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Diary of a World War Z Extra

Author: Jane Burns

Day 3: Wednesday 24th August 2011

We didn’t know it, but the newly named “Golden Girls” were about to have one of the most exciting days of our filming on World War Z.

It was an early call – 6am – but we hardly had time for breakfast before we were called onto the set at George Square. The whole area did look very American with the street names, flags and assorted American vehicles. Add to that a smattering of “U.S. cops” and we really did feel as though we were in Philadelphia (the main setting of the film).

There was a different buzz today: a lot more crew and some ADs whom we didn’t recognise – including a handsome one called James. He was attached to the First Unit, the one which filmed the key scenes, especially those with the star, Brad Pitt, and his screen wife and children.

We were all lined up across from the crashed car at the corner of George Square. I was standing beside the third Golden Girl, Eleanor. Suddenly we saw a crowd emerging from a camper van, one of the key vehicles in our scenes. We saw what we thought was the real Brad, mainly because he was flanked by Directors and Personal Assistants. The thing is, I don’t really know much about Brad Pitt, except that I had seen him in Ocean’s 11. What tickled me was the fact that I was literally yards away from a Hollywood A-Lister and I couldn’t wait to get home and boast about it!

We Golden Girls thought it couldn’t get any better, until the AD, Ruairidh, started putting extras into their first positions. He grouped Ann, Eleanor and I together and told us our “action” was to huddle together as we crossed the road – me screaming like a banshee while they tried to protect me. Then he placed us right across from Brad’s car! As he walked off, he whispered to Ann: 'Enjoy the view!’

As seasoned extras, Ann and I knew that whatever the scene entailed, it meant that we would have to return to our first positions and get the same view each time. Normally, we would groan about the number of takes. On this occasion, we were hoping for as many takes as possible. Fortunately, we got our wish. On “Action” we were to cross the road and while this was happening, Brad and family would get out of the crashed car.

After lunch, we weren’t really bothered about what we would be doing; we were sure that nothing could surpass what had happened in the morning. Lightning isn’t supposed to strike twice, right? Wrong! We had to group around the camper van so that they could film shots of Brad coming out of it. Again, we were within touching distance of the star of the film, so much so that during one take he actually brushed against Ann’s arm!

Can’t wait for those headlines: 'Golden Girls run into Hollywood Superstar!'

Day 4: Thursday 25th August 2011

We had to keep reminding ourselves that there could be anything up to 400 extras on set each day, yet our luck for being close to the star of the film hadn’t run out. Our main memories of today’s filming involved – yet again – the camper van. This is where filmmaking is so fascinating - the camper van had been moved further down the street for these scenes.

The Golden Girls were becoming “Emboldened Girls”, because we managed to place ourselves opposite the entrance to the van. We thought surely that some AD would move us, but thankfully none did. This sequence involved Brad, his wife and children hurrying into the camper van. As they were doing so, we had to run across the street onto the pavement. This meant that we were only inches behind them as they moved towards the van.

It was fascinating to watch true professionals in action, especially child actors. Brad was carrying the youngest girl. Before the rehearsals and the take, he was laughing and joking with her and keeping her amused. Once the director shouted “Stand by”, it was as if a mask came over the little girl’s face. She looked so sad and afraid at the same time as she put her head on his shoulder. What a transformation!

Alas, our adventure with Brad himself was drawing to a close. Exhausted, yet elated, we trudged home to boast about another day working with Brad Pitt.

Day 7: Tuesday 30th August 2011

Back on the set for our final two days of being chased by zombies! At least this time we did get to see some zombies up close and personal – especially Eleanor who got the fright of her life when one grabbed hold of her. Their make-up and costume was very effective, and their jerky movements and stunts such as bouncing off cars were very realistic and scary! We loved the way they held up black umbrellas over their faces when they were walking onto set to get into position which added to the mystique.

At the end of every running sequence, no matter how we tried, we were always at the cow’s tail. After one particularly disastrous finish, Terry, the director shouted “Cut” through the megaphone. He turned to us smiling and, still through the megaphone, shouted for all the world to hear: 'Why are you two always last?'

Day 8: Wednesday 31st August 2011

Our final day of our filming on WWZ. At the end of a very long day Terry gathered us round and made a lovely speech, thanking us for our hard work.

By the time The Golden Girls had signed our last chitty and were limping towards the car park, work had already started on striking the set, but we didn’t want to see it. We wanted to remember our own little bit of Philadelphia for a while longer.

'It’s a wrap!'