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Casting call for HBO's 'Game Change' draws aspiring extras

The last time Victoria Dinatale had an acting gig was in 1978, when she played a tree in a North Carroll High School production of a play whose name she can't even recall.

But she still remembers the thrill of the spotlight, which is what drew her and hundreds of others to a casting call for extras in "Game Change," an HBO movie about the 2008 presidential race that started filming in Baltimore late last month.

Aspiring extras filed into a theater at Stevenson University for hours Saturday, bringing with them headshots that in some cases had to have been taken decades before, on the best hair days of their lives.

"It'd be an opportunity to open some doors," said Paul Cornelius Jerry, 21, a graphic design student at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, who has competed on BET's "Wild Out Wednesday" dance show and performed in university dinner theater productions. "Somebody might want to have me in another film."

While Jerry hoped extra work would launch him into show biz, many who turned up were looking only for the chance to rub elbows with stars or see how movies get made. Hardly anybody was in it for the money. Extras are paid $65 a day.

"I like to tell people it's $65 an hour," said Frederick Strickland of Woodlawn, a city school teacher and chess coach. That's because when he was an extra on the "Game Change" set about week ago, playing the role of a reporter, "I worked for one hour and sat for 10 1/2."

Still, Strickland was back for more, hoping to get cast as an extra again.

"It's the experience of being on a set," said Strickland, 57, who majored in drama his first semester in college before deciding he'd need a steadier line of work. "I've always been interested in how filming was done."

Dagmar Wittmer, who ran the casting call as owner of Washington-based Central Casting, said about 300 people had submitted applications by early afternoon. She expected to hit 500 before wrapping up for the day.

"We get a lot of lawyers," she said. "When lawyers get into their midlife crises, when they turn 45 or 50, they all think they want to do something else in life, all of them. And they search and search, and they take acting classes. It's a riot. All they want to do is be in a movie. … They need to breathe again and see the fantasy world."

Based on a nonfiction book by the same name, "Game Change" stars Julianne Moore as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Ed Harris plays Sen. John McCain and Woody Harrelson plays Steve Schmidt, a senior McCain strategist and adviser.

The movie will have a number of lookalikes playing celebrity reporters and politicians such as Katie Couric, Anderson Cooper, Carl Cameron, Gwen Ifill, Charlie Rose and Vice President Joe Biden, Wittmer told The Sun about two weeks ago.

"The one we have not found is Katie Couric," she said Saturday.

The departing CBS Evening Newscaster might have that girl-next-door look, but take a closer look at the real girl next door.

"All the people submitted so far for Katie Couric, they think they look like her," Wittmer said. "She just has this nice, pleasant look. You think you'll find it on every corner, but …"

Whether they look like Couric or not, anyone interested in working as an extra may email Wittmer said applicants should include their age, phone number, height, clothes size and a photograph of themselves. (It need not be a professional portrait.)

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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