want them to want me to call them back," she says.

Any tips for would-be extras?

"I hire real people," says Smith. "Most want to be part of a film. Most want to do it for fun. The key is to come and be yourself."

On the other hand, "Overzealous sends out a red flag," she cautions.

And once an extra has gotten the call back, "You need to pay attention, show up on time and follow directions," Smith says.

The main "don't" on any movie is not to approach the actors. "Usually bringing cameras is a no-no," says Smith. "Don't bring family and friends. Don't ask actors for autographs."

Smith isn't sure what the pay scale for nonunion locals will be here, but in L.A. a nonunion local can expect between $75 and $100 a day. Not that extras usually are in it for the money.

To be an extra last summer in Flags of our Fathers, a Clint Eastwood movie starring Ryan Phillippe, local businessperson Hayley Peppard paid more for a hotel room in Washington than she made for six hours of work.

"It was 96 degrees and [the scene] was supposed to be winter," recalls Peppard, who was sweltering in a wool dress, gloves, and stockings. (Most extras in Evan will wear their own clothes.) Still, Peppard plans to attend the Evan casting call.

"It was a lot of fun," she says. "Most of the time it was standing around talking to people."

Even more movie folk than originally projected– about 250– will be in town for Evan. "They've set up their office," says city communications director Ric Barrick. The production office staff, first estimated at 50, will be closer to 100.

Crozet won't get all the action. Charlottesville will be the site of two scenes, the locations of which Barrick describes only as "a major intersection downtown and an off ramp of a local highway." And the city is pushing for those to be shot on a Saturday to avoid snarling traffic.

Barrick, too, has been an extra in two films shot in Charlottesville: in Four Seasons when he was a child, and as a chauffeur in the 1987 Ferris Bueller knock-off Morgan Stewart's Coming Home with Lynn Redgrave.

"It was fun," says Barrick, "but after a while, bring a good book."