Movie casting call on the Iron Range brings out locals — and quirkinessThe biggest difference in holding an action movie casting call in a small town in northern Minnesota, as opposed to Los Angeles? The quirk factor.
By: Janna Goerdt , Duluth News Tribune
EVELETH — The biggest difference in holding an action movie casting call in a small town in northern Minnesota, as opposed to Los Angeles? The quirk factor.
In Los Angeles, said director and actor Tino Struckmann, people walk in with a fistful of polished headshots and a polished resume, they spit out a polished paragraph or two, and they are on to the next audition. It’s quick and efficient … and a little dull.
But hold that casting call in Eveleth, and in walk people like Karl Randa of Hermantown and his family. They and more than 50 other curious and hopeful locals dropped by the Mesabi Station in Eveleth on Saturday afternoon to audition for “Sdanka’s War,” a feature film written and directed by Struckmann that is set to begin filming in several locations in northern Minnesota in September.
“How is your Russian accent?” asked Struckmann, a barrel-chested native of Denmark who has long worked as a bodyguard and an actor.
“It’s good,” Randa answered, in character. “Sdanka’s War” is set in Eastern Europe and is billed as “La Femme Nikita” with a dash of “Predator” and “The A-Team.” Struckmann was looking for actors to play victims of a human smuggling operation — men and women with good Russian accents willing to take a bullet on the screen.
After a moment, though, it became clear that Randa’s accent was more German tinged with Norwegian, which wasn’t going to work. But as the aspiring actor and director kept talking, Struckmann learned that Randa has a background in weapons training and crowd control tactics — perfect skills for an action movie. Struckmann promised to make room in his movie for Randa and his family.
That would never happen in a place like L.A., Struckmann said, and that’s why unpredictable crowds like the one on Saturday are more work, but more fun.
“I get to meet real people,” Struckmann said. And, since he is the writer and director — and lead actor — for “Sdanka’s War,” Struckmann said he is apt to write in parts for unexpected people he meets and likes.
Take the lady from Soudan with the neat blond hairdo and spotless white pants. That would be Bronislava Westerlund, a native of Lithuania who recently moved to the Iron Range for retirement. Her husband urged her to drop by the audition, and, not surprisingly, her Eastern European accent was spot-on.
Struckmann was thrilled.
“I’m going to write some lines for you,” he told Westerlund. “You’re going to yell something at a soldier and get shot.”
And Westerlund was thrilled with that — she also offered to help other actors fine-tune their accents.
“You get bored with gardening and fishing,” Westerlund said. “I thought this would be fun to take part in.”
Bob Suomela of Duluth knows that even being an extra in a film can be exciting. He took part in two crowd scenes in “North Country,” filmed partially on the Iron Range in 2005. He described 16-hour days during which he and hundreds of flannel-wearing miners filled a hall to shoot a pivotal scene, and then found himself sitting next to actor Woody Harrelson during their lunch break. Harrelson asked Suomela to pass the napkins.
“It’s hard not to get star-struck” in situations like that, Suomela said, and he was back for another audition on Saturday.
Funding from Minnesota’s Snowbate program and a new Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Agency program to lure feature films to the area helped bring in “Sdanka’s War.” Scenes at the Soudan Underground Mine State Park, the Iron Range Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area in Gilbert, and two historic Finnish homesteads in Embarrass are scheduled to be filmed in early September. An open audition for actors for the film also was held in Minneapolis earlier in the week.
The Eveleth audition attracted working actors and actresses, including Lindsey Peterson of Hibbing, who lived briefly in Los Angeles and is an audition veteran. It also attracted theater actors who were tickled by the possibility of appearing on screen. Erik Ninnemann of Eveleth tried to get his Russian accent down by repeating old Arnold Schwarzenegger one-liners.
Colton Harrington and his mother, Shelle McGregor of Mountain Iron, came by to see if a part might be right for the 10 year-old boy.
“Can you do a Russian accent?” Struckmann asked Colton. No, he answered with a little smile.
“Do you speak any other languages?” Struckmann asked. No.
Well, no problem, Struckmann said. If Colton and his mom were willing to show up, run from the bad guys, get shot and fall down, they were in. After all, he wrote the film, and he can do what he likes.