Ready for their close-ups
by Tamara Ikenberg
The bleachers beneath Jennifer Jenecek wobbled, perspiration ran down her forehead, and she knew she had little chance of glimpsing her Hollywood dream stud.
But the 14-year-old from Woodbridge, Va., bent as far as she could over the bleacher wall at PSINet Stadium, to get a quick taste of eye-candy.
"I'm waiting for Keanu, baby," she said, practically hanging over the wall, as her man, in football uniform and a blue baseball cap, trotted out and gave a quick wave. "I'm going to marry this guy."
A shot at fame, an inside look at moviemaking, Keanu Reeves in football pants: Any one of these possibilities lured more than 6,000 volunteer film extras to PSINet Stadium on Saturday, and about as many yesterday, for crowd and football scenes being shot for the Keanu Reeves-Gene Hackman movie "The Replacements."
"Baltimore is a great blue-collar city," said producer Dylan Sellers, who was partially responsible for choosing Baltimore as the location. "It's a good football city." Sellers added that the film's screenplay writer, Vince McKewin, is from the Baltimore/Washington area.
The filming, which was supposed to run from about 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days, was halted about 90 minutes early Saturday when rain, thunder and lightning made a guest appearance. But the festivities went on inside the concourse, where $10,000 in cash was raffled off. A total of $30,000 in cash, and other prizes, including televisions and camcorders, were given away throughout the filming.
With the exception of Saturday's rain-out, everything went smoothly, said Veronique Vowell, the film's location manager. "People couldn't have been more cooperative."
Lulls in filming were filled with raffles, clips from Reeves' and Hackman's films projected on the SmartVision screens and performances by the Ravens cheerleaders. For the record, the Sentinels -- the team Reeves plays for in the movie -- had their own pseudo-cheering squad, decked out in shiny red halter tops, micro-miniskirts and studded blue collars.
Seating was staggered, and the extras came prepared, waving homemade Sentinels banners and dressed for the occasion in the pretend team's red and blue colors.
"The Replacements" is a fictionalization of the 1987 Washington Redskins football strike, and tells the story of the scabs hired to replace them. Reeves is Shane Falco, and Hackman plays the coach. Jon Favreau of "Swingers," Rhys Ifans of "Notting Hill" and Brooke Langton of "Melrose Place" round out the cast.
The film started shooting in Baltimore Aug. 9, and filming will continue throughout the city until October, according to Lisa Beasley, crowd promotions producer for Replacement Productions Inc., which is working with Warner Bros. on the movie.
In a crowd of thousands, the first priority for extras focused on stardom was being seen.
It wasn't simply a matter of wearing the colors. It was how you wore them.
Beth Goldberg, 18, used blue eyeliner for lipstick on Saturday. "Everybody's going to be dripping red and blue," predicted Goldberg, a Bowie resident who will attend Penn State in the fall.
She was right. By early Saturday afternoon, 32-year-old Nancy Lewis' game face had melted off.
Her face had been decorated by Maryellen Austin, 36, who cruised through the crowds with a face-painting kit. "It'll make people get in the film more, and I enjoy doing it," said Austin, as she adorned cheeks with blue stars and red stripes.
Many props were provided, like Styrofoam fingers, Sentinels pennants and pom-poms, many of which became makeshift wigs.
Extras responded like wild animals being tossed scraps of meat when volunteers threw Sentinels T-shirts out into the stands.
They also had the option of rooting for the made-up opposing teams. On Saturday, it was Detroit, yesterday San Diego.
"I had to be the enemy," said Janene Kerpelman, 37. The manicurist from Odenton was wearing a white and gray San Diego Stallions T-shirt provided by the production staff.
Kerpelman came with her sister-in-law, Natalie Carroll, 34, of Frederick County. Carroll came equipped with her own sign reading "Love Those Scabs" in black Magic Marker.
As she wielded the poster, Favreau's face, twisted into a tight "We gotta win this one, guys" expression, filled the SmartVision screen.
"We're in the fourth quarter and we just kicked the winning field goal," Carroll explained.
Suddenly, the emcees announced a retake of the scene. Several of the shots, most of which were well under a minute, required several takes. But that didn't diminish the enthusiasm of the crowd, which did the wave, booed or cheered, depending on the cue, with equal amounts of energy each time.
For the next field-goal take, Carroll stepped up onto her seat and waved her poster like a true Sentinels junkie.
Earlier in the day, she had jokingly suggested to Kerpelman that running across the field in the buff would be her best chance of being noticed.
And while there was no display of total nudity, some got a little closer than others.
As Aretha Franklin's "Respect" blared through the stadium, emcee Jerry Saslow, an actor from Los Angeles, roamed the bleachers handing out prizes to extras with all the right dance moves. Northwest Baltimore residents Juwan Ali, 14, Corey Hawkins, 15,and Christopher Berry, 15, put on a risque performance, going so far as to rip off their T-shirts. Standing in a row, atop bleacher seats, the three improvised perfectly synchronized Motown-esque choreography.
"It's the Supremes," Saslow said. "You obviously need clothes," he remarked, tossing three T-shirts their way.
"We have better [buttocks] than Keanu Reeves," Berry said, as the three, who are in a dance group together, did a triple high-five.
Every time Saslow entered the bleachers, extras stomped their feet and chanted "Jerry! Jerry!," making it sound like a sports-themed episode of the "Jerry Springer" show.
Throughout the weekend, some lucky extras even won T-shirts and footballs signed by the dreamy Reeves.
"He's not dreamy to me," said Keith Gauss, the winner of a Reeves football. "My wife will keep it," added Gauss, 37, of Exton, Pa.
Reeves gave the fans a little of what they wanted, strolling casually by and waving as they screamed and swooned.
The other guy
Hackman, who didn't have as many scenes to shoot as the preening Reeves, mostly stayed on the sidelines, occasionally waving a scroll of paper up at the fans in encouragement.
The Hackman fans weren't as rabid as the Reeves admirers.
Cassie Prather, 16, of Hampstead, said she didn't even know who Hackman, a two-time Oscar winner, is. The North Carroll High School student wore a red pom-pom like a hair extension, and "16" (Reeves' character's number) painted in red across her face.
"Gene Hackman is the greatest actor out there," said Prather's aunt, Brea Adams, a policy analyst from Ellicott City. "Keanu Reeves is the cutest, probably."
A large chunk of Prather's family attended yesterday, and most of them have Keanu mania in common. Prather, Adams and Prather's mother, Ann Pruitt, 36, all tried to sneak into the cast and crew area for maximum Keanu access. They failed. So far, they've only seen their Hollywood fantasy from a distance, rehearsing a scene where he fails to intercept a pass.
"Tell him I will give him personal lessons in catching the ball," said Pruitt, also from Hampstead.
While being in a movie and ogling Reeves' posterior certainly made for an exciting weekend, the extras kept their celluloid delusions to a minimum.
"We're going to be little dots," said Fells Point resident Mary Vance, 24.
Her brother, John Vance, 27, was even less optimistic.
"They could've used Q-Tips."