It’s to be the shot where Camel (Jim Norton) takes Jacob (RP) to meet August (Christoph Waltz) and see if he can get a job with the circus. The AD goes on to explain that this scene introduces the hierarchy of the circus through the train sleeping cars. It is to be one long, continuous shot like the kind Martin Scorsese is known for. It starts at the back with the Roustabouts, some of which are too poor to afford sleeping attire. It moves up through the clowns, sideshow performers, coochie girls, show girls, big top performers and finally to the cabin of August and Marlena (Reese Witherspoon). It will be a very quick shot, but there will be a LOT of detail for the eye to capture.
Once everyone is in place, there is a rehearsal. We heard ‘action’ being yelled at the far end of the train, the contortionist quickly gets into her pose, the tattoo girl strikes a match while I puff to light the cigarette. Camel acknowledges me, while Jacob gives me a nod, and does a double take as he sees the bareness of the tattooed womans’ back. They continue on, followed closely by the camera operator and we keep in character until we hear “cut!” The actors and cameraman walk back towards the beginning and are met half way by Francis and Rodrigo at our sleeping car. Francis discusses the shot with Rodrigo and other crew while Robert patiently waits, taking a swig now and then from his Lipton Green Tea bottle. The next shot will be filmed and Robert glances around for a place to stash his drink. We hide it beneath the pillows on the couch so it will not be in the shot.
Right about now is when I realized that I needed something to do with the ash from my cigarette. I am looking around frantically before they start the shot and spy a decorative tin lying on one of the beds. I pray that the prop person will forgive me as I decide to use it as an ashtray. I figure that its better than letting the ashes drop and or perhaps burn some of the vintage items. Right?
Suddenly in mid-sentence as we chatted, the train begins to shake and rock. Someone gave out a short yelp thinking it was an Earthquake, but it was suddenly realized that this was part of the movie magic used to make it look like the train was really moving. That is what all the hydraulic equipment was for!!!! With the train tossing about realistically, we could hear “Action!” and began to get into our characters relaxing on a hot night.
Each time Rob and Jim passed by, it was a little different. I played around with ways to hold my cigarette, and whether there should already be smoke in the air before they arrive. After a few takes, we realize that there is a bit of time for them to get through to our car. So the contortionist waits to get into her pose, and I hold off lighting the cigarette so as to not go through them so quickly. After several takes, we have the timing down to wait for a sound or glimpse of the action moving towards us … until one take when we couldn’t get the cigarette lit. It was hysterical because we could hear them coming and the tattooed woman was striking match after match to no avail. She finally got it lit and went to hand it to me to light on my own while she grabbed her props and got into position. During the lit match hand off, I dropped it!!! We both jumped up and were scrambling to find it. Somehow it landed on my lap in just the right position so that it was still lit, and not burning anything. I swiped it up, lit the cigarette, and we both frantically hurried to get in our ‘relaxed’ positions while the female contortionists tried to keep a straight face from above. We managed and I was able to exhale smoke just in time as Jim and Rob rounded the corner.
Next, was several more takes doing the same thing, only with the cameraman in front of them moving backwards. Again, hats off to the camera operator. The poor guy was exhausted and stumbled back after each take. After a couple hours of this, there was a pause as we assume the director is reviewing takes and discussing with his crew. I notice that the Tall Man (Jonathan Moore) was still standing in his position between two of the train cars. If ever there is a time to rest your feet, this was it, so we invited him into our car to take a load off and relax on the lower bunk.
The break soon ended as they were ready to pick up some shots from the middle of the train (our car). So in between takes we chatted more with Rob and Jim. Jim gave us all a lesson in the alcohol known as Jake, which is something his character devoured. Rob talked about how he was up late the night before, up early for a press junket for Eclipse, and then accidentally arrived on set 4 hours early when he could have been sleeping! Nobody can accuse that man of not being a hard worker!! He was exhausted but you would never know it as he was always on point during the shoots and friendly in between takes.
Four hours, 36 herbal cigarettes, and 36 takes later we were released from the scene. We all staggered back to base camp to change. I stopped by the hair and make-up trailer to turn in my wig, when Rob walks in and gives me a look of shock. After working with this man for several days, he said to me “I didn’t know you were blonde!” We realized he had never seen me without my wig and both got a laugh out of it. It was a lovely end to a long night.
Read her full story at the source