Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘Peak’ Parts Local Actors Take A Shot A Immortality As Extras On Disaster Flick ‘Dante’s Peak’

Granted, they don’t get billing above the title.

For that matter, they don’t get billing below the title, next to the title or anywhere whatsoever.

They’re the local extras, and thousands of them are appearing in “Dante’s Peak,” which opens at local movie theaters today.

No doubt many will be in the audience this weekend, squinting hard at the screen, attempting to spot themselves amid the crowds of fleeing townsfolk. The movie was shot on location last summer in Wallace, Idaho.

Yet not everybody will have to squint quite so hard. A handful of local actors were chosen to say a few lines, or at least do some bit of business that sets them apart from the crowd.

Angel Baby Larson “Kitty girl”

Angel Baby Larson, 7, of Greenbluff has already tasted a bit of “Dante’s Peak” fame, even before the movie opens. Her face has appeared on screens throughout the country when her one line, “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” was used in some of the movie’s preview trailers and TV ads. Not bad for a little girl whose only other acting credit was appearing in an ad for a Greenbluff apple orchard.

She was only 6 last summer when she auditioned for and won the “Dante’s Peak” role of the “kitty girl,” so named because her character is sitting on a front porch holding a kitten when the volcano erupts. That one brief scene and her one word of dialogue required numerous takes. As people rushed by in the street, she was supposed to clutch her kitten and plead for her mommy.

“I had to cry,” said Angel Baby. “It was kinda hard, but I just made myself cry.”

Actually, the kitten helped her get motivated.

“It bit me,” she said.

Apparently, the movie doesn’t specify the fate of her character, which was a cause of concern for Angel Baby, said her mother, Melody Larson.

“She asked me many times, ‘Did I die or did my mommy find me?”’ said Larson.

Ed Eckel “Bus driver”

Ed Eckel, 65, of Wallace owes his moment of fame to the fact he resembles a dummy.

In one scene, a church steeple is supposed to fall on top of a school bus. The bus is filled with dummies, but at one point the moviemakers realized that they needed an establishing shot to show the bus driving up to the spot. For that, they needed a human driver, but one that looked just like their dummy. So they combed the Wallace High School gym which was full of extras.

“They decided I looked most like the dummy,” said Eckel, with a laugh. “My friends said they knew it all along.”

The only detail that wasn’t right was Eckel’s hair color. A makeup person solved that problem with a few sprays from an aerosol can.

So Eckel sat in the bus-driver’s seat and pretended to drive. The bus had no actual motor, so workers had to push it from behind.

After numerous takes, Eckel got out of the bus and the dummy took the spotlight.

“They put my clothes on the dummy and blew up the church steeple with dynamite,” said Eckel, who has been an actor for many years at the Sixth Street Melodrama in Wallace.

Dick Porter “Dignitary”

Dick Porter, 66, of Post Falls, was picked out to play one of the dignitaries on a podium, awaiting the arrival of the mayor, who is played by Linda Hamilton.

Porter’s previous movie experience may have helped him get the job - he had three lines in “The Rattlers,” a made-for-TV thriller shot when he lived in California a number of years ago.

He has two lines in “Dante’s Peak”: “Where’s the mayor?” and “Do you know what time it is?” (unless those lines end up on the cutting room floor, which is always a possibility).

Later, Porter also stood behind a pool table during a scene with Pierce Brosnan and Linda Hamilton at the Enaville Snakepit. That clip has already made it onto “Entertainment Tonight” on TV.

“People said, ‘Hey, I saw you on TV,”’ said Porter, who works at the Target in the Valley. “I was shocked.”

James Fairley “Core extra”

James Fairley, 24, of Spokane, was picked as what he called one of the “core extras,” meaning one of the familiar citizens of the town who the audience sees over and over.

Fairley, who works at Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake, got to know Brosnan and many of the actors during his long hours on the set.

But his most memorable moment occurred off-camera. He was driving his Ford Probe back from Kingston, Idaho, on I-90 after an evening’s shooting when a BMW raced up next to him and held steady in the left lane. The tinted window came down and there was Brosnan, puffing on his big cigar and waving.

They both gunned their engines, and they reached speeds of … well, it’s best not to speculate. Fairley said Brosnan later told him it was nice to find somebody who could drive as fast as he did. This was not, by the way, one of the times that Brosnan was stopped for speeding.

How will we recognize Fairley in the backgrounds of the scenes?

“I’m one of the very few African-Americans in the film, and I have shoulder-length dreadlocks,” said Fairley.

And finally, some local people will be watching “Dante’s Peak” this week not to see themselves, but to see their neighbors, Pierce Brosnan and family.

Kelsey Fowler, 15, lives on the river in Post Falls. She and her family were out on their boat when they saw a new family out on the dock across from them.

They went over and asked them how they liked Idaho. They said it was great and soon the families became friends. It turned out to be quite an extended family: Brosnan, his son, Sean, 13, Brosnan’s girlfriend, his stepdaughter, his two teenage cousins and even, for a short time, Brosnan’s mother. They had rented the waterfront home for the summer.

Kelsey and her family ended up spending a lot of time with the Brosnan family, playing volleyball, swimming and boating. The Brosnans even took Kelsey to dinner at Beverly’s to celebrate the birthday of one of the nephews.

“I was treated like a princess,” she said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 3 photos