“Hey, Tom,” said a guy I knew. “You should call this other guy I know, because they’re filming The Shawshank Redemption up at the Mansfield Prison, and they’re looking for extras with long hair.”
This made perfect sense at the time because The Shawshank Redemption hadn’t come out yet, and the guy who was talking had just seen me sitting around reading Different Seasons, which is the Stephen King book it comes from, and also, I had about a foot of hair.
So I said, “Well, who’s driving?”
And it turned out Monte was driving, and I forget why. He had hardly any hair at all, but he was big into film, and he probably just wanted to get on the set, poke around. And I think Mike came up with us, too, but I truthfully can’t remember.
All I remember is, they weren’t very nice. Which was fine, we were talking about being extras at minimum wage – $4.25 at the time – and I didn’t expect my own trailer or anything. But it was like they went out of their way to look down on us. Oh, great, you must be here for the long-haired extra spot. That we requested and aren’t paying much for – screw you.
So, whatever, it’s not like I was used to people kissing my ass or anything. We waited for a solid hour with no one talking to us, until finally someone came and got me and sent me into a the wardrobe department, where a lady who looked like an English teacher was hanging around surrounded by five thousand different kinds of character outfits.
Apparently, I was to be a hippie. If you’ve seen the movie, then you might be thinking, that’s odd – there aren’t any hippies in that movie since it takes place mostly in prison.
Good point – the scene I was going to be in was eventually cut from the film, so it’s a good thing I got irritated and instead stalked angrily off the set, because it’s a lot cooler to be able to say “I walked off the set of The Shawshank Redemption” than it is to say, “I was an extra in that movie but my scene got cut.”
And furthermore, the lady reaches out and yanks on my hair with no regard for my personal space, and says, “Oooooo, that’s too much hair. Most of that’s going to come off.”
I said, “I’m sorry – I was told you were looking for long-haired guys. Hippies.”
But apparently the scene was going to be when Morgan Freeman gets out of prison at the end, and the turbulent anti-war movement was just beginning, and he was supposed to walk around with his Morgan Freeman expression on, getting an Oscar about it.
“That was early in the hippie movement,” the lady explained. “So no one had a whole lot of hair yet. Just a few inches of hair on a guy was rebellious.”
“So maybe you should have been asking for guys with a few inches of hair, instead of long hair,” I pointed out. “Long hair now, means long. Like this.”
I held it out for her to pet if she wanted to, making her little crow’s feet at the corners of her eyes quiver. She didn’t want to pet it.
She said, “Listen, here’s the outfit you’re going to wear,” and she showed it to me. It looked a little bit like Ted’s ensemble from Bill and Ted. “Now go on outside and wait for the stylist.”
Sure, why not. So then Monte and I stood on a gravel drive along a parking lot by the Mansfield prison, waiting in the sun for another solid hour. The whole time I kept bitching about it – “I don’t see how minimum wage makes this an acceptable way to be treated.” Etc.
Finally, a guy with a rake walked up to our unbelievably young, naïve, unobservant asses. He said, “Hey, you guys in the movie, too?”
“Got that right, we’re hippies,” I told him. “How about you?”
“I’m an inmate,” he replied.
And I said, “Huh. That’s weird. I didn’t think they were shooting the inmate scenes until next month at the earliest.”
“No,” he told me. “I’m an inmate.”
And that’s when we noticed the jumpsuit. See, I’m not the kind of writer who solves mysteries, you know? You see, and so do I – other people observe.
“That’s great,” I told him.”
“You got any weed?” He wanted to know.
Just slightly smart enough to answer that one correctly. “No. No, we don’t have any weed. I think maybe you ought to go ahead and scoot, man.”
And then he looked offended. Like the normal thing to do would be to hand over some drugs to him – there you go, Ace, we’re all here to stick it to the Man, right?
Then later I said, you know what? Screw this. Let’s go. So me and Monte went to a seedy Mansfield bar and had some beers, and then on Monday, when the same guy called up to yell at me, I said, “You tell those Hollywood pricks that if they want Tommy C. in their movie, they need to show a little respect.”
It’s true, too. Anybody out there ever seen me as an extra in a movie?
Well, all right then.