Now this is an interesting subject most people probably don’t think about often. When watching a movie, have you ever wondered where they get all those people that are filling the grandstands at a race track? Or possibly all the dead soldiers laying around on the battle field? Well, some movies may pay for tons of extra fill in actors, but would you be surprised to hear that a lot of these movie sets are filled with Latex Dummies? I know, I know, it sounds crazy, but it’s true.
There’s a company called The Inflatable Crowd Company, appropriately enough, that can fill your movie set with thousands of these rubber fill ins. Now could you imagine how much work it would be to dress and do a little makeup on this many dummies? I mean, this would be one job I wouldn’t want to tackle. But in the long run, I’m sure the expense comes out way cheaper than paying real actors for a fill in spot.
I always thought maybe a lot of those folks in the background were maybe computer generated or something, and some may be, but let’s go into some details and facts about this Inflatable Crowd Company.
How it all Started
The Inflatable Crowd Company was started by Joe Biggins in 2002. He was actually working on the set for Seabiscuit and came into a troubling question. How in the world am I going to fill all those grandstands with authentic looking people without actually hiring real ones. He first began experimenting with cardboard cutouts, but quickly realized these figures needed to be more three dimensional. So of course he turned his thoughts to the possibility of using inflatable figures. No one in the industry had ever done this before, so it wasn’t something readily available. So he went to work on his creations. He started with a prototype body that was designed to simply sit in the grandstands. After director Gary Ross agreed to give these a shot, they proceeded to fill the stands with 7,000 of these dudes. After a successful run with the dummies, Joe decided to start up his company and market them to film makers everywhere.
Within a years time, the demand for these inflatable actors was so high, he had to
increase his inventory to over 30,000 of these inflatables. They were all complete with clothes, masks, wigs, hats, and what ever else they required to look like individuals amongst themselves. This is truly unbelievable the amount of work it would take to do this. That would be like dressing an entire mid-size town from head to toe. I don’t even want to think about it! An even more terrifying thought is that after the scenes are shot, they would all have to be deflated, packed up and shipped to another film shoot.
Where we have Scene Them
You would actually be quite surprised at the big name movies that have used these things. I’ve never really thought about inspecting the figures in the background of the movies I watch, but you can bet I will be from now on. I bet you will too? Granted these things have no intelligence and couldn’t add anything special to a movie, but they definitely serve their purpose well.
The first film to include the full-bodied version of Joe’s body doubles was Flags of Our Fathers, made in 2006. They were used as fallen soldiers during the Battle of Iwo Jima. These were actually filled with plaster in order to look more real when a tank ran over them. Some were even used in the water scenes to mimic floating corpses. One of these floated away from the scene and was later discovered by a rescue team thinking they were retrieving a real body! Now how crazy would that be to pull that thing out of the water. Although I’m sure they were quite relieved to find it wasn’t a real person.
Another great movie, We Are Marshall also from 2006, they used 2,400 dummies to fill the stands. The few people walking up and down between the stands were the only real ones amongst them.
10 Great Films Using Inflatables
- Cinderella Man (2005) – 11,000
- Friday Night Lights (2004) – 8,000
- Wimbledon (2004) – 7,000
- Million Dollar Baby (2004) – 3,000
- Iron Man 2 (2010) – 2,100
- The Fighter (2010) – 1,800
- The Damned United (2009) – 1,800
- The King’s Speech (2010) – 1,500
- Spider-Man 3 (2007) – 1,000
- Alvin and the Chipmunks 2 (2009) – 550
So definitely an interesting backstage look at how the film makers employ all the extras for scenes with large crowds. I’ll be keeping my eye out for up coming movies to see if I can spot the Latex Dummies. How bout you?