Local man lands screen time in the new Public Enemies movie after a round of "musical chairs" with Michael Mann.
Greg Galbraith of Cottage Grove Wisconsin was delighted to see himself on the Big Screen at the Madison Premiere of Michael Mann's new film “Public Enemies”, at the Point Cinema on Tuesday night June 30, 2009.
Galbraith who was originally cast as a "Civilian Audience Member" in the new Public Enemies movie starring Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cortillard and Billy Crudup, found himself in an entirely different role when the scene was actually shot. Galbraith participated in one of the two scenes that were filmed in Madison at the State Capitol’s North Hearing room in May of 2008. Because the scene took place within the State Capitol, it had to be filmed after regular working hours, and did so way into the wee hours of the night, finally wrapping shortly after dawn the next day.
The North Hearing room of the Wisconsin State Capitol was transformed to resemble a Congressional hearing room in Washington, D.C. The scene was to be a recreation of
J. Edgar Hoovers petition to congress to request additional money to expand the then Bureau of Investigation, to create the current Federal Bureau of Investigation AKA FBI.
When the time came for him to film his scene, Mr. Galbraith and the other movie extras would be placed along each side of the North Hearing room. He and many other movie extras would play "Civilian Audience Members". One by one the movie extras entered the room and like well placed chess pieces were assembled into the room like the human props they were. The extras would provide motion and reaction to what was occurring in the court room.
While the movie extras filled in the perimeter of the room, the center of the hearing room was filled with large wooden tables and ornate leather chairs. Meticulously placed on the table were various other props to add depth and substance to the scene. Props such as authentic 1930's era microphones, glass ashtrays complete with smoking material, crystal water glasses and carafe's filled with water. In addition to those, there were also leather bound portfolios and pads of paper that had the Congressional seal. This they were told is where the main stars would be seated for the Congressional scene.
This would be the stage set for J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) and his entourage to petition Congress for the additional funding he needed to expand the Bureau of Investigation. The "Stars" would be seated around these tables.
Once the civilian audience extras had been placed, the stars and their entourage filed in and took their places at the long wooden tables. It was at this point that our attention was drawn to the front of the room and to the director, Michael Mann.
For most of the extras now seated, this would be their first glimpse of the famous director Michael Mann. He was in the front of the room speaking to his assistant director and gesturing at the table, and then to the audience. He said a few more words and then as if someone flipped a switch, his staff and crew sprang to life. It seems that Mr. Mann had some changes that he wanted to make to the scene...and it was very evident that what Michael Mann wants, he gets.
He asked several of the people seated at the tables to step away from the tables. He then focused his attention back on the room, and as if he was reviewing the entire scene in his mind, he called several of the civilian audience extras to step forward and take the place of those who had stepped away. He then repeated this process again, rearranging some of the people at the tables, asking a few who had stepped down to return and with a final seating adjustment he gave a nod of his head that things were now as he wanted them to be.
It was during this Michael Mann version of musical chairs that Mr. Galbraith found himself seated at one of the big tables. He recalls the nervous feeling in his stomach as he was asked to move from one chair to another, and his desire to still be seated there when the "music" stopped.
Galbraith recalls that it was a bit like a combination of "Simon Says" and “Musical Chairs” with Michael Mann calling the shots. Before it was all over, you didn't know if you would be staying or leaving. You just did what he said, and if you were like me, you crossed your fingers and hoped for the best...
Mr. Galbraith was not left disappointed. For when the last command was given, he found himself promoted from a Civilian Audience Member, to one of J. Edgar Hoover’s aides. When the clapboard sounded, and the direction of "Action" was given, Galbraith found not only had he made it to the "big table", his new position landed him right behind and between the two big stars who were seated directly in front of him at the main table. Several takes, and 14 hours later, Galbraith emerged from the State Capitol with hundreds of other movie extras, their first, and perhaps last, taste of potential stardom under their belts.
Galbraith would wait for over a year to find out if the scene shot in the State Capitol's North Conference room that chilly night in May would even make the big screen...let alone if he would be fortunate enough to see himself. There were no promises made, and no guarantees given.
Thirteen long months later... Galbraith along with hundreds of fans and fellow movie extras from across the state would come together to see an advanced premiere screening of the new Michael Mann film “Public Enemies”.
All gathered together for what can only be described as a mass game of "Where's Waldo" with each participant trying to catch a fleeting glimpse of themselves, a loved one, or their community, forever captured for posterity on the big screen.
Fifteen minutes into the film, Galbraith and his family were rewarded and elated to see that he indeed had made the cut. There he was, bigger than life up on the big screen... right behind, and slightly over the right shoulder of Billy Crudup... portraying one of J. Edgar Hoover’s Congressional Aides.
Somehow, Galbraith will never think of Musical Chairs the same way again...
Johnny Depp is John Dillinger in Michael Mann's biopic Public Enemies.
Public Enemies opened nation wide on July 1st, and can be seen in several theaters across Wisconsin.