EXCLUSIVE: Revealing Interview With THE AVENGERS Extra David Goebel
In this fascinating and lengthy interview with David Goebel (an extra on the set of The Avengers in Cleveland last Summer) we're taken through his amazing experiences and get plenty of new details about what exactly Joss Whedon and the cast were up to while filming those action packed scenes.
Last August we were lucky enough to get a preview of The Avengers thanks to the numerous set photos and videos taken by Cleveland locals during filming of the movie in the city. We saw everything from exploding vehicles to Loki (Tom Hiddleston) on a rampage and Captain America (Chris Evans) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) fighting mysterious motion capture actors. However, a few locals were lucky enough to actually be on set as extras and Goebel Group owner David Goebel was lucky enough to be one of them! He wrote about his experiences HERE, so be sure to click on the link for some of his fantastic photos and videos as well as a few more details. David was kind enough to answer my questions when I got in touch with him and what follows is a lengthy and revealing interview about his time on the set of The Avengers.
How exactly did you manage to become an extra on The Avengers?
The Cleveland Film Commission is helping to build a film industry in Northeastern Ohio. So during the summer of 2011, 3 films decided to use Greater Cleveland as a location (The Avengers, iAlex Cross, and Funsize). Marvel wanted to use a NASA facility in Ohio to film some scenes for the Avengers so Cleveland was a natural fit for the metropolitan city and other scenes.
So Marvel put out a casting call for Extras in Cleveland in the spring of 2011. They wanted a few hundred people who looked like business men and women, policemen, EMT’s, Fireman, Army people, and others. I run my own Internet Marketing business, so I thought that if chosen I could take a couple of days off of work and quite frankly when will I ever have the opportunity to be in a movie of this magnitude. So I put on my best suit and headed to the Holiday Inn in Independence Ohio for the casting call.
I expected a line but was surprised when about 6000 people showed up over the 2 day casting call. After waiting for about 2 -3 hours I finally made it to the front of the line. We had to complete a form, a questionnaire and a picture was taken. The casting team suggested that we include any special talents, so many people put down that they had police or firefighter experience, some had even been actors in local theater. I thought very hard and managed to describe my talent of being able to roller blade, and play ice hockey. I had no idea how these could be used in the movie. After the 10 minute process we were told that if interested, they would call us.
So about 2 weeks later I got the call. "This is Marvel Casting", are you available during the week of August 16th to be an extra in The Avengers? I was very lucky and Hollywood had come to Cleveland.
Take us through your time as an extra. What did your work on the set of the movie consist of all in all?
Our days started very early, we had to be in downtown Cleveland by 5:30 or 6 am. The routine was the same, but it was new to me so it was exciting. Arrive at the extra holding area, have breakfast (very good food), get into costume, then makeup, and then wait. We did lots of waiting, but there was WIFI, so I actually got some work done. The morning set up routine took about an hour to an hour a half depending on how many extras where needed that day. The Extra holding area was about 2 blocks away from the actual set, so when it was time for filming, we all walked down the street. Most of the scenes that I was in consisted of being in the background of various action scenes with Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, and others.
Can you tell us who and what exactly your scenes involved?
I cannot get into exact details of the scenes but in general they had 3 elements: Destruction, this is a battle for the world and it was "Every man for himself". Tipping cars, blowing out storefronts, trucks, and buses was the norm. Terror, the actors and extras as the trailer shows, had the fear of death on their faces. The world was coming to an end. Relief, when the Avengers show up to help save the earth.
I was in about 11 different scenes, from being rescued by NYPD as the bad guys destroyed the city, running away while Captain America was thrown out a window, to hovering next to a car while a bad guy confronts a real actor. Most of the scenes had smoke, rubble, fire, and lots of action. In many of the scenes we ran on rocks and debris. I have no idea how the women did it in heals.
Was it hard not to get distracted by the chaos unfolding around you?
As someone new to movie making, especially at this scale it was awesome to see how everything was done. The FX, stunts, cameras, and sheer amount of people on set was an adrenaline rush. In some scenes I felt like I was 10 years old again blowing up model cars with firecrackers in the back yard. Except these where real cars and building being blown up!!!
What was it like to work under the direction of Joss Whedon? Did he provide you all with a lot of details as to what exactly he wanted from you?
Being new to this I did not know what to expect, some of the people who I spoke to said that the directors and other professional do not speak to or even acknowledge the extras. I was pleasantly surprised by how well we were treated, not only did we get great food, we got great direction from the director and his assistants. During some strenuous scenes we and the real actors and stunt people where thanked personally. That went a long way to helping the 12 to 14 hour days go by quickly and keeping the energy level high. Joss and the others made us feel like we where a vital part of the team. We usually huddled with the assistant directors before scenes and given direction. Joss usually worked directly with the main actors and gave direction to us after a first take. I remember one scene in particular took over 45 minutes to do because the sun kept going behind a cloud and we had to do a few retakes. To the amazement of people watching the filming, Joss walked about 50 yards down the street to go to a spot that was not in a shadow of a building to see when the clouds would actually cleared. Even with all of the technology on the set, how else could he determine what mother nature was up to. I think that this showed his attention to detail (keeping the lighting consistent). He seemed to be very much in the zone, and concentrating on that was going on and how it affected the big picture. Because some of the production offices where close to where the extras had lunch, Joss was scene often and was always friendly. A good extra is invisible unless asked to help, so we tried to respect the privacy and space of the professionals.
Did you get chance to rub shoulders with any of the actors on set?
Yes, during down time everyone was friendly and cordial. I personally had conversations with the production crew and a few professional actors. What amazed me was how well everyone worked together. Some of the other extras had conversations with the stars and even attended the wrap party.
Because the filming was during the whole month of August many of the A list actors where scene at various restaurants through greater Cleveland. The local paper and websites had pictures of Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans and Samuel L. Jackson out at dinner at various times. This is not LA so they were left alone.
The extras coordinators where great, there where some days and nights that they worked 24 hours straight with filming by 2 crews. The coordination of these events was amazing.
Any other details you can let slip about the movie?
We were kept in the dark about the overall plot and who was in some scenes.
It was fun to hear the other extras guessing on what was happening. Like when they dropped a number of 4 by 8 sheets of steel onto a few vehicles, smashing them like pancakes. What caused it,? Was it Thor's Hammer? A bad guy? or a piece of a building? We will not know until May 4th.
I think that I am in a scene with Stan Lee, except he filmed his part in New York and I was filmed in Cleveland...the magic of movies. Also, based on some of the scenes I would be surprised if everyone makes it, the battles where very intense.
The NASA Plum Brook station was used by SHIELD for other scenes. This facility is so unique that even Hollywood could not reproduce it. It includes the World's Largest Vacuum Chamber used to Test Orion deep space rockets, Home of the world's largest space environment simulation chamber, Cryogenic chambers, and a facility that is used by NASA to tests solar sails. How this NASA facility fits into the movie I have no idea but it is interesting.
Has this experience inspired you to take on more work as an extra?
I would enjoy being an extra again but have not participated in any other casting calls. It was interesting to see what the backgrounds of some of the other extras was, some had agents, some participated in local theater, and some traveled from other parts of Ohio. Many of the extras were huge Marvel Comic fans and sat and discussed many of the characters from past and present comics and movies.
Cleveland was really a super hero hub last summer with all of the Marvel characters hanging out in the same neighborhood that Superman was created. The building that inspired the daily planet building was a few feet away from the main set and tall building that superman first leaped over in a single bound was used in a scene.
If any of your readers wants to be an extra in the upcoming Marvel movies, I would encourage them to look for casting calls and give it a try. The important thing is to listen, if they are looking for people in business suits or whatever character and they ask you to dress like that for the interview then dress like that. Then once you become an extra I would listen, be quite, and stay out of the way unless told otherwise. Oh, and enjoy the food.
Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man
Chris Hemsworth as Thor
Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye
Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Ramanoff/Black Widow
Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
Tom Hiddleston as Loki
RELEASE DATE: April 27, 2012. (UK) May 4th, 2012. (US)
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