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Anson Stevens-Bollen

Extra, Read All About It!

I’m living la vida Hollywood

April 22, 2014, 12:00 am

“It is an honor just to be nominated. I want to thank my family, my agent, my publicist and God…”

Oops. Sorry, I was just daydreaming about my Hollywood career.

Let me back up. Last October, my wife and I went to Albuquerque to work as extras on a movie they were shooting there. It was called La Vida Robot, starring Marisa Tomei and George Lopez. It will be released this fall.

The fact-based story deals with a national competition to build underwater robots, which was actually won by a high school team of undocumented immigrants from Arizona. They beat MIT, Stanford, everybody. Very uplifting stuff.

We took our place in some bleachers at the aquatic center in Albuquerque where the movie was being shot, and we waited. It turns out most movie work is about waiting. Honestly, I don’t know how Adam Sandler stands it. 

While we waited, I busied myself with punching up the script, which you’d think the director would appreciate what with me being a professional writer. But no! He told me a movie like this didn’t really need car crashes, giant piranhas and ritual disembowelments.

I told the director I would be available for a romantic scene with Ms. Tomei, if you catch my drift, but he said her contract mentions me by name and won’t let me get within 500 yards of her. He said it’s a fairly common clause that a lot of big actresses insist on. I wasn’t sure I believed him. 

Back in the bleachers, a casting dude walked back and forth scrutinizing the extras, and tapped my wife and me to play the parents of a student on the Stanford University robot-making team. This was quite a coup for us, since we were sitting next to a person who actually went to Stanford, and she wasn’t chosen to play a parent.

Our job was to congratulate the losers on the Stanford team on a job well done—even though, let’s face it, they were disgraced by some poor high school kids. Then we had to hug our “son” and slowly walk away. We did that over and over and over, for maybe ten takes. 

This was a background shot—so far in the background that we couldn’t actually see the camera, and we only knew what was happening by hearing commands like “Rolling!” and “Cut!” 

I ad-libbed typical college parent lines with our “son.” Like, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be,” and “Just say no to drugs, Billy!” Since the nearest microphone was even further away than the camera, you won’t hear me. That’s a shame, since it was some of my best work. 

For his part, our “son” really nailed the student thing. He called me “pops” and told me all of his college friends had Lamborghinis and gold cards and were going to Machu Picchu this summer. 

At 3 pm, the director sent us home. On the way out of the aquatic center, I came face-to-face with Marisa Tomei.

“Hey, Marisa! It’s me! Bob!”

Wow. I didn’t know a person could fire a taser that quickly. 

Robert Basler’s humor column runs twice monthly in SFR.
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