BUCKFIELD, Maine — To retired mailman Ray Hamilton, death on a splintery wooden sword seemed preferable to standing any longer.
When his cue to die came, Hamilton — along with the 79 other extras who helped create director Michael Miclon’s cinematic army — flopped to the ground Saturday and luxuriated in the tall grass until he heard someone yell, “Cut!”
“I didn’t want to get back up,” the Canton man said. “[But] they always want another shot or another angle.”
Such is the life of an extra.
He earned no pay for the day, driving to the woods and pastures outside Buckfield to help Miclon film his comedic version of Shakespeare’s “Richard III.” Hamilton didn’t need the money. He and several buddies, members of a group who reenact 18th- and 19th-century battles, figured Miclon’s project fit their hobby.
“It’s just fun to do something silly, sometimes,” he said.
He was joined by folks from Lewiston-Auburn, Norway, Paris and other locations. Two guys drove down from Rangeley on Friday, spent the night at a hotel in Auburn and showed up at Saturday’s shoot at 8 a.m. sharp. Their trip was matched by a father and son, Sheldon and Rory Grass, who drove up from Chester, N.H.
“Everybody wants to be in a movie,” Sheldon said. “It seemed like an adventure.”
Miclon hoped it would be a pleasant one.
Saturday’s work was intended to be the climax of his movie, titled “Richard 3.” Miclon, the founder and owner of Buckfield’s Oddfellow Theater, co-wrote the movie adaptation and stars in the role of the scheming, humpbacked king.
The indie film has been an on-again, off-again production, with most of the principal photography completed last summer in locations that included Fort Popham in Phippsburg and Lewiston’s former St. Patrick’s Church. Fundraising, schedules and illness delayed shooting the movie’s climax — the Battle of Bosworth Field — until Saturday.
Miclon hoped to draw a crowd of at least 300 volunteer actors. Instead, a crowd of 80 showed.
“I don’t care,” Miclon told the extras, insisting that he’d make them look like an army or two.
He and his crew, which included director of photography Jay Childs and Miclon’s son, Shane, worked to photograph the male and female extras from different angles. They changed their costumes and varied who would be in the front of the assembled crowd.
Miclon tried to pass the time with humor. He said he knew the extras’ chore could be boring and uncomfortable. For more than two hours, the group stood in a field while he, as Richard, shot a rousing speech from horseback.
Between takes, the director repeatedly mused at what passing cars might be saying about the spectacle, poked fun at his beginner horseback skills and even lost his crown.
“If they’re laughing, then they’re not grumbling,” Miclon said later. He wanted people to be happy with their contribution and safe. “I want this film to be famous but not because we killed 80 extras.”
When the extras were done, no one was hurt. And despite their recent and repeated deaths, all seemed happy to play their parts.
“Everybody’s fun to work with,” Hamilton said. “No one is miserable.”
And some hoped it would become the start of something more.
Jacob True, 12, of Peru, was cast as an extra who ran instead of perished in the battle. When almost everyone else collapsed and rested, the aspiring actor was directed to sprint.
He had no complaints. Rather, he set a goal for another role and another movie.
“I want lines,” he said.