For example, in “In the Line of Fire,” Clint Eastwood portrays a Secret Service agent. In one scene, Eastwood gets out of the limousine as the president works a rope-line crowd. But extras kept trying to shake Eastwood’s hand, not the hand of the actor playing the president, Jim Curley.
Wrote Bob: “It took four retakes of that scene.”
I heard something similar about the filming of “F.I.S.T.” on the Capitol steps. Bystanders had to be admonished not to shout “Rocky!” when Sylvester Stallone — playing a union boss, not a prizefighter — walked up to the building.
Barbara Coughlan worked at the Treasury Department during the filming of “All the President’s Men.” Her office was on the first floor, west side, and it was to those windows that Treasury workers flocked when they saw the crew preparing to film Dustin Hoffman walking along the sidewalk outside.
“We all lined up at the window to catch a glimpse when a call came in from the public affairs office to please get out of the window,” wrote Barbara, of Berlin, Md. “The film director had expressed his displeasure at our becoming unwanted extras!”
If “All the President’s Men” represents the celluloid zenith of American journalism, “Shattered Glass,” about disgraced journalist Stephen Glass, represents the nadir. In 2002, the movie was being shot at McKinley Street and Nebraska Avenue NW, in front of Eric Weinstein’s house.
Wrote Eric: “In one scene of the movie you can see our home and hear our beloved and since deceased dog, Heidi, barking unsolicited. An extra, albeit an unwanted one.”
Larry Powers of Springfield, Va., was an extra in “The Pelican Brief.” He was excited to be chosen to stand in the front row of a group of protesters assembled near Constitution Avenue — until director Alan J. Pakula moved him to the back, out of sight.
Later in the day, near Sixth Street NW, Larry was milling about off-camera when an assistant director told him and a friend to walk up the sidewalk through the scene being filmed. “As soon as we walked in view of the cameras, Mr. Pakula yelled ‘Cut’ and ‘What the hell are you two doing?’ ” Larry wrote. “I explained that we had been instructed to do so, but he didn’t look mollified.”
Larry rented the movie after it came out on video and — in the time-honored manner of extras everywhere — pored over it as if it was the Zapruder film. He spotted a very tiny and very fuzzy image of a man in the distance hailing a cab.
“That’s me,” Larry wrote. “I also have the distinction of having been an extra yelled at by the director himself. Match that, Hollywood!”
Pakula was a little more pleasant to Andy Gefen and his colleagues, who at the time worked in a building at Connecticut Avenue and L Street NW. Their space — overlooking the Mayflower Hotel — was used to film “Pelican Brief’s” newsroom scenes.
Wrote Andy, of Bethesda, Md.: “They even built a fake elevator in the lobby so it would better suit their filming.”
Because of the disruption at the building, Pakula gave a talk to the occupants about the filming of the movie and let them watch Denzel Washington and John Lithgow shoot a scene.
When the crew members departed, they left some of the set dressing behind. Andy grabbed one of the boxes that hung from the ceiling to delineate the Financial section of the faux newsroom.
Wrote Andy: “It’s now my planter in my office.”
John Dunkin has spent 45 years lighting TV shows and movies in Washington. The productions include 1995’s “National Lampoon’s Senior Trip,” which brought a large film crew to the posh Hay-Adams Hotel.
“I asked the concierge if the guests were upset by having this menagerie share their very expensive vacation with them,” wrote John, of Layhill, Md. “He replied that for the most part the guests enjoyed it.”
But there was an older British couple who were somewhat mystified. They had the room overlooking the hotel’s 16th Street NW porte cochere. One scene involved unruly high school students stealing a wedding cake and throwing if off the roof.
For take after take, cakes came sailing past the couple’s window before splattering on the roof of the porte cochere. John said that when the couple walked through the lobby on their way to do some sightseeing, the concierge asked if they were enjoying their stay.
It was a lovely hotel, they said, but they did have one question: “Did someone’s wedding go awry?”
For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/john-kelly.