Column: Refusal to wear skimpy costume causes loss of movie bit-part“Iron Will” is one of those movies that gave us hope, and conveyed diehard perseverance no matter what the obstacle.
By: Lori Mattson, For the Budgeteer News
“Iron Will” is one of those movies that gave us hope, and conveyed diehard perseverance no matter what the obstacle.
Our city was chosen for numerous scenes; therefore, many extras were needed. The audition call brought out people of all ages, and it was an exciting time for Duluth. I’m sure some people were certain they’d be discovered in our tundra!
It’s been about 20 years since Iron Will, starring Mackenzie Astin, was filmed in and near Duluth for about six months in the winter of 1993, and included thousands of local actors and tons of local vistas.
Astin, son of Patty Duke and John Astin and brother of Sean Astin, hasn’t been back to Minnesota since the mid-1990s, but he will return for an Iron Will reunion as part of the Duluth Superior Film Festival.
Astin is scheduled to arrive by train Sunday at the Historic Union Depot, where he will mingle, view a public showing of the 1994 film and take part in a panel discussion after the screening. The showing starts at 5:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public.
I wasn’t one of the “wannabe stars” but certainly wanted to be a small part of such a huge event. I filled out the form, brought a photo, and stood in line with hundreds of others at Fitger’s, where the whole process started.
Charlie Haid, the director of Iron Will, unknowingly made my day when I was chosen to audition as an extra for a very special movie. Getting the call to be a “Harem Girl” was exciting, even though I was conjuring up all kinds of things having to do with the word “harem.”
A group of women and I gathered in the room, alongside men who were to audition as porters on the train. I gave my late friend, Abdul Ahmad, a good-luck pat on the back. He was seen often in those train car scenes, with a smile on his face.
We individually met with Haid, who portrayed Officer Andy Renko on television’s “Hill Street Blues.” Casting director Riki McManus was there, as I recall. After chatting a few minutes, Haid asked me a loaded question.
“How would you feel about wearing a costume like this?” Haid inquired.
A local belly dance teacher (a former classmate) came in with a skimpy, shiny outfit on. She looked amazing, and way back then, I may have, too. But I had to be honest with him. The thought came to me that women didn’t bare that much in 1917.
“It looks great on Deb,” I told Haid. “But I am concerned about what my family would think.”
The director smiled and thanked me, then moved on to the young gal behind me. She and I talked during the long wait in line, so I wished her the best.
I left thinking “Whatever happens … will.” I waited for my new acquaintance, and when she came out she had the biggest smile on her face.
She’s in, I thought.
“Laurie! You wouldn’t believe the nice compliment Charlie Haid gave you. He said that you were so refreshing, and things like that would never happen in Hollywood! What did you say?”
I told her about it, and off we went. I felt good about myself to begin with, but even more so after Officer Andy Renko said that about me!
I had the chance to be in two more scenes, and each time life threw something in the way, so it never worked out. I can thank Riki for being a cheerleader for me in that regard.
When the movie was released, I made sure to look for the Moorish Room scene, and for the Harem Girls. After all that, they were shown only from the neck up, and for a few seconds. Fittingly, two of Duluth’s premier belly dancing teachers were cast.
Lori Mattson lives in Duluth and says her claim to acting fame is being in a commercial for WLSSD.