‘Thunder’ rolls on; another call for extras

Ben Tangalin doesn’t know much about Ben Stiller. In fact Tangalin, the 82-year-old Kapahi resident, knows almost nothing about the Hollywood mega-star.

“To tell you the truth, the name is very foreign to me,” Tangalin said.

The two, however, may very well share more than a name in the near future. The two may share some screen time.

Tangalin is one of dozens of Kaua‘i residents who have been cast as extras in the big-budget comedy “Tropic Thunder,” currently filming on the island. Almost 700 people showed up for the film’s initial casting call in May. Another open call will be held tomorrow at the ResortQuest Kaua‘i Beach at Makaiwa.

Tangalin was reportedly hand picked by Stiller himself, who is producing as well as starring in the film. The Kapa‘a-born Kauaian, who is of Filipino and Malaysian descent, has tentatively been cast as “Vietnamese Man No. 1.”

“I have no knowledge of script or anything like that,” Tangalin said. “I never was a thespian, but I’m taking it in stride.”

This will be the octogenarian’s third time playing an extra on screen. He has appeared in a documentary and a commercial, both filmed on Kaua‘i, but this will be his first time on the set of a major motion picture.

“It’s just something to do,” said Tangalin. “I’m not really nervous, but I’m filled with anticipation.”

Michelle Stokes is another Kaua‘i resident who received a call back after the first casting call. The 33-year-old worked behind the scenes on the Kiefer Sutherland film “To End All Wars” when it was shot on the island in 2000. This time she’ll be in front of the camera as “Hair Dresser No. 1.”

“Basically for me it’s a means to an end,” said the stay-at-home mother of five. “Living in Kaua‘i, we’re always looking for spare work doing anything” to help with expenses.

Kaua‘i Film Commissioner Art Umezu said being part of such a major production is a special experience, one that many Kaua‘i residents have had the opportunity to experience through the years. More than 55 feature films have been produced at least in part on Kaua‘i since the 1930s.

“To be part of a big-budget movie filmed on your home island with Hollywood’s A-list actors is memorable, something you can share with your family and friends forever,” Umezu said. “I’m sure there are people already cast for ‘Tropic Thunder’ who have a family member, friend or neighbor who were in movies filmed here in the past.”

Extras casting director DeeDee Rickets, who has handled extras casting for some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters, said she’ll be looking to fill a wide range of roles at tomorrow’s open call, from body guards to hotel workers to tattoo artists.

“The first call was great,” Rickets said. “I was so impressed with how many people we could use.”

A third casting call will take place Saturday, June 23.

Rickets said she anticipates casting as many as 400 locals for the film.

The DreamWorks Pictures project stars Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr. and Jay Baruchel as an eclectic crew of actors who go on location to shoot a Vietnam war movie when a series of freak events force the actors to become the soldiers they set out to portray. Kaua‘i will stand in as Vietnam.

Production is taking place at several locations across the island and expected to last for at least another four months.

Earlier this week Forbes magazine revealed its annual “Celebrity 100” list which is based on earnings and celebrity appeal. Stiller, a part-time Kaua‘i resident, made his debut on the list at No. 28.

The full issue hits newsstands today.

“Tropic Thunder” is scheduled for release in July of 2008.

• Todd A. Vines is the associate editor of Essential Kaua‘i, Kauai Publishing Company’s visitor publication. He can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 256) or tvines@kauaipubco.com.

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