Hollywood in Thailand: Being Movie Extras for “The Coup”

Wardrobe for the movie "The Coup"

Every once in a while, unexpected opportunities pop up when abroad that may never happen at home. One such occasion occurred when a friend told us that a major Hollywood film, “The Coup”, was being shot in Chiang Mai and they were looking for Western extras. Furthermore, the movie was to star Owen Wilson, Lake Bell and Pierce Brosnan.

So, of course, we signed up right away and were happy to be called for a “night shoot” to take place at the Lampang Airport. In the middle of the afternoon, a casting van drove us about an hour south of Chiang Mai, through beautiful greenery and windy roads, and dropped us off in a field filled with movie trailers and big tents, close to the small airstrip of Lampang.

Ligeia in front of movie trailers for "The Coup"

Ligeia in front of the trailers

After dining on a meal of white rice, baked beans (direct from the can!) and a couple of bananas stolen from the crew tent next to ours, we were ushered to the wardrobe area. A crew member handed us wardrobe numbers 9 and 10, respectively, and our clothing choices were inspected. I had to change into one of my other shirts, as my fashion selection was apparently too close to what Owen Wilson would be wearing.

Our Wardrobe Numbers as Movie Extras

Our Wardrobe Numbers

With the strict warning of “No photographs allowed on set” we left our camera behind and walked with about 100 other extras to the arrivals hall of the airport. This was our very first time on the set of a movie! Things somehow simultaneously looked real and fake. This, I suppose is the essence of a movie that is based on fact, but designed to be fiction.

A plastic, golden statue of a spectacled dictator by the entrance, a written language that seemed to be a merging of Thai, Cambodian and Burmese, and huge posters highlighting the gorgeous scenery of the fictional country in which we had arrived. We amused ourselves by figuring out where in the real world these scenic places are: the temples of Bagan in Myanmar; the karst mountains of Vang Vieng, Laos; and a pristine beach somewhere in the south of Thailand.

Wardrobe for the movie "The Coup"

Wardrobe

We were casted to play a couple waiting for someone, so we took up our position just outside the arrivals door. After a couple of run-throughs with fill-ins, likely to check sound and lighting levels, the stars arrived and our hearts raced excitedly as we recognized them immediately.

Conversations among the extras focused on Pierce Brosnan’s past role as James Bond, as we all waited for the actual scene to be shot. Owen Wilson and Lake Bell play the parents of two daughters in the film, and in this particular scene, they had just arrived after a long flight and looking for their pre-arranged, but absent, driver. Countless times, the director yelled “Action!” and we eagerly scanned the cast of stars and extras filing past us with their luggage, looking for someone who never arrived.

That was our only role during the movie shoot. We sat idly by, observing the crew put up and dismantle cameras and lighting. With interest, we watched the follow-up scenes of the family meeting Pierce Brosnan’s character convincing them to take a yellow song taew decorated with photos of country singer Kenny Rogers and a huge sign that read “Kenny Roger”, complete with its misspelling.

One of the highlights of the entire shoot for Mindy happened next. In between shots, we overheard Lake asking for some gum or a mint. It seemed that she was ignored and realizing that she had gum with her, Mindy boldly walked over and offered a piece. Lake graciously accepted and thanked her and Mindy wore a smile that didn’t fade for the rest of the night.

Another highlight for us was when we looked at stars of another sort. At one point we had time to rest and we took the opportunity to walk out on the runway in the darkness of night and look up. It was amazing, and had it not been so cold, we would have stayed out there much longer.

The best part of this experience, though, was taking home a couple souvenirs. The snagged piece of fake language that fell from the wall was good, but the ultimate prize is the bilingual exit sign, which required my persistence and pleading with three people, before my request was finally granted. I plan to hang it on the back of our front door, wherever we live.

A set prop from the movie "The Coup"

Check this OUT!

Now we play the waiting game for the movie to finish post-production and get to the big screen. Only then will we see if we made the cut. “The Coup” might be a movie we go to the theater to see!

Have you ever been an extra in a movie?

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16 thoughts on “Hollywood in Thailand: Being Movie Extras for “The Coup”

  1. Giselle and Cody

    Cool ladies, your first movie experience! It’s a lot of hurry up and wait isn’t it? I’ve worked on set as a makeup artist back in Toronto, and it’s not all glamorous! But you gotta love the craft services! 🙂
    Cool sign! It will look great on out back door!

  2. Loz in Transit

    In Latvia I slept in a former Soviet-Era prison in Liepāja. They were filming an Indian film, not your usual whimsical Bollywood fare from what I could tell. I stumbled onto it and had no opportunity to get on camera.
    I was graciously given a spare food pack from Craft Services though. Handy as I was the only one staying the night, had arrived late and very hungry.

    “Movie life” and “reality” are some of my pet topics, I know that a lot of the glamour and excitement associated with cinema doesn’t always translate on set and in real life. That there’s a lot of waiting, it can be mundane etc… I like how you fought for the sign to have as a keepsake. You guys are very good at finding every morsel of goodness in life and in your travels. Keep it up!

    1. Mindy & Ligeia

      Wow! You got to sleep in a former Soviet prison?! That’s amazing! And how cool that you also got to watch a movie being made. That was a huge part of the fun for us – just seeing how it’s all put together. 🙂

  3. Jon Brown

    Sounds like fun! Looking forward to seeing you on the big screen!

    I stumbled across a movie being made in Budapest in ’96. They were shooting in front of an old church and I recognized one of the actors as Ralph Fiennes. The security gaurds were keeping people far far away and stopping anyone that tried to take a picture. Sadly I never did figure out what movie it actually was, and I’ve come to think maybe I mis-recognized Fiennes. Maybe it was Evita, which actually filmed there around that time.

    Regardless, congrats and hope you don’t end up on the cutting room floor.

    1. Mindy & Ligeia

      Hi Jon,
      I’ll bet that movie was Evita as it sounds like the timing and location were right. It’s a shame they don’t allow pics though during shoots, but I guess I can understand why -gosh, otherwise there would be no surprise when the movie comes out.
      And I guess if we do end up on the cutting room floor, at least it was a fun experience nonetheless. 🙂

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