In a recent interview promoting her soon-to-be released film The Adjustment Bureau, Emily Blunt described what it was like working with co-star Matt Damon.
“Most of the time there was a guy on the loudspeaker yelling, ‘Do not look at Matt Damon!’ because all the extras were just staring at him,” she laughed. “I feel like I see people’s brains melting when they see him!”
I’ve experienced similar reactions on film and TV sets here in New York when I’ve been an extra. The production staff is always very clear about any interaction with the lead actors on set:
I saw one extra break the rule during an overnight shoot for the short-lived TV series Cashmere Mafia, starring Lucy Liu and Frances O’Connor.
We were filming a cocktail party scene at a restaurant on the Upper East Side. After hours of setting cameras and getting us in place, the director finally brought the lead actors out on set.
Just before he called ‘action,’ an extra standing close to the leads noticed that actor Peter Hermann (husband to Mariska Hargitay of Law & Order: SVU) had a large blotch of makeup on his suit. Without thinking, she stepped forward and brushed the spot with her hand.
She touched a lead actor.
Hermann flinched like he had been burned. He left the set surrounded by makeup and wardrobe people. All the principals left their marks, and we didn’t resume the scene for a good 20 minutes.
Production assistants appeared out of nowhere, grabbed the extra and whisked her from the set. She never reappeared.
It was a gross overreaction on many levels, but a good reminder to all the background actors: ‘furniture’ like us shouldn’t jump up suddenly and startle the actors.
Cashmere Mafia was canceled after just a few episodes.