A Stand-in's Story: My Six-Week Master Class on set with
Tommy Lee Jones & Morgan Freeman
This week we have a guest blog from Sol-Mate Nick Urzetta who shares his experience about working as a Stand-In on the film Villa Capri here in Albuquerque
I had the extraordinary opportunity of working as a stand in for Tommy Lee Jones, who is starring along with Morgan Freeman and Rene Russo in the upcoming comedy Villa Capri, filmed in New Mexico this year and due out in August 2017.
Being new to the acting game starting June 2016, at the ripe young age of 59, I began taking classes at Sol Acting Academy under the capable guidance of owner, mentor, teacher and Vivian Nesbitt.
Having only been on a movie set a few times as background, I submitted my thin resume and headshot for a casting call from White Turtle Casting and also Latham Casting as a stand in and photo double for actor Tommy Lee Jones. In the casting call they requested an actor that also plays golf, and that was my ticket as I have played golf all my life and I look somewhat like Tommy Lee.
I had no idea what I was in for, talk about baptism by fire!
I went from a beginning acting class to standing in and reading lines with some of the biggest names in the business.
I also had the distinct honor of working with and getting to know legendary writer director and producer Ron Shelton (Tin Cup, Bull Durham, White Men Can’t Jump) to name a few of the movies he has written, produced and directed. Ron was also a minor league baseball player AAA level. Coincidentally he played for the Rochester Red Wings, (Rochester is my hometown), and was an infield starter for the 1974 team that won the league championship in 1974. He is being inducted into the Red Wings Hall of Fame in 2017.
I had no idea I would have to actually rehearse…..
Ron runs full rehearsals with the stand in crew, or 2nd Team, and many times I would be reading lines and rehearsing movement with the likes of Morgan Freeman, Rene Russo, Glenne Headly, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Joe Pantoliano.. and more….
First day on the set actually went well as the scenes were all in order on the call sheet, but day 2 was a disaster as I began reading lines from the wrong scene, which didn’t go over particularly well with 1st AD and Steve Danton or Ron. As a coach and mentor, Ron would not hold back if someone missed their mark or read their lines wrong, he would always say “you’ve been on the set for 28 days, you should know your lines, know the camera angles”.. It didn’t matter the actual day count, it was always 28 days.
Tommy Lee was very quiet and focused on set, he comes “in character” to the set and when the camera rolls, he is powerful, creating a character and delivering dialogue like only he can. In the six weeks of shooting he said only five words to me, “your hat is on backwards”... The character he portrayed wore a cowboy hat and I had trouble distinguishing the front from the back. He doesn’t miss a trick.
Morgan Freeman brings joy and happiness to the set, he has an incredible persona.
Rene Russo, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Glenne Headly, Elizabeth Ashley were all consummate professionals, studying the way they prepare and approach their work was priceless.
Our stand in line up, or 2nd team bonded very quickly. The core group was primarily Charles Elkins, Michael Fabian, Susan Lloyd, Vincent Cunningham and Robert Fox. Michael taught me the basics. Stand In is a vital role to the continuity of the film. There were many things to learn, the most important being to study the actor you are standing in for, their every movement, stance, hand, leg arm position. The camera operators really depend on the stand in to get the shot right.
This once in a lifetime experience has been invaluable in my pursuit of a career in film.
I feel blessed and fortunate to have been given this wonderful opportunity.