Thanks to tax incentives luring film production companies here to Michigan, a person no longer has to go to Hollywood to get cast in a movie. Just ask former Sparta resident Steve Campbell. He’s been called to work on four major movies in six months. He even got some screen time in the movie that aired on the Hallmark Channel this week—Perfectly Prudence with Jane Seymour, Joe Lando, Adam Kaufman and James Keach.
Steve only got the acting bug in the last few years. He’s been doing local community theater in Big Rapids, and wanted to expand and take advantage of the movie industry coming to town. “I went to michiganfilmoffice.org where they have cast and crew opportunities and saw postings about Real Steal being made in Detroit. I contacted the casting agencies and asked what it took, and they said I had to send over an acting resume and a couple of headshots. A couple of the agencies then accepted me,” he said.
The first movie he did was as a paid extra in a film called “Salvation Boulevard” with Pierce Brosnan, Marissa Tomei, and Ed Harris, in Detroit. In it he attended a purity ball with his onscreen 12-year-old daughter. “I danced with her, and then Pierce Brosnan and another actor held up swords and we walked underneath them and laid a rose at the foot of the cross,” he explained. He said he thinks the film is coming out in November.
Next he was called for “Real Steel,” the movie that got him interested in the first place—a Steven Spielberg production with Hugh Jackman and Evangeline Lilly (Kate of Lost). The movie is a boxing drama set in the near-future where 2,000-pound robots that look like humans do battle. He was a paid extra that was part of a crowd watching the event. “There were several hundred of us from all walks of life and they wanted us as dirty and as Mad Max futuristic-looking as we could be.” He said they smeared them with Vaseline and soot to make them look sweaty and dirty, and gave them empty beer bottles to hold while they cheered for whichever robot they were told to cheer for. He was in Detroit for 10 days, and said that although they could shower each night, they couldn’t clean their clothes. “We had to put on the same dirty, nasty clothes every day and when we got there they would regrease us and soot up the clothes again,” said Steve.
He said the funniest part was that he lost his voice. “We were screaming our lungs out for 14 hours. When I went through drive thru to get something to eat, I tried to order but nothing came out,” he said with a chuckle. He had to go inside and point things out that he wanted.
He said that at one point on the set, he was not far away from Hugh Jackman, but didn’t say anything to him. “They were pretty strict. They said that unless the actor talks to you, don’t bug him.”
Steve found that mindset to be totally different on his next project, Perfectly Prudence. The Hallmark movie stars Jane Seymour and Joe Lando, known to many fans as Dr. Quinn and Sully from “Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.” Steve was selected to be a stand-in for Joe Lando and the other three male actors, which meant that they had to wear the same color of clothes, have a similar hair style, etc. Once the actors did a run through of the scene, he and the female stand-in had to do the scene exactly as the actors did, with all the nuances, so that the film crew could adjust the lighting, shadows, etc.
“They would then call the actors back in and Joe Lando would high five me and say, ‘Good job, Steve,’” he recalled. “Those actors were much more accessible.” He said they were all on a first name basis, and took lunch together. “I was sitting next to Jane and she was asking how many kids I had, that kind of stuff.”
They were shooting in a house in Ada, and about five days into the shoot, they told him to change his shirt—they needed a camera man for a scene. “So I got to do a little more,” he said. Although it was not a speaking role, he did get some face time on the screen. “It was kind of surreal,” he said, “watching and knowing I did all of those things, or that I’m just off screen.”
Steve also did a quick scene for the movie “Set up” starring Bruce Willis, which was recently filmed in Grand Rapids. In that movie, he and his onscreen wife are talking with a parish priest as Fifty Cent walks by. “You can’t hear what we’re saying, so when he asks what he can help us with, I started telling him how my wife was such a nag, and how she paints her nails at all weird hours, stuff like that, and you could see the actor (playing the priest) was trying not to laugh,” he said. “We had some fun.” He did a lot of waiting around on that movie, though, and didn’t play the part he was originally cast for—a homeless man.
So was Steve surprised by the offers he’s had? “I certainly didn’t expect to get four films in six months,” he said. He also doesn’t quibble about the pay, which is a few dollars more than minimum wage. “It’s an opportunity to do something fun and get paid for it,” he remarked.
Will we see him in major roles? Now that he has an agent, it’s not impossible. “She submits me for bigger roles, and hopefully one of these days one of them will pop up,” he said.