Recently a casting call went out from the producers of The Last Duel. "A tale of betrayal and justice" set in medieval France, much of it will be shot in postmodern Ireland and they're seeking extras fitting this description: "Men & Women, Bone thin, Medium or Broadly built, Sporty types, Tall, Short, Long & Short hair, Bald men & women, Naturally coloured hair or be prepared to dye it, Long and short beards, No beards, Amputees, Crooked or missing teeth."
The Last Duel is a Ridley Scott movie, written by and starring Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, so by 10am on Friday, hundreds snake from the door of Liberty Hall around Old Abbey Street and back onto Eden quay.
Prospective extras are brought inside in groups and their measurements and photographs are taken pending a later decision. It’s cold and windy and the queue never seems to get shorter.
Derek O’Shaughnessy is wearing cowboy boots, chaps, a cloak, a fur hat, clear plastic goggles and a Celtic torque and is holding a bag with two swords in it. “It’s called the Last Duel so I’m hoping to do a duel with somebody.”
He’s been an extra before, on Love/Hate and Vikings. “There’s good food on set. Sometimes it’s so good I feel like they’ve mixed up the stars’ food with the extras’ food.”
Limerick-based actor Mark O’Connor has been preparing by listening to Ridley Scott interviews. “I was the closest extra when Arya stuck her knife into the Night King on Game of Thrones. I froze my arse off all morning and then they didn’t use it.” He laughs. “They had to reshoot it... The Night King was nice. Vlad was his name.”
Veteran extra 46-year-old Christopher Mac Dhonnchaidh is in a club of Viking re-enactors and can use a sword, ride a horse and run a blacksmith's forge. He's chatting with 28-year-old model Lavina Maxwell who was in a Coors ad and can be seen behind Harvey Keitel in an insurance ad. She was also a body double on the film Fairytale of New York. "I just had to sit in a shower."
An extra can get a more prominent role simply by looking the part, says Mac Dhonnchaidh. “I was in a documentary about Vikings and they brought out this old manuscript and said, ‘You kind of look like him… Could you take the role?’”
And did he? Maxwell laughs at my question. "Of course, he did!"
“An extra is ’moving scenery’ basically,” says Mac Dhonnchaidh. “You feel sorry for people who think, ‘This is my big chance!’”
“You need to blend,” says Maxwell. “Beauty is a curse.”
“They don’t want you looking better than the stars,” says Mac Dhonnchaidh. “They can get plenty of beautiful people in LA. They want character... For extra work the uglier the better.”
There's a real mix of actors, unemployed people, retired people, historical re-enactors and film buffs here today. Angela Osborne and Valerie Young met while queuing. "We'll have our life story done by the time we get in," says Young, an office administrator.
Offaly civil servant Marty Guynan caught the showbiz bug when he was an extra on Pure Mule. "People might look at something on television and think, 'They all came in for an hour then went home.' But everyone works very hard."
Jim Kelly was fishing at the Blessington Lakes when a longboat from Vikings came floating by. His nephew said, "You should do that with your long hair and beard."
Being an extra isn't like work at all, says his friend Brian Kearns. "If you could do it every day it would be the best gig in the world."
“Battle scenes are the best,” says Kelly.
“Getting to beat your friends up and getting paid for it?” says Kearns. “Happy days.”