“I got the part!” my husband said to me, excitedly, over the phone. He had just been cast in Killers of the Flower Moon, the movie based on the famous book by David Grann, which was filmed here in Northeastern Oklahoma.
Our daughter Stephanie, a former casting assistant in New York, had arrived at our house one cold Sunday in February and said, “Dad, I’m signing you up as an extra for Killers. I used to help cast Martin Scorsese’s movies, and you have the right look for this film. You’ve got the look.”
“Well, do I have the look?” I asked her.
“No!” Steph replied a little too abruptly. We both laughed.
She spent an hour or so filling out online forms and uploading photos of John.
A week or so later he received the congratulatory email, and called me.
“I have to drive to Bartlesville tomorrow for Covid testing, and then I have a costume fitting the next day,” he said, after giving me the exciting news.
Stephanie was equally excited. She told me that Mr. Scorsese is what is known as “very particular,” a director who is likely to cast the background actors himself. “I knew Dad had the look of this film!” she told me again.
His first scene was at a church picnic. He stood shoulder to shoulder with Leonardo DiCaprio for much of the day, but did not talk to him. He had been cautioned ad nauseam by me (a former ballet dancer) and Stephanie (a former casting assistant for film and TV) not to speak to the actors—they were working. He needed to remain silent, watch what was happening, and listen for direction.
Stephanie told me that she hoped he would be used frequently. And indeed he was. He was cast as an usher in the church in Fairfax, in a fight scene at the train station in Pawhuska, as an agent handing out royalty checks to members of the Osage Tribe, and several other larger scenes. He received personal direction from Mr. Scorsese himself, and was in several scenes with Mr. DiCaprio.
One late evening, as he returned home, he said, “I think I’m going to take acting lessons.”
“Oh heavens, you can’t” I said, laughing. “When could you possibly find the time for that? Not until you retire. Don’t forget your huge day job!” He was the Chief Medical Officer for a six-hospital system in the middle of a pandemic. It was stressful to say the least.
He absolutely loved his six or seven days on the movie set, but there came a time when Covid was once again rising as well as the summer temperatures in Oklahoma. He decided that his days in the all-wool heavy suit were drawing to a close. He was needed elsewhere.
So he returned to his normal life, his hospital life, his life of marriage, children, grandchildren, dogs and horses. These days he stands a little taller, watches TV and movies with a more educated eye. He’s been there, one of the lucky few, and is smart enough to appreciate it.