Larry Anthony is known as a mild-mannered federal employee around Jefferson County. Few people know he has also been a soldier, an NFL official, a priest, a doctor and an upper-class gentleman.
Anthony doesn’t suffer from a multiple personality disorder. Rather, the 58-year-old Brookville resident is a “background artist” in movies.
To date, he has appeared in five major Hollywood movies and a Cinemax cable TV series. But, as an extra, you have to look quick if you want to see him.
It all started nearly 20 years ago during a trip that he took with a group of friends.
“Several of us went down to West Virginia and stayed about a week,” he said. “It was a good move on the part of the production company. They needed people who could portray Civil War soldiers.
“People in the re-enactment community had their own equipment and weapons. We even knew the drill, so it was a no-brainier for them to recruit us as extras. They fed us pretty well. We were scolded for raiding the actors tent and stealing their ice cream, though.”
He managed to get autographs from Robert Duvall, a Civil War buff who portrayed Gen. Robert E. Lee.
“He was very gracious,” said Anthony. “He was very polite once you got past his henchmen.
“I learned a lot about the movie industry. They tend to waste a lot of money. We were in West Virginia, surrounded by trees and they brought in prop trees. I guess the West Virginia trees didn’t look enough like real trees.”
Anthony recalled in one scene that he and his friends were in a scene on a flatbed railroad car.
“We were supposed to be tying down the cannons. They gave us real rope but not real cannons,” he said. “No one told us the cannons were made of Styrofoam, so when we tightened the ropes they sort of went through the cannon. The director just said, ‘Well there goes $10,000.”’
Anthony said “Gods and Generals” wasn’t a paid gig but the food was “pretty good.”
When Anthony and his friends weren’t on the set, they explored other sets and the back lot. In rural West Virginia, the back lot meant trailers.
“We came across Jeremy London. He was sitting on the steps of his trailer all alone, looking very lost,” said Anthony. “I think he was happy someone knew who he was.”
Anthony’s acting abilities were stretched to the limit during “Gods and Generals.”
“One day, they put us in Confederate uniforms and had us attack the Union camp during the Battle of Chancellorsville,” he said. “The next day, we wore Union uniforms and were seated in the camp. So, if you look closely, you can see us attack ourselves.”
In touch with reality
During his trips for filming in the Pittsburgh area and West Virginia, Anthony has had no illusions about the movies in which he has been involved: He calls “Gods and Generals” a “three-hour snoozefest.”
When Anthony first saw himself on the big screen, he said his first thought was “Am I really that ugly?”
He followed up with “Dog Jack,” another Civil War movie. Anthony rates it as his worst movie experience.
“I hope I didn’t make the final cut. It was that bad,” he said. “It wasn’t the actors. It was low-budget and just loose on the set.”
Even the food was bad.
“I think we had Spam and saltines,” he said. “Of course, it was cold Spam with the gel still on it. That’s some good eatin’ right there.”
Anthony related a story about “Jack,” the star of the movie. “I was standing next to the dog when a lot of explosions were going off and the dog never moved,” he said. “I complimented the trainer on how well the dog was trained. That was when he told me the dog was deaf.”
In the ‘background’
In “Foxcatcher,” Anthony was in the crowd scene at the University of Pittsburgh’s Petersen Events Center.
For “Concussion,” Anthony was cast as an NFL official. “Really I was just a guy in a suit,” he said.
Anthony appeared in the ballroom scene in which Will Smith, the star of “Concussion,” reveals his report.
“I was in the ballroom and everyone left,” said Anthony. “It was the last scene of the day. I thought I would look around, so I went up to the podium where Will Smith was speaking. Lo and behold, his note cards from the speech were still there. I still have them. The notes are in block print. I don’t know if they were in his hand or not.”
Anthony also appears in the movie based on Fred Rogers, which stars Tom Hanks, and was cast as a priest. It was filmed at a hotel in Monroeville.
“Unsinkable” was filmed at night at the William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh while it was open. Anthony was cast as an upper-class gentleman, a role he said that was “a real stretch.”
“I worked that day, went to the shooting that night and worked part of the next day,” he said.
Anthony also appeared in “Banshee,” a Cinemax series.
“In one scene, I was filling out paperwork,” said Anthony. “In another, I was in an Amish protest scene. They had 75 people with fake beards standing around pretending to be Amish. I was in the crowd.”
It was on the set of “Banshee” that Anthony could have earned more money by appearing nude. He declined the offer.
“There was a scene in a strip club and the producers were offering an extra $100 to anyone who would appear nude,” he said.
Work is no guarantee
“I could have been green-skinned, like an ogre!” he laughed.
He has also been contacted to do commercials but has yet to appear in one.
“A lot of times, the scheduling just doesn’t work out,” he said. “You can’t do them all. There are just too many.
“I am usually contacted by a free casting agency. There are two levels. One is free. They just keep your name on file. The other you pay for and they actively seek work for you. I don’t pay for it. I don’t make any money anyhow. You don’t do it for the pay. It is not a moneymaker.”
After expenses, Anthony said he made about $20 from the “Concussion” movie. For the Mr. Rogers movie – “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” – Anthony stayed overnight and netted $25 for two days of work.
If he would have had a speaking part, Anthony said he would have been paid “scale” and royalties.
Anthony believes Pittsburgh is selected for many films because of its diverse landscape and for any, more fundamental reason, tax breaks.
“The most interesting part is to see how they make movies and just to be a part of it,” said Anthony.
Rubbing elbows with the stars
Anthony makes sure he gets his autographs only after filming and only in public situations.
“Those are the regulations,” he said.
Anthony has autographs from Will Smith and Alec Baldwin after “Concussion” ended filming. He saw Baldwin in the hallway of the hotel.
“He was carrying a bunch of props and was looking for the elevators,” said Anthony. “I showed him where they were and we walked down and he was real chatty. He asked how I was doing and if I enjoyed being in the movie. He was extremely nice. I know he gets a bad rap, but he was nice to me.”
He got Smith’s autograph as he was leaving the hotel.
“He signed and just sort of grunted,” said Anthony. “The last day of filming on ‘Foxcatcher,’ Channing Tatum came out and was shaking hands with everyone. He was really a nice guy. Steve Carell just grunted, signed and went on his way.
“I have never had a bad experience, even when I was where I shouldn’t be. The food is good and the people are great. They are nothing but professional.”
So, whenever the phone rings, Anthony will be ready not to stand in the limelight, but in the background.
“The work seems to run in spurts,” he said. “Sometimes, you won’t hear anything for a month and then, all of sudden, you get three calls in a month.”