Extras often have thankless roles in films. Sit here behind the leads at a table having coffee, pretend you’re talking to a buddy but don’t draw attention to yourself. Many famous actors can be found as extras or small speaking roles (technically once you get a line of dialogue or a character name you cease to be an extra). For some you wouldn’t have been able to tell from that small moment that they were incredible talents. Other extras have hogged their moment onscreen with comical consequences. A good extra like all good actors in any part seem to give it something a little more nuanced or memorable.
Recently I saw Brian De Palma’s Blow Out which stars a young John Travolta as a sound recordist who gets caught up in a murder investigation with a young woman involved played by Nancy Allen. The film opens with the director and Travolta’s character noting a terrible scream from an actress in a horror film they’re working on. This subplot will be resolved at the end of the film. Halfway through though Travolta is briefly harassed by the director to deliver some work to him as he becomes more and more embroiled in the investigation. We see that the director has hired two actress to come in and record additional dialogue in a sound booth to dub a new scream over the original actress in the horror film. One girl a brunette screams while the other a blonde pulls her hair. It does not appear that their work is going to make the final cut. They then switch and as the brunette pulls the blonde’s hair she turns around to the men watching them work and smiles. An unexpected choice that plays as humourous and inventive. It was a classic stand out moment from an extra so I hurried away to the internet to see what I could find out about this little known actress.
Boy did I get egg on my face as it turned out that Robin Sherwood was a bonafide leading lady at the time and rather than her role in Blow Out being where she was first noticed this was more akin to cameo work. She had already been the female lead in Tourist Trap and Hero at Large and featured in a supporting role in Serial. Arguably these days she is most known for her work in Blow Out and the following year’s Death Wish II. A former model, with her acting career on the rise with good notices for her work in Death Wish II, Sherwood turned away from Hollywood stardom and went first to Paris, and then to running her father’s restaurant (fulfilling a promise she made to him once before his death). She’s occasionally come back into the public eye with successful business ventures or retrospectives on her work or even performing in theatre work.
Her talent as an actor and her beauty is all there in a performance that plays mostly in the background for a couple of minutes screen time. Ms Sherwood feel free to return to the screen or the stage whenever you like. You seem to be a talent at everything you set out to do including that of an extra.