You sure this is how DeNiro got his start?

Barbara McNamara, top right, of Barbara McNamara Casting LLC interviews Betty Henry of Stonington while other locals await their turn during a casting call for extras for the Meryl Streep film "Great Hope Springs" that will be partially shot in the region this fall.

When I pulled some money from my wallet Tuesday, a small piece of paper fluttered to the ground.

I picked it up and read the fortune I'd stashed there from a cookie long-ago eaten.

"You will make a name for yourself in the field of entertainment," it read.

I'm not one to put much stock into fortunes, especially those derived from tasteless cookies, but this happened the day before I was to go to the casting call for "Great Hope Springs," the Hollywood movie set to film in the Mystic/Stonington area this fall.

Fate! A sign! A chance for my name in the bright lights, right below Meryl Streep, Steve Carell and Tommy Lee Jones.

On Wednesday I headed for the Stonington High School auditorium on the earlier side of the 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. open casting call, armed with an 8-by-10 glossy and some gumption. I told a group of ladies who were in line behind me that I'd settle for nothing less than the role of Streep's young love interest.

"Good luck," one said. "Aiming high!"

The crowd was smaller than I expected: about 60 people, the majority women, waiting in line to speak with casting director Barbara McNamara.

Assistants strolled the queue, asking us if we were members of the Screen Actors Guild. Those who were members were ushered to the front of the line, no wait necessary. After all, these were real actors!

The people actually waiting took the line-cutting sitting down.

"Ahhh, he's got his SAG card," one whispered, as if to justify the princely treatment for the card-holder, who strolled by all of us "extras." I guess paying those dues has perks.

As we waited, we filled out forms that asked the standard questions: name, age, height. Also, some not as standard: information about our dogs, our cars and "other props," with the examples of a stroller, bicycle or luggage.

When it was my time to speak with McNamara after an hour-and-a-half wait, she still seemed in good spirits despite the steady stream of people and the promise of five more hours of the same thing.

The interview was brief (two minutes, max) and to the point:

McNamara: "Have you ever been in a movie before?"

Me: "No … but I played Fagin in 'Oliver Twist' in fifth grade."

McNamara: "That's … good. So this could be your springboard."

Me: "Exactly! You know, if I wrote this movie I'd probably include a young love interest for Meryl. You know, the whole cougar thing. It's big right now."

McNamara looked over my listed props approvingly: Volvo station wagon, mountain bike, kayak, golf clubs, whatever. If that Volvo isn't a good prop for a film that takes place in Stonington, then they need a new casting director.

Me: "I could probably swing a baby or something, too. Or I could just pretend to buy produce in a store. Or I'll be a worker in a coffee shop. I mean, I'll work with you here."

McNamara told me she'd meet with the director soon and go over what they'd need for certain shots. She would contact approved extras before filming begins in mid-September and early October.

And that was it. I was shuffled off to her assistants, who took a mug shot-like photo of me holding up my name and telephone number.

It's time to plan a Chinese lunch trip. Another cookie might be my best shot at good fortune.


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