Local Catholic gets part in 'Public Enemies'
Krauss among many who answered casting call as movie extra
By Amanda Lauer
OSHKOSH -- When Hollywood came to northeast Wisconsin recently, people from all walks of life were clamoring to be a part of the action.
The movie, "Public Enemies," directed by Michael Mann and starring Johnny Depp as the notorious John Dillinger, is being filmed in various locations around the state. Kurt Krauss, a student at UW-Green Bay, was one of thousands of hopefuls who attended a casting call in Oshkosh, looking to be an extra in the movie.
Krauss, whose home parish is Corpus Christi in Sturgeon Bay, takes his Catholic faith seriously. He briefly attended a high school seminary in La Crosse, has been actively involved with Catholic Youth Expeditions since his junior year in high school, and is now on their staff. He's actively involved with the Catholic Campus Ministry at UW-GB; and he lives at Xavier House, a community house in DePere for Catholic men discerning the priesthood.
So what would make a young man, who says he is very open to the priesthood, but not quite to the seminary point yet, want to try out to be an extra in a big-budget Hollywood movie? This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was too alluring to pass up, Krauss explained.
"I have a background in live theater, doing musicals and plays starting in high school and throughout college," said Krauss. "I starred in a commercial for eye glasses. I worked as a walk-on extra in Pete Schwaba's The Godfather of Green Bay."
After the casting call, weeks went by with no word from Public Enemies. The Friday before shooting began in Oshkosh, Krauss decided he wasn't going to be in the movie. "I was still going to go see the show in theaters because I knew it was going to be a great flick with Johnny Depp," said Krauss.
That evening he was helping prepare for a CYE fund-raising dinner at Father Carr's Place 2B in Oshkosh. His cell phone was off all day because he had gone to Mass and to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. His parents were finally able to reach him by calling someone else at the dinner. They informed him that the casting crew from Public Enemies had been trying to contact him all day.
"For whatever reason, I landed the part of a stand-in. It's sort of by chance - you look like a certain lead character, maybe you have the same build or same height. I was Spencer Garrett's stand-in. He plays Tommy Carroll," explained Krauss.
Krauss was scheduled to be part of the Sioux Falls, S.D., bank robbery scene that was shot April 16-18. "For me, each of my days started about three in the morning because I was driving from DePere," said Krauss. "They usually stopped filming around seven at night."
The stand-ins, while they won't actually appear in the film, were an integral part of setting up each shot.
"We watched the actors rehearse the scene once or twice, then they put us stand-ins in there and we'd run through the scene. We were supposed to do it exactly the way the actors had," said Krauss. "We would act out the scenes so the camera crew and the lighting and the extras could rehearse and get the shots lined up to see what would look the best, what kind of lighting worked."
Krauss was in close proximity to Johnny Depp and the other lead actors, who themselves had quite impressive acting resumes. "I'm definitely a big Johnny Depp fan but I didn't want to act like one of his fans while I was on the set," he said. "I really just wanted to be like a fellow actor. He gets all the fame he wants from the fans outside of the set. They were just screaming their heads off."
He did have several chances to talk to Depp though. "I made him laugh one time. I thought that was pretty cool because he makes me laugh in like every movie he does. So for me to make him laugh, it's sort of like returning the favor."
The chance for Krauss to finally introduce himself to Spencer Garrett as his stand-in didn't appear until shooting was wrapped up. "The times that they were on set in close quarters with us, they were working or we were working," said Krauss.
The actors in this movie were "some of the nicest people," says Krauss. "They were really open and friendly - especially Spencer Garrett. He came over numerous times just to talk with the stand-ins.
Being on a film set was interesting for Krauss. "My observation was that behind the scenes was like a job fair in a lot of ways where everybody there is kind of talking themselves up and trying to line themselves up for their next gig. There's a lot of networking going on."
Even though he's not a big-name actor, Krauss' picture was taken more times than he could possibly count.
"I really felt like I was at a Packers practice during preseason. All of these fans are like the rail birds who line the fence just to watch players," he explained. "Then when they come out they want pictures and autographs of everyone even though some of them are rookies and won't even be around that following week.
"Johnny Depp would be like the Brett Favre character where everyone's there to see him but they're also happy to see the rest of us," added Krauss. "I think people just wanted to be near everything that was going on even though they stood around for eight hours and didn't see hardly anything on the set. It was just seeing glimpses of people."
It was a challenge not to get swept up in the glamour of the whole event. "I would strongly recommend being a part of (acting, but) stay really closely connected with your good Christian friends," he said, "people who can hold you to the character that they know you should be. I was fortunate to have that. Either before shooting or after shooting, I'd try to take time for prayer."