Jim, Our 'Fighter' Extra, on Listening to His Wife, 1,000 Redheads and Waiting for Christian Bale to Lose It

Last night, I saw The King’s Speech at the Avon (Nice movie. People clapped at the end. I love that), which just leaves The Fighter on my to-see list this weekend. But I did catch up with Jim Hammond, our freelancer who scored a background role in the film as the bell-ringer during the championship fight. Jim is always getting neat little gigs in commercials and stuff. You don’t have to be a star; there are all kinds of ways to throw your hat into the ring. Our Q&A:

How did you get the part?
They were filming in Lowell and had a casting call for extras. There were over 2,000 people in line. About a thousand of them were red-headed girls because they were looking for people to play the Irish sisters. I almost turned around, but my wife convinced me to stay. The casting director was going down the line and said to me, "You look like you live in Lowell" (I don’t) and pulled me to the front of the line.

What was it like being on set?
It’s a long day. The scene we filmed lasted about five minutes on film. They rehearsed in the morning and then filmed in the afternoon. We were there for sixteen hours straight, from 9 a.m. to one in the morning. You spend a lot of time just sitting around while they set up the shots and shoot them over and over to get different angles.

This was in July, so it was very hot.  There were about 9,000 extras, and they had us smoking herbal cigarettes to look like the crowd at the original fight. But the A.C. sucked up the smoke, and it didn’t look right, so they had to turn it off. The actors had air-conditioned trailers, but the rest of us sat there in our suits, sweating.

Did you meet the actors?
They tell you not to talk to the actors unless they talk to you. It costs a fortune to get all these people together, and they don’t want you yakking to the actors, wasting time and bothering them. But I did talk to Amy Adams when we both went to the water cooler. She was a sweetheart.

What about Mark and Christian?
Mark Wahlberg was grumpy. He was producing the thing and under a lot of pressure. Christian Bale didn’t say a word. He’s known for his temper tantrums, so everybody was waiting for him to go nuts. But he was calm as can be.

Did you see yourself in the movie?
I got to go to the Boston premiere, which was a lot of fun. I saw myself two or three times in some of the wide-angle shots. You have to look real quick.

Would you do it again?
Probably, but I did turn down another background role because it was an all-night shoot. I’m fifty-eight; I don’t feel like being up all night. But Boston Casting has gotten me some other work. I’ve done commercials, a Rhode Island lottery commercial, some voiceovers, a music video. I really enjoy doing commercials. One commercial I did took four hours, and I got paid $500.

Advice for people who want to get background work?
Get a professional head shot; it’s worth it. Most people want their photo to look as glamorous as they can be, but casting people look for all kinds. You want to show up looking like your picture. I look like myself; I have a good face for character parts. 

Look for Jim’s face in the big scene.

And enjoy the rest of the decade. 😉