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Nov 18 2014

Quick Impressions: "Nervous Intern"in Gone Girl

New Series!In "Quick Impressions"we will be looking at the working actor in key movie scenes.Consider it a celebration of SAG card-holders everywhere and free advice for casting directors.Have you ever noticed how many people it takes to populate each film's world?So many showbiz dreams wander around on every film set and are embedded in each frame of your favorite movies,sometimes front and center but off to the side and in the background,too.

Today,we're talking to actor/dancerBrett Leighwho has appeared in two David Fincher movies,The Social Network(2010) andGone Girl(2014) the latter of which isstillin the top fivebox officesix weeks into its release and now the year's biggest hit outside of all those CG franchises.

NATHANIEL: Tell us about your scene inGone Girl!

BRETT LEIGH: It's towards the beginning when Nick Dunne asks Amy to marry him.I play one of the reporters at the table.  They cut the scene down but kept my line in there along with the girl sitting next to me.

NATHANIEL:  I love that scene because it feel so performative,as if Nick & Amy are essentially acting out a traditional love story moment for the press.How was the experienceandwhyare you billed as "Nervous Intern"?

BRETT: In scripts,as a general rule,you don't ‘name' characters if they aren't plot changing or show up for several pages or scenes.So when you have one liners,or help move the scene along as a character for a page or two,writers will just call them what they are:  i.e. ‘Courtier', ‘Mail carrier', ‘Nervous Intern'.I have no idea why I was called ‘Nervous Intern'.I don't seem to be nervous OR an intern.[Laughs] The other people were called like,'Fashionista','Above-it-all-Journalist'.I think it was Gillian Flynn's way of staying away from just  ‘Journalist 1,2,3,4'.

I do remember the scene work and was quite pleasantly surprised at how serious Ben Affleck is on set - very good actor,very focused.And Rosamund Pike was top notch every single take.We weren't given the full script,but in taping you could definitely tell Rosamund and Ben knew where they were in the story and where their characters were going.Of course with David Fincher at the helm it's quite impossible NOT to know where your character is and where they are going.

You're also inThe Social Network!

I play the frat guy hazing Andrew Garfield in the snow.It's about 2 minutes and I have the majority of the lines.

Did you fantasize about further terrorizing him as a supervillain when he got the Spider-Man part?

[Laughs] No,but I would really like to be in a comic-come-to-life movie.

Getting thatSocial Networkpart must have been amazing

I was coming back from overseas playing Riff/Action in the International Tour ofWest Side Story.

Brett Leigh,center with bandana in the international tour of West Side StoryMy favorite musical !

I got a call for an audition and I was like "They're making a movie about Facebook?".  It sounded kind of ‘TV movie' to me.  It all happened kind of fast.  I was called in about four times for this scene.After getting the role I found out more about who was directing and writing.  Thats when my mind was blown.David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin?!  I couldn't believe I got the role over other Hollywood hopefuls and the timing worked out so well just getting back from a major theatre tour.

I come from a theatre and ballet background so to transition into film with such an amazing director has been awesome.I feel like I have been in the corps de ballet for two Fincher films.

I hope you get a third and that we see you in a film musical some day!

Thanks for your attention dear readers.You can follow Brett Leigh on Twitter@BrettLeigh.He is also a Director/Writer and recently completed this short film "American Day".It's funny and sad simultaneously.Check it out...

COMING SOON: You tell us.Do you like this series idea?
Do you ever think about actors way down the cast list that might be one lucky break away from larger roles?

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Reader Comments (24)

I love this series!I often think about all those little known working actors -- especially when I watch an old movie and see the lists of actors credited for small roles.I think,who were they?What other movies have they shown up in?

This guy's also funny and cute,so there's that,too!

November 18,2014 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

Ooh,nice series.I've always daydream about being a bit role in a movie,having a director see something special in me and then i become a MOVIE STAH.

It's interesting that Brett didn't know the writer and director attached to the movie only until he got the role.Is that how it usually is?

November 18,2014 | Unregistered CommenterDerreck.

I really love this series idea.I would rather read a thousand of these than one more speculation piece about who's going to be in the next Marvel movie.Great stuff.

November 18,2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoe K

Great idea for a series Nathaniel.Really anything behind the scenes is interesting;the more,the better.

November 18,2014 | Unregistered CommenterMDA

LOVE this.Would read a hundred of them.Seriously.

November 18,2014 | Unregistered CommenterJake D

Derreck - i assume that's only normal for the small parts.I'm sure the director is in on most of the casting decisions of lead and supporting players.

November 18,2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Love this new serie!I wanna see more!

November 18,2014 | Unregistered CommenterJo

Nathaniel - Yeah,I know that would be the case for lead and supporting but i just found it interesting that the smaller players are left completely in the dark.

November 18,2014 | Unregistered CommenterDerreck.

Fantastic series,more please :-)

November 18,2014 | Unregistered CommenterRami

What a great idea for a series.I look forward to future 'episodes' and hope they will be as interesting as Brett's.

November 18,2014 | Unregistered CommenterSteve G

Part of why there is no advance word for many auditions is to keep the throngs away.Seriously,you would not believe how many people show up thinking they will be discovered when they hear something is shooting in their neighborhood or honestly believe "If they just see me,I know they will want to cast me!"

There is actually a court case happening at the moment that touches on this.Breakdowns are sent to managers and agents describing particular characters needed for such and such film.For years (I knew about this 20 years ago) these have been leaked and "sold"to anyone who would pay the money (the case is to shut down one of these services).The result would often be tons and tons of submission envelopes--many.many of them from non-union actors (who are even harder to cast)--,and sometimes calls to the office of the casting director or just about anyone attached to the film creating chaos.A great many (most) of the people doing the door knocking would be completely wrong for the roles on offer and basically waste everyone's time.On occasion these people don't take "no"very well and it gets ugly (I've seen that too).The secrecy is to protect the project from unwanted attention and to move it along ("I've got an audition for a film,don't know anything about it."doesn't cause a stampede."I'm being seen for a part in a Fincher film tomorrow."' can cause all sorts of issues.).A casting director is basically a gate keeper.Part of their job is to know who will fit the bill and only send in those people.People desperate to be seen at any cost is bad anywhere casting happens,but worst in LA.

I like this series.I'm always amazed at how background and day players can make or break a film.Some directors take it very seriously (Woody casts each and every person in his films from the lowliest extra to the star--Scott Rudin is very hands on casting background and day players and has an excellent eye.).Some just want cheap.

It's interesting that in NYC everyone is an actor.In LA,you are an actor or an extra.Most people will tell you in LA to never take an extra gig because you will never be offered anything else.

November 18,2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

Wow.Thanks for the information,Henry.Makes a whole lot of sense.

November 18,2014 | Unregistered CommenterDerreck.

This is so clever!Love it.

November 18,2014 | Unregistered CommenterBia

I LOVE this idea for a series.

November 18,2014 | Unregistered Commenterwill h

What a wonderful series.I imagine you'll find many willing participants too if you can figure out how to get ahold of your selections.

My suggestion: in Belle,there is a servant who teaches Belle to comb her hair.It's only a few seconds long,but it's such a warm performance and the scene says so much about Belle's lack of connection to any racial community.

November 18,2014 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Love this!People that came immediately to mind (anyone else notice these actors?):

- Frank De Julio's small role in The Normal Heart (his part was a bit bigger than Brett's here,though)
- Sydney Lucas in The Skeleton Twins (but that's because I'm a fan of hers from her amazing turn in Fun Home)
- All the men in Under the Skin (though I'm guessing most of them aren't actual actors)
- So many people had short roles in Birdman but they're all still kinda big deals elsewhere (Paula Pell,Merrit Weaver,Joel Garland)
- The girl at the end of Love is Strange (I think it's Anahi Vidal) whose casting (as Sachs mentioned in a Q&A at TriBeCa) is precisely the type of "that girl on the street!"story we're all being told so rarely happens.

November 18,2014 | Registered CommenterManuel Betancourt

Please find and interview the bad babysitter lady who smells like chicken and does that amazing thing with her face as she shuts the door inErin Brockovich,mkay?

November 18,2014 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

I like this idea for a series too.

November 19,2014 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

Nick - lol.what a task!

evan -- oooh,i remember that scene.

Henry - thanks for the info - makes a lot of sense.But doesn't "extra"mean you don't get any lines?I will be sticking to people who get lines.Unless their non speaking role is special -- remember that girl on the train in "Shame"

everyone -- i'll confess,the idea for this series originated with YOUNG ADULT which had so so many great one scene wonders as people were horrified or reacting in some odd way to Charlize Theron.It just took me three more years to launch it is all.

November 19,2014 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

In regards to Young Adult,the front desk girl and the sales lady at Macy's always crack me up!Very true -- that movie was filled with so many good one day-ers.

November 19,2014 | Unregistered CommenterBia

Love this series!Can't wait to see more of it.

November 19,2014 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

Whoever that cute guy is who was Andy McPhee's assistant in the crowd at Colin Farrell's drunken speech scene in Saving Mr.Banks.That's talent!

November 19,2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Yes Nat.Extra means no lines,no contract.Day players are on contract and are listed in the credits whether they have lines or not (the character supposedly moves the action forward).There is a lot of fudging/blurring of the rules for a lot of reasons and not all credited actors appear in the final cut.The budget of the film determines how many day players are supposed to be hired and the producers have discretion to hire more if they want (Argo had 120 speaking parts for instance).

Not all day players are cast by the casting people.Sometimes the director sees someone on set whom he particularly wants,sometimes there is a screw up and a extra gets upgraded because the production team made a mistake (if the director speaks directly to an actor,they are automatically a day player--all background direction comes via an AD for instance.),there is some form of stunt work involved that wasn't foreseen (being good with guns for instance--much more difficult on film than you think),or,and this happens rarely but does happen,the director really doesn't like the hired person's work and replaces him/her on the spot (I've seen this happen when a day player is late to set or being a diva or is just bad)......lots of reasons.But most anyone with a line came from casting.

November 19,2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

"Brett Leigh,center with bandana in the international tour of West Side Story."

Funny,it wasn't his bandana that stood out.

November 19,2014 | Unregistered CommenterFrank McCormick

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