Thirty years after the original Rocky strolled the streets of the Kensington section of Philadelphia, Sly Stallone and company are back in town to film the sixth and so-called final chapter of the Rocky saga, Rocky Balboa.
In the film, Balboa, now pushing his late 50s, owns a small Italian restaurant in South Philadelphia called Adrian’s, named after his late wife. When he receives an offer to resurrect his career for one last bout in the ring, this time against new heavyweight champion Mason “the line” Dixon (played by professional boxer Antonio Tarver), Balboa decides to give his all for one last shot at glory.
Filming of the sixth installment of Rocky recently concluded in the city, and some Temple students were lucky enough to grab spots as extras in the Philadelphia-based film.
Amanda Williamson landed a spot as an extra through an open casting call at Heery Casting. The senior theater major received a call from the casting company over Christmas break. When she auditioned with the company to be an extra, she had to wait in line for more than an hour to submit her headshots and resume.
Her long wait was worth it, and Williamson was cast as a passer-by in a scene between Stallone and his son (played by Milo Ventimiglia) at an office building in Center City at 30th and Arch streets.
Williamson said the setting was meant to be at a law firm where Balboa’s son plays a lawyer. She made her screen debut while Stallone and Ventimiglia were having a conversation in the building.
The grueling 14-hour work shift was rough on Williamson, especially because she was dressed in business attire and high heels. As an extra, Williamson went up and down an escalator in the background of the scene between Balboa and his son.
“At first, I was like, ‘Wow, I’m on a movie set, and there’s Sylvester Stallone.’ But then after a while it sunk in,” Williamson said.
As for her most memorable experience, Williamson enjoyed seeing the quirks of Stallone first hand, who also directed the film.
“He was very focused. He turned from the movie star to director … very particular about the lighting and every little thing that affected the scene,” she said. “You could tell how important this project was to him.”
Senior Melissa English, a film and media arts major, appeared in the same scene as Williamson.
She was also cast after auditioning with the Heery casting company, but her experience with the aging boxer was not very exciting. The production company discouraged her from approaching Stallone on the set.
“I didn’t see him smile the whole time,” English said. “He ignored us [and] was really down to business.”
“After 16 and a half hours, with extras falling asleep on the holding room floor and no end in sight, I left the set. So, because I left early, I didn’t get paid,” English said. “I did learn a lot though from watching the cameraman with the grips and lighting effects.”
Caitlin Kilkenny got her 15 minutes of fame in Rocky from simply being in the right place at the right time.
In the movie, Balboa’s son lives in the Rittenhouse Square area. The Irish Pub at 20th and Walnut streets – where Kilkenny works as a bartender – was chosen for the movie’s “neighborhood watering hole.”
Instead of hiring extras, Stallone decided to hire employees from the pub. Three servers and two bartenders were chosen to take part in the scene. Kilkenny, standing tall at 5-foot-11-inch, caught the eye of Stallone, who she said “likes tall girls.”
Kilkenny said that in the scene Balboa’s son is sitting at the bar, gazing at the television broadcasting an old fight of his father’s.
Shooting began at 4 p.m. that day and lasted until the wee hours of 6 a.m. Kilkenny said the most memorable experience was when the assistant director placed she and her good friend on opposite sides of the bar, making a strong effort to put the two in the shot together.
Kilkenny, a junior public relations major, wasn’t star struck by Stallone. She described him as a hard-working, likeable guy.
“He was very into the project. He has been working on it for three years now, and you can tell that he was so passionate and enthusiastic about it,” Kilkenny said. “It also was cool to work there, and, now when I see the movie, I can see myself and my best friend drinking wine and being a part of it all.”
Extra Info for Extras
Want to be a part of the next big film in the area? Looking to be the next Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie? Philadelphia is home to a ton of casting opportunities for aspiring stars.
Heery Casting, at 230 N. 2d St., holds an open call on the second Monday of every month. The call is run by casting director Diane Heery, a member of the Casting Society of America.
She has cast actors in such local films as Jersey Girl, National Treasure, Unbreakable, The Sixth Sense, Invincible and most recently with Rocky Balboa.
Heery casting directors can be reached at their office in person or via phone at (215) 238-9240.
Also check out the Reinhard Agency at 2021 Arch St., Suite 400, (215) 567-2008, and Mike Lemon Casting at 413 N. 7th St., Suite 602, (215) 627-8927.
Another way to get involved is to go to the Greater Philadelphia Film Office’s Web site (www.film.org), click on the professional listings section and subscribe to become a member for access to a database of local crew, companies and personnel.
Michael Mudrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.