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WV native a leading man in the extras

By Staff | Jan 26, 2010

Call him an experienced extra. Call him a featured extra. He’s appeared on screen in major motion pictures that he is now SAG (Screen Actors Guild) eligible.

 Jeremy Ambler, a native of White Sulphur Springs, has earned a reputation so that casting directors seek him out as a featured “character” actor/extra. He had an uncredited role as a spectator in “Dukes of Hazzard” (2005), and his first speaking part was in the locally shot independent horror flick “Lake Forest.”

Since then he was a Redcoat Defender in the 2008 episode of “John Adams,” appeared in “Adventureland” (nightclub dancer), “Family Property” (George Porter), “Evan Almighty” (neighbor), and as a man in the cellar in “The Road.”

“A lot of people think ‘The Road’ is a horror film, it’s not. It’s a post-apocalyptic film, a drama about a father trying to protect his son,” Ambler explained. Shot mostly in Pennsylvania with a few shots in West Virginia, the young man found himself with a job offer that carried a catch: Director John (“The Proposition”) Hillcoat wanted him for a ‘nude’ scene.

“Is it tasteful,” Ambler asked, not at the time knowing that his mouth had uttered a double entendre.

Coming toward the middle portion of the film, the scene has shocked some viewers by punctuating an afore-alluded cannibalistic nature of some survivors in this wasted, barren land.

A father and son (Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee) enter an apparently abandoned cellar, where they discover a secret room. Shining a light down the corridor they see a group of starving, bloody, partially nude (or nude) people, some with missing limbs people. One man appears to have had his leg amputated/eaten.

Based on a book by Cormac McCarthy (“No County for Old Men”), this featured extra role required three hours preparation in makeup. Ambler has a prominent close up. The weather was cold. Other extras had forgotten about their partial, near or full nudity. They were freezing and some later became ill with colds.

Graffiti: How did you get the featured extra role in “The Road?”

Ambler: I had worked as a nightclub dancer in “Adventureland” with “Twilight’s” Kristen Stewart, which was shot in Pittsburgh. A member of the casting company in Pittsburgh asked me to come and audition a dramatic monologue. Director John Hillcoat  contacted me. He said, “Jeremy I have a role for you. It involves nudity.”

Whoa. When I filled out the form I checked off, “no I wouldn’t do nudity.” I think that’s why the director called and personally asked me to do the part. Is it tasteful? He said yes. This is based on the book by Cormac McCarthy who wrote “No Country for Old Men.” The movie would star Viggo Mortensen of “Lord of the Rings” fame. He told me to, “Go out and get the book, ‘The Road,’ read that part and it will explain what you’ll be doing.” He wanted me to play the nude, dying man in the cellar. You will get a close up shot a couple of times.

It was three hours in makeup. The cement floor was very, very cold. Working with Viggo and Kodi were wonderful; they were very accommodating.

Graffiti: Did you feel uncomfortable?

Ambler: Once we got in there and did it, it didn’t. Everybody was very professional. The only thing that bothered me is I was freezing cold. I [was in] make up with layers of cold coffee poured over us. Even in the film, with the tent, it was wild. Everybody that’s read the book, it’s their favorite part. In the film, it’s very shocking. It was in the film for shock and realism. The men were cannibals and had live people in the cellar for food. 

Graffiti: Was it shocking for you?

Ambler: I would not say shocking. It reinforced the darkness of the movie and reinforces the father and son’s fears of others during their journey.

Graffiti:  I liked the scene that showed the man with part of his leg missing.

Ambler: He’s played by David August. He is a real amputee. He has a band in Pittsburgh called North of Mason Dixon. This was his first ever movie. [Extras] were nervous working with me because I’ve been in so many other movies. You know what you are doing. For this one, I’m with you guys, I’ve never done nudity before. A lot of people knew I would get the close ups, as skinny as I am, they wanted to detail that because people are starving. They are looking for food. Cody is skinny. Viggo is skinny, he looks sickly. He lost a lot of weight for the part. I look better without the makeup, skin and bones still. I attended Toronto Film Festival premiere; I walked the Red Carpet. Robert Duvall was there.

 Graffiti: You’ve done numerous extra roles and are now SAG eligible.

Ambler: The more major motion pictures you do, [casting directors] go for that and your look. [For me] it’s how skinny I am and facial features. I get a lot of parts as a ‘character actor.’ I have a movie coming out next month. I play an army soldier wearing a gas mask in a remake of “The Crazies,” which is a Romero flick from 1973 directed by Breck Eisner, who directed “Sahara.” [The Crazies scene is of] an intense quarantine scene where I escort the two main characters. It has helicopters, fake police cars; it’s pandemonium out there. I think it will be a hit. It was shot in Atlanta. 

Graffiti: Where was “The Road” shot?

 Ambler: In the Pittsburgh area at an old mansion. They decorated it up. When they go in, you see the pile of clothes and that, like, whoa, what’s going on here. That’s an indication; something’s going to happen to people who have not read the book.

People come up to me and say the scene is ‘shocking’ or ‘is that really you lying there nude, is that really your body?’ That’s not a nude double. It’s an experience. I didn’t know what angles they would use. I think I’m laid out more than anybody.

The two ladies were clothed a little, what you see in the picture underneath the robe. She was the only one nude. The cloth was worn through the film. You saw her, Chas’ character, me, and the guy on the bed, and one standing beside the bed.

Graffiti: But did the women feel differently about partial nudity?

Ambler: It was weird. We didn’t say anything about it. Between takes they would make, ‘you’re up front and center,’ they used this in the trailer in the kill section. That’s the first movie I’ve been featured in trailer. 

Graffiti: How do you feel seeing yourself on screen?

Ambler: This is good. There’s buzz that Viggo might win an Oscar. Kodi might win one. Robert Duvall was great too (as the Old Man). 

Graffiti : Do you have any other films coming?

Ambler: In November 2010, “Due Date,” with Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis. I play a TSA agent in an airport scene. I don’t know what they will use. It’s a funny scene where he goes through security, gets kicked off the plane, and lots of crazy stuff goes down. It’s directed by Todd Phillips. 

Graffiti: Do you mostly travel regionally for roles?

Ambler: There’s some in Georgia, there’s some in  Pittsburgh, some in Louisiana, any place I can get to I’ll go if I’m cast. They will film “Big Momma’s House III” in Atlanta; I was in “Big Momma’s House II” as a mall shopper. They are thinking of doing a Three  Stooges film in Atlanta. I’d like to get involved in it. Scenes from Green Hornet will be filmed there. I’m hoping to get involved in those three projects.  

Graffiti : Is this a hobby or…

Ambler: It’s a career thing. A lot like this and John Adams you make good money on, and certain films, you don’t make good money. It’s nice to say, hey I’m in the film. I enjoy coming out, meeting people and signing autographs.