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IAIN-JAMIE PATERSON (Extra : Viking Trader)

Source : Campbell River's Webzine



"Join a stunning adventure in 922 A.D. to a mysterious land where the day's length does not equal the nights...where after sunset the sky burns in streaks of color...where a powerful Viking chieftain and his band of brothers must lock in mortal combat with monstrous brutes who threaten to empty the land..."

If you think the preceding narrative sounds like hype for a Hollywood movie, you would be partially correct. It is in fact "a build up" of Random House's audio book of "Eaters of the Dead", using the old name of the movie before it was changed to THE 13TH WARRIOR. The name change was made so as not to offend the sensibilities of anybody. One local Quadra Island wag swore that it was changed so McDonald's could come out with a special hamburger when the movie eventually made its long awaited debut. Campbell River McDonald's might have been a tad uncomfortable promoting a McEaters of the Dead burger.

I had read Michael Crichton's book and found it very dry, I thought by listening to the audio I might get a better idea of the background of this story. Crichton read the introduction and gave a running commentary to the narrative, read by Victor Garber in a not very good Arabian accent. I found this running commentary very intrusive but hung in there to listen to the expanded format that took three hours. I felt that only film could do justice to the story and bring all the action and drama to life. The Arabian ambassador, who was the first to write the story on the Norsemen of the 10th century, and is the base of Crichton's book, was too terse and dry in his commentary. Perhaps his training as an accountant was the cause.

It seems so long ago that the movie production of EATERS OF THE DEAD put their ads in the local newspapers for extras. Not until they specifically asked for men in their 50s, with long, gray hair did I decide to enter the long line ups. It was April 1997 and the local weather did not oblige. By the time I made it inside the office, it was nearly four hours later. I filled out an application and had an obligatory Polaroid shot taken, and was finished. Then an English lady, Andrea, asked if I would have any trouble growing a full beard as I was only sporting a goatee and mustache at the time. I was also to let my hair grow longer. There was no problem but I made sure I had another Polaroid taken when the beard was full.

Finally, about two weeks before filming started at Norwood Farm on July 1, 1997, Andrea called to say that I had made the "cut" and was to appear as a Nordic Trader. Alright, I thought, it's about time long haired freaky people could apply and receive employment!

Before filming started, we had to go for costume fitting and were given a copy of the do's and don'ts of being a well adjusted extra. Most of it was just good common sense but it didn't hurt to see it in writing. Just act natural around the "stars", don't ask for autographs and generally don't be a twit. Extras are on the bottom of the pay scale and soon you understand that you are an expendable item in the general scheme of things.

On the morning of July 1, I set my trusty alarm for 4 a.m., so trusty in fact, I also called a taxi company to give me a wake-up call as well. It was going to be a great day weather-wise and I have to admit that I was excited as a kid. I have always been fascinated by Hollywood and the land of "make-believe". In the next few days I would learn very quickly where I was on the Hollywood scale of things, but throughout the movie, I never lost my awe of the beautiful set I was working on, nor the amount of money being spent to send EATERS on its way.



We took a bus from Carihi School down to the farm. Norwood Farm looked like a tent city with, of course, quite a few luscious "homes on wheels" for the stars and production bosses. We immediately picked up our costumes and got changed as quickly as we could. This was followed by the hair stylists adding "liquid mud" to our long hairy locks. We were warned not to wash it out buy you have to remember an itchy scalp can drive you crazy and I for one broke down and washed my hair anyway. Make up was next but really, for me having a full beard, only my neck and forehead showed and these areas were quickly looked after.

Inside a large barn, a huge banquet tent had been erected. There were gas fires on the floor and gas torches hung from the ceiling. The look was definitely grungy and smoky and the inside temperature was very hot, especially for the actors and extras wearing fur around their shoulders. Any time Omar Sharif appeared for a scene, there would be two production guys aiming an air-conditioning coil at him to keep him cool. Well, you can hardly begrudge Omar, he is getting up there, and throughout the shoot he proved to be one classy individual.

Just about the first crisis we had was when the director John McTiernan did not like Daniel Southern's version of a Viking battle song. Daniel was one of the 13 warriors, had an excellent voice, but simply didn't have the looks of a Viking.

Carl Johannson of Hilchey Road, Campbell River, started off work with me at the low-end rate of $10 an hour. He also had his brothers Al and Eric and nephew Thor Bjorn backing him up. McTiernan needs an extra who can speak Icelandic (Norwegian of the old variety) and the ability of carrying a tune in the key. Carl volunteers and the speech coach o.k.'s his Icelandic. The director very graciously gives him 10 minutes to learn a Viking battle song. In a rough translation, the song goes like this: "Vikings who die in battle are like our kings, and we now drink to them as our fallen comrades." The way these guys sing and fight you definitely want them to play rugby on your side.

With some hidden help and coaching in the wings, Carl carries the day-truly a star is born. The bottom line is good too, as from $10 an hour Carl made very close to $10,000 for six days work. He now has Beth Walrond as his agent, looking for new roles in the future. One of her more notable clients is John Desantos, a.k.a. Nanaimo John who plays the part of Lurch in the "New Addams Family" TV show. His gas jockeying days in Nanaimo are far behind him.

Well Carl, I personally think you did us extras proud with your performance and this weekend we will all get a chance of seeing the final product on the big screen."

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