It’s time for Machine Gun Preacher to open! So here’s the story behind the story…
So last year, I auditioned for and got a part in a film with Gerard Butler. Since the trailer for Machine Gun Preacher has now gone live and the movie has started opening in limited release, I’ve been asked a few times what it was like to film it. Mostly, it’s been questions of what was my part, what is the movie actually about and was Gerard Butler as hot in person as he is on screen. (The answers to those are: a drug dealing biker chick, about a guy who turns his life around in a pretty crazy way and yeah I suppose he is.)
I was at work when I got the call to tell me that I got the part. It was the end of the day, I was getting ready to leave in a short while and I heard my cell phone ring. When I saw that it was my agent, I picked up, not expecting anything other than to ask if I’d be available for another possible audition or something. I certainly didn’t expect to hear that I got the part. As it turns out in the movie business, I had about a month before I had to film and would get the info on my fitting and all that soon. I hung up the phone and sat there for a minute before realizing that ‘Hey, THIS JUST HAPPENED.’ It was a bit strange to me. Not because I hadn’t ever gotten parts before (though this was the biggest budget and my SAG-e entry) but because I wasn’t sure what it would be like. It’s sort of like your 18th birthday. You wake up and are all ‘Wow, I’m an adult today!’ and then you realize that your hair is the same, your clothes haven’t morphed overnight into something not teenager-ish and you feel exactly the same as you did when you went to bed. That was how I felt about this: The same. I kinda guessed that having my first big role would make me feel, I dunno, validated or something. Like a real actress. Like somehow I had ‘made it.’ In reality, I was excited, but there was no spotlight and choir of angels or anything.
But good news in hand, and the sudden attack of bouncing in place when it struck me that I really honestly DID get the part, I ran down the hall to tell my friend Tafari, the photographer who had taken my latest headshots who happened to have an office down the hall from me at our day job. Only when I got there, I had JUST missed him. So I texted him and then proceeded to call my mother. Because that is what adults do, apparently. They call mommy to
share the good news! I did tell the couple of coworkers who were still in the immediate vicinity about it, because they had already heard me on the phone anyway. When I came in the next morning, everyone knew. It was strange to think that they would even care, but they seemed excited and happy about it. My family all seemed excited about it, too. My husband had told me that he was pretty sure I’d get it and he wasn’t surprised, so that made me feel good, too.
So I went in for my fitting and was told that when I came to film, my wardrobe would be waiting for me. It was pretty exciting to know that all I had to do was roll up and they would take care of my hair and makeup and what I’d be wearing. I need someone to do all those things in my daily life.
I was called with my call time for the first day of shooting my part (I had two days) and the PA told me that basecamp* would be at Allendale School in Melvindale. I was a bit boggled when I heard that. Apparently we were shooting at a bar in Melvindale called Jake’s Crossroads. Now for those who don’t know me, it’s amusing because I’m from that area. I graduated from Melvindale High School. In fact, the PA started to give me directions and I cut her off. No, I told her, I know where it is. She started to give me the address just in case. I said no, I know where it is. “That’s my nephew’s school, see. Look outside, see the public swimming pool there? That’s where I learned to swim as a kid. Look to your left, down a bit there’s a high school. That’s where I went to high school. I know where to go.” (*Basecamp is a place near the location where filming is happening. Sometimes it is next door, sometimes it is blocks away. In this case it was at the school where the trailers were set up in the back parking lot and catering was in the school’s cafeteria.)
My first day’s call time was 11 AM. Since it wasn’t far from my mom and dad’s, I decided to go to breakfast with my mom. See, I got all my fitting stuff done and knew I had to wait at least a month to film. Then I promptly kinda forgot about it until a few days before we started filming and I had to be on set. It wasn’t as if I was nervous. In fact, I really wasn’t! But for some reason in the few days leading up to filming, my stomach would do cartwheels at random times when I’d eat, so I just stopped trying to eat outside of at least one meal a day. Therefore, I had this bright idea. Let’s go to breakfast with mommy! I figured that the combination between going somewhere my family likes to go and being with my mother would make me forget the insanity that was going to happen later in the day and I’d be able to eat and forget about the fact that I was starting to get very, very nervous.
Well it almost helped. I managed to get a few bites down, but maybe half of what I would usually have eaten. I did start to calm the butterflies in my stomach for a while. Until it was around 10 AM and my mom looked at her watch. “Oh honey! You have to get to the movie set!” I told her I had plenty of time. It was less than 5 minutes away so we had plenty of time to hang out until then. No, my mom had other ideas. She waved the waitress down by waving her arms wildly in the air and announcing to the restaurant (that thankfully only had about five people in it) that we needed our bill. “We have to leave. My daughter has to be to a movie set soon. She’s starring in a Gerard Butler movie.” Head, meet desk. At a rate of twenty MPH. I was so embarrassed. “MOOOOOM!” I hissed, “I am not starring in ANYTHING! I have a small role! I can’t believe you just did that!” Of course, the waitresses had to come over and talk to us and find out the details and ask me to bring Gerry back to the restaurant later that day. But before 2 PM when one of them got off work.
Now one thing that a lot of people don’t realize is that I have a very low grade rosacea on my face. I could say I blush easily, but that doesn’t even begin to touch on the tip of the iceberg. When I say I blush easily because of my rosacea, I actually mean ‘If there’s a one degree change in temperature, if I find something amusing or sad, if I sneeze or if I even breathe sometimes, my cheeks and nose and forehead turn NEON GLOWING RED. Needless to say, if I have a hint of embarrassment, I’m gonna glow in the dark from turning so bright red. I felt my face burn hot. I didn’t have any witch hazel and ice packs to calm the red so I was hoping that the makeup people wouldn’t hate me entirely.
I got to set and followed the signs. Set signs are yellow with arrows and will have words or letters on them depend on the project and what the sign is for. You’ll see ones that say BASECAMP sometimes, ones that say EXTRAS or HOLDING or sometimes EXTRAS HOLDING and sometimes you’ll see the movie name or initials or a ‘filming under’ name.
I pulled in and was stopped by a security guard. This is normal. Every set I’ve ever been to has had security. So he asks if I’m an extra. I feel my face turn red all over again and say no, I’m a principal actor. He says okay and directs me to parking near the gate entrance. Apparently the extras had to park on the other side of the building, leaving the closer spots for actors and crew. I felt weird about it, but whatever! I had a prime parking spot! I got out and went into the gated area (where they keep the buses during the school year) and it’s a maze of trailers. Everyone looked busy so I wandered around until I found extras holding. Popped into there and was asking who I see to check in, that I’m not an extra. I hear my name and turn and it’s a PA looking for me! FOR ME! How cool is that? She takes me to my trailer (which sounds glam but is really very much not, it’s tiny and smells like chemicals, but it had A/C and it was like 98 degrees that day) and the door outside says MISTY and under it BIKER CHICK. Pretty cool, even if it was cramped and smelled funny so I didn’t wanna spend too much time in there unless I got too hot outside.
You can see in the picture of me holding up the t-shirt how tiny the trailer really is. Anyway hanging on the bar on the inside was a plastic garment bag with my name on it and inside were my clothes. You can see the tops of my boots on the floor. The backpack and paperwork all came in with me. Oh yeah, the shirt was a present. I got one for Frank the head of wardrobe (HUGE derby fan!) and one for Gerard Butler. This picture was actually taken on my SECOND day of filming, but it shows you the trailer pretty well.
So Joanna, my PA, told me to hang out for a while. There are snacks in the school cafeteria if I wanted any or got thirsty and they’ll come get me after they all break for lunch and take me to hair and makeup, so don’t bother getting into my wardrobe yet, I have a while to wait. That’s cool.
Oh one other thing is that on the bench of the trailer was a small stack of stapled papers. Not my contract stuff, but it was my script! It was a breakdown on the front page of who was shooting that day and where and the rest of it had the scenes being filmed with all the lines. MUCH easier than carrying around a whole script!
Now this is where I got lucky. I didn’t have to memorize my lines. My part was entirely improv. Which was suh-weeeeet for me because I couldn’t have remembered lines if I had tried, my head was still a little spinning about everything going on. There’s a ton you don’t see happening when you’re an extra! So anyway my trailer had a radio and stuff and I had some books and puzzle books and my phone so I called people and did puzzles and listened to music and hung out. Finally I got tired of the chemical smell in there and ventured outside and ran into the girl who had the trailer next to mine! Her name is Nicole Michele Sobchack and she came in from LA to play the bartender in one scene! How cool, right? So she and I got talking and bonded immediately. I LOVE this girl. She’s amazing and awesome. We STILL keep in touch and when I make it out to LA, we’re totally taking over the town.
Anyway, a while later Joanna came back for me. I ask if I should get my wardrobe on before hair and makeup and she goes ‘Oh, no. We’re going TO wardrobe!’ … but I already have my costume all set, I point out. She shakes her head. “No, this is for another scene.” …wait. ANOTHER SCENE? I’m only in the one! Well it turns out the director found out I was at basecamp and wanted me to be in another scene too! This was to help establish that I’m good friends with Sam and Donnie, the two main male characters. Uh, okay! So I go to wardrobe and get a long-sleeve black thermal shirt. Frank, the awesome wardrobe head, unbuttoned it all the way and pushed the sleeves up and tied the bottom in a sexy kinda way and decided I needed to show more bra. I was, after all, a trampy biker. I’m glad I wore a cute bra since it was decided that I’d wear the one I had on instead of the one with my other wardrobe change. Now my cute black and pink bra is famous. Declaring me done, I was sent off to hair and makeup where they spent an hour straightening my hair, remarking the entire time about how much hair I have. Yep. I get that a lot.
Then it was into the makeup chair I go. At some point, my face calmed down so it wasn’t TOO bad anymore, though I still had a fierce blush going on. At least it was less splotchy which was good, right? Well turns out, splotchy was the look they were gonna go for, so I just made their jobs a LOT easier. I got a bunch of makeup caked on, they did up my eyes and added MORE splotches to my face (so I would look properly methed-out apparently) and the two makeup guys kept saying how nice my skin is. Yeah, did they not see the rosacea?! At least I do have pretty clear skin and haven’t gotten any wrinkles in my 36 years so I must be doing alright. Then it was fake tattoo time.
Oh this may be the best and worst part of the entire experience. First off, let me explain something. I am ticklish. No, I am TICKLISH. Just breathe in my direction and I giggle madly. So when they said I was getting tattoos, I figured ‘Oh okay, I put on fake tattoos all the time on my arms and legs!’ but no. These were different. They’re printed off onto special paper, though they get applied in the same way as most fake tattoos. And my arms? HA! I had tattoos all over my body. I had a HUGE one on my back (which they put on even though I was wearing a shirt that covered it at this point, it would only show in the tank top in the OTHER scene), my neck and my chest. To apply the one on my chest, we had to do a bit of creative maneuvering. Namely, I had to pull my shirt down under my boob on that side and pull my bra down as much as I felt able to without showing things I shouldn’t show, then tuck in a towel so I don’t get sopping wet when we use the water. So there I am with my breast practically popping out, already feeling silly (though the guys were TOTALLY professional and asked if I’d prefer if they had a woman come help with that part, I said no, that they weren’t trying to get free kicks, they were just doing their job, plus they were VERY professional and I felt totally safe) and the door opens. Gerard Butler comes swaggering in and plops down in the chair next to me, turns on the radio to a Doors CD and starts singing along loudly. Then he looks over at me, glances me up and down and goes ‘Hi, I’m Gerry.’ I smile and say ‘Hi I’m Misty, I’ll be your biker chick for the day.’ He was amused by that and we started talking as he got his mullet clip-in hair fixed. He was REALLY nice. He treated everyone great, which says a lot to me.
So he’s done and gone before they finish with my tattoos. Finally I’m all done and get sent to my trailer to wait. Nikki and I hang out and she’s sad, she didn’t get any fake tattoos. So of course I rub it in that I have like twenty. Okay it was like 4? 5? Something like that. There was one behind my ear that you won’t even notice, probably. We hang out a while, then Joanna comes over and gets us. We’re wanted on set! YAY!
By now it’s a few hours later and the heat is incredible. It’s July in Michigan which means it’s hot and oh-so-muggy. I’m afraid I’m gonna start sweating my makeup and tattoos off so in the van to take us over, we’re pretty much sitting on top of the A/C vents. We pull in and head into the bar. On the way inside, I see some people I know so I run over to say hi and then scamper in. Nicole and I are told to hang out in the back room with the crew for a bit so I grab a bottle of water and sit down and watch them set up the camera stuff. The extras are all in place and apparently have been there for over an hour! Then Nicole gets call up front and a little while later, I hear my name being yelled so I set down my water and head up to the main room of the bar and say ‘Right here!’ and it turns out the director himself was looking for me! He calls me by name, takes me over to the pool table, calls to get me a drink but make it almost gone. So he tells me to hang out there, then on a certain line, go up to the bar and set my drink down, see Sam (Gerard Butler’s character) sitting there, go ‘Hey Sam!’ or something similar, clap him on the shoulder and head back. We do that a few times and play with the timing but it never felt quite right so we ended up just having me hang out in the background instead. I was fine with it, it’s just to establish that my character is friends with them.
They bring in the A-Team which is the real actors (B-Team are the stand-ins) and we film the scene a few times and then we’re done and they send us back to holding to wait while they redo the camera and stuff for another scene. I’m told to put my other outfit on then head over to hair and makeup for touch-ups. By the time we head back over to the bar again, the crew is almost done setting up, the extras are in place and there are lights and cameras surrounding one table that had three people sitting at it. Turns out, I had my very own stand-in. ME! So they call in A-Team (OMG ME!) and Michael Shannon and I sit down and then Gerry’s gonna come sit down at the table with us. So the director tells us to just wing it and say whatever until he gets there, that it’s all improv, no script. So Michael Shannon and I carry on conversations about the most insane things. Toothaches, who I was sleeping with that week, the weather, drugs, getting more tattoos… I forget the whole list of stuff we talked about. Can’t wait to see what makes it into the final cut! Then Gerry comes in, we jump up because we haven’t seen him in a while and hug him. I got a kiss on the lips some takes, on the cheek others. It was awesome. Then we sit down and talk a bit and Gerry and I get up and go into the bathroom.
Some of the takes, we’d walk off and I actually got some evil looks from people! WTF?! I dunno what the deal was. It was less than awesome. But hey, I had a blast doing it anyway. Oh, also during the conversation, ‘Sam’ (Gerry) pulls out some cigarettes and lights one and takes a drag off it. Well one of the takes, we’re walking down the hallway waiting to hear CUT so we can come back and he leans out the open door and throws the cigarette out really hard (instead of tossing it without going outside like in every other take) and makes ick sounds. Turns out he got a real cigarette by accident that take instead of the herbal ones that you use in movies and TV shows.
The interesting thing is that the next day, there were rumors all over about people who saw him smoking and ‘Oh it’s a shame that Gerard Butler took up smoking AGAIN’ and stuff. It was a movie, people! There was no real actual smoking taking place, it was his character, and he got upset when he accidentally got a real cigarette in one take. That does not constitute smoking! No wonder rumors drive people insane. There’s no point to them.
Anyway, we took some breaks outside. It was INCREDIBLY hot in the bar. They have to turn the A/C off because of the sound and with the lights, cameras and TONS of people, it gets really hot really fast. So between takes they got a mini fan to put in front of me so I wouldn’t sweat my makeup off. How were the guys not sweating?! How was the director not a sweaty mess in a cable knit sweater and jeans?! INSANITY!
Well that’s the first day of filming. I got home and it was kinda late. Like 10ish maybe? So not LATE but it was an exhausting day.
I’ll add more about day two of filming later. I’m off to get ready for the premiere of the movie tonight!