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Stars-to-Be Get Their Queue : 1,000 Line Up for Extra Roles in a New Tom Hanks Movie

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Mary Armitage came not for 15 minutes of fame, but 15 seconds.

The 38-year-old Yorba Linda social services worker was one of more than 1,000 people Saturday who converged on Garden Grove’s Hyatt Regency Alicante hotel for a shot at playing an extra in a new Tom Hanks film.

The film, “That Thing You Do,” charts the rise of a 1960s rock ‘n’ roll band from a small town in Pennsylvania to the big time in Los Angeles. The picture, which Hanks wrote and will direct, will be filmed in Orange, Costa Mesa, Los Angeles and other locations over the next several months.

“I know I might be in it for 15 seconds or less,” said Armitage, who styled her hair in a flip bouffant for the open casting call. “But I wanted to do this because it’s in Orange County and I love Tom Hanks.”

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A Hollywood casting director told the inexperienced, nervous throngs about the basics of being an extra--be on time, expect low pay ($40 for non-union workers for a full day) and don’t ask for autographs.

“They will send you home if you go running up to Tom with a pen,” said casting director Bill Dance, who called Hanks “one of the world’s greatest artists.”

Todd Jonas, a college student from Riverside County, got the message to keep a respectful distance from the double Oscar-winning actor whose astounding string of film successes include “Big,” “Philadelphia,” “Forrest Gump,” and this summer’s “Apollo 13.”

“I wouldn’t rush up to Tom Hanks or anything, but I’d probably have a big smile on my face,” said Jonas, 23, who is studying acting at a Riverside community college. “I’d be pretty stoked to be on the set with him.”

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Dance concluded each of the five, two-hour casting sessions by scrutinizing the extra wanna-bes for the “right look.”

“I can just tell,” said Dance, who has done casting for films such as “Far and Away” and “Steel Magnolias.” “We need all types though, and mostly we want people to just be themselves.”

More tryouts are being held today also at the Hyatt Regency Alicante, near Harbor Boulevard and Chapman Avenue in Garden Grove. Sessions are scheduled for 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Candidates have their photos taken and fill out lengthy information cards that include everything from their hat size to a list of special talents. They will be contacted later if chosen for a bit part.

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In all, the film will require some 2,000 extras from Orange County alone, said Dance. Extras may be asked to be screaming rock ‘n’ roll fans, ordinary townsfolk, business workers or housewives. Extras will receive haircuts and new wardrobes representative of the “wholesome” time period, Dance said.

For Angela Arhontes, 13, her dream part would be as a shopper.

“I want to walk down the streets and look in different windows,” said Arhontes, born and raised in Orange. “I like to shop anyway and I’d just love to be in a movie doing that.”

Modern music may not be her thing, but 66-year-old Ellen West of Orange said she would gladly dance to the beat if she gets chosen.

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“I normally tap-dance,” said West. “But I could do rock ‘n’ roll too.”

Frank Showalter scouted out the talent search Saturday for his daughter Lindsay, a student at Orange High School. Lindsay, at volleyball tryouts Saturday, will vie for an extra spot today, Showalter said.)

“I think she’s got a real good chance of making it,” said Showalter, 62, displaying color glossies of Lindsay. “People say she has the right look.”

During filming, parts of Orange will be remodeled to resemble Erie, Pa., circa 1964. To prepare for the shoot, constructions crews are installing new facades on some buildings around the Old Towne area, according to Lori Corbett, the city’s film coordinator.

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“The filmmakers said they were really impressed with the look of our city,” said Corbett, who adds films crews are scheduled to work from Nov. 28 to Dec. 13. “We are just thrilled.”


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