published Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Courter: Stories keep coming from '42' participants

The film crew for the Jackie Robinson movie "42" has left Chattanooga for now, but the folks who served as extras are still talking about their experiences.

Over the past several weeks, we've heard from people who spent up to 14 days on set. Most wanted to share their stories about what being part of a major Hollywood film was like.

Warner Brothers doesn't want them to reveal anything that could be a spoiler when the film comes out, and even though much of what likely transpires in the film is in the history books, we can respect that.

Jonathan Parker was an extra on the film, and his story is interesting because of his connection to Harrison Ford, who plays Brooklyn Dodgers executive Branch Rickey.

A big Indiana Jones fan, Parker started making his own homage to the series two years ago as part of team-building project for his job at Support Seven, a customer service and support company in Brainerd.

A media and control manager there, he does training films as part of his job. He has been filming, editing, starring in and producing "Indiana Jones and the Spear of Destiny" as part of a cultural exchange project with a company in Costa Rica. All of the shooting has been done around here.

So when he heard that Ford would be here, he applied to be an extra both because he wanted to be part of the film but also to hopefully get the chance to be on set with and speak to the actor himself. Parker ended up being in a scene or two with Ford but decided against interrupting him to give him a cigar that he'd brought along.

"He was very serious and professional and constantly focused," Parker said.

Parker said the first edit of "Spear of Destiny" is 16 minutes. He's currently making changes and filming new scenes and ultimately hopes it will be about 45 minutes. It will be shown in September as part of the Heritage Film Festival here.

Gary Miller is a retired local umpire and a baseball fan who thought it'd be fun to watch a movie being made. He applied to be an extra and later, after urging from his wife, wrote back to the producers to tell them he had worked as an umpire.

His interview in Atlanta was so brief compared to others he was certain he hadn't gotten the part. Within a few days, he was informed he'd been picked and that they wanted him to find others to participate. He also was upgraded to a speaking part.

Miller ended up working all 14 days of shooting and is featured in a couple of key action scenes on the base paths. He worked off-camera in a scene with Ford too.

Because of his expanded role, Miller was moved from extra to actor status, which required him to sign a contract and become a Screen Actors Guild member.

Miller said everyone who saw him and his fellow umpires on set said they looked every bit the part of umpires in 1947, whatever that means.

He said he asked director Brian Helgeland what he was looking for and was told most of today's umpires look like bodybuilders and that he wanted a natural look.

"42" is scheduled to open April 12.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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