The following is a "spoiler-free" report of TDK shoot in Chicago early on July 25, 2007 from "The Anonymous Extra."
A Day in the Life of an Extra on THE DARK KNIGHT (7/25-07)
If you've never been an extra or seen the HBO show called “EXTRAS,” its very accurate, and this is my readers digest version. Plus, I managed to snoop around a little to bring my friends at BOF some great behind the scenes stuff.
Not to burst any bubbles out there but the life of an extra is not all that exciting. One never really gets to see or even has contact directly with any "stars” -- the production staff monitors you very closely as they know very well there are some real bat freaks out there who want nothing more than to get as close as they possibly can to the stars and action.
The person in charge of background is a nice women named Busby, who very eloquently spells out the rules of the road, screw up and your going to get tossed, so don't think about whipping out your cell phone camera to take a shot of the nice man with the long black cape!
After you arrive on the set, you're fed, and fed well. All the crew, including the extras, or background performers as some of the old timers like to call themselves, are fed a very nice breakfast. Bear in mind this is 7 PM in the evening and really should be supper, but since we'll all be here ’til dawn, it’s breakfast with lunch being served around 1 AM. Bear in mind, as an extra you eat last, even after the very hard working production assistants, of which there are as many as 50. But fear not there is always plenty of good grub to go around!
Once fed and checked in, we were taken down stairs to the extras holding area where the outfits are located. You’re told to what to wear and it is then scrutinized by a couple of v TDK British wardrobe crew members -- who, in my opinion wouldn't know how to dress an American commuter if their lives depended on it. They’re not bad at cops and SWAT guys but that doesn't take much creativity or ingenuity now does it?
If you didn't follow the instructions you were given when the nice folks in casting called, wear fall attire, no loud colors, etc. blah, blah, blah, then you were dressed by the people with no taste. Thankfully, I followed the instructions and did not need to be dressed. I then made my way back to the general holding area.
It seemed like the extras weren't going anywhere for a while so it was now time to do get out and do a little snooping. First order of business was to find out what was going on that night and for that I would need a call sheet, I'll spare you the details but it was easily obtained. I'm very resourceful about these things and friendly enough to the working crew who are all really great, very nice people who are working very hard.
Wandering around outside of the extras holding area, lo and behold I came upon 4 Batpods sitting right there being prepped for the upcoming scene. Wow!
I got close enough to practically sit on of them which I didn't of course since that would have surely gotten my ass thrown out, but boy did I want to.
Let me tell you Bat-Fans, they are really something else. Sleek, contoured, not meant for riding long distances though, the seat is no more than a foot long and half of that in width, I kid you not, they’re like a very short banana seat with small back piece for the small of your back.
A few minutes later, rehearsals for a chase scene started, so I found a good spot to watch. The Batpod started racing up this ramp with a camera follow car right behind it. This pathfinder type vehicle had the most elaborate camera arm that extended at least 6 feet in front of it. The camera car kept a few feet behind the Batpod which was traveling at a considerable clip, chasing it the short distance up the ramp. At the helm driving the pod with black cape flowing madly in all directions was the main Batman stunt performer in full Bat-Suit, his special cowl was made of Kevlar I was told.
This Batpod contraption of theirs is very speedy indeed; doesn't turn so well, but hey you can't have everything now can you?
I made my way back to extras holding, I wasn't missed and that was surely worth the risk! I didn't think anything would get better than that -- boy was I wrong!
Two hours later, there I was sitting in the train station in some retail store, and witnessing a terrific action packed scene where the caped crusader (stunt performer) bursts through a plate glass entrance door and roars up the train station on the Batpod. At daredevil speeds he races through the station which is filled with commuters, extras like me, chasing an unknown assailant, we never see who it is, his monstrous black cape flying madly behind him.
Very cool…very cool indeed!
Many, many, many takes later, we returned to holding to sit and wait to be released by Sir Nolan which is some two hours more of waiting -- oh the glamorous life of an extra!
I did see that Mr. Bale showed up around 4 AM to do some Batpod shots racing up the ramp. The pod was being towed by a rig, and there were not many sequences filmed, I was told by a reliable source, he was not feeling well -- something to do with motion sickness. Maybe they were pulling him too fast?
The final scenes being shot that evening involved a SWAT team entering an abandoned school bus, wonder whose bus it might be!
So for all this excitement and waiting around, one is paid a grand total of 65 bucks; so you’re probably not going to get rich doing this. But you might, if you’re lucky, get to see yourself in a scene with a man with a dark black suit riding a very strange looking motorcycle with the biggest wheels you ever have seen.
Of course you'll probably have to put your DVD player on super, super Bat-slow motion to see yourself. But hey it's Batman!