Local movie extras enjoyed rubbing shoulders with stars

MONTEVIDEO -- Like anxious high school athletes waiting to learn if they made the team, dozens of movie extras attended the local premiere of "Sweet Land'' on Wednesday and Thursday in Montevideo.

MONTEVIDEO -- Like anxious high school athletes waiting to learn if they made the team, dozens of movie extras attended the local premiere of "Sweet Land'' on Wednesday and Thursday in Montevideo.

They wanted to see if they made it to the silver screen, or fell to the cutting floor.

Whether they survived the editing process or not, all of the extras tended to view their part in the making of the movie as did Dick Regnier of Canby. "It was an experience of a lifetime,'' said Regnier, who was among those who joined Wednesday for a reception hosted by the Montevideo Area Chamber of Commerce.

He is among those who survived the editing. An auctioneer by trade, he plays that same role in the movie. Regneir said he was surprised to see how much of filming never makes it to the screen and surprised by how much behind-the-scenes work goes into making a movie.

Todd Buer of Dawson was nearly as surprised to discover just how "down to earth" the Hollywood stars can be. Buer landed a role in the movie as an extra after a friend called to encourage him to give it a try.


His wife, Arlys, said she had no doubt he would get a role. "He's been acting up all his life,'' she said with a laugh.

They enjoyed some of their best laughs last autumn, bantering with the stars between shoots, they said. At one point, the couple hosted John Heard (who played the father in the first two "Home Alone" movies) at their farm home outside Dawson for an afternoon of making apple cider.

Ironically, the Buers' son had once bumped into Heard by accident on an Alaska cruise ship. Each introduced themselves, but the name "John Heard'' failed to register with his son, said Buer. Heard hosted his shipmate for lunch. Buer's son figured things out when he asked people why they kept snapping pictures of his lunch mate.

It wasn't hard to figure out what was going on one autumn night a year ago at Adair Kelley's Rustic Timber Lodge outside of Dawson. Cast and crew members from the film were staying at her lodge. When one of them spotted her husband's ukulele, they suddenly had themselves a country hoedown, said Kelley.

Ed Driscoll, the movie's executive producer, walked in on the impromptu party and announced that he was only waiting for Roy Rogers to ride into the scene and make it complete, she said with a laugh.

It wasn't long before crew members affectionately nicknamed her "Ma Kettle.'' She played an even bigger role than that, however. Kelley had lots of contacts in the region who could somehow manage to find the antique farm machinery or cars that the filmmakers needed.

Interactions like these were the rule, not the exception. Lori Evenstad, director of the Montevideo Area Chamber of Commerce, said it didn't take long for the cast and crew of the movie to become part of the local fabric. It wasn't a bit unusual to step into a Montevideo restaurant and see Hollywood actors and local "extras'' dining together and visiting like old friends, she said. Many long-term friendships developed. Kurt Arner of Montevideo said he is among a number of people

who have kept in regular contact with cast and crew members whom he considers friends. Arner served as the animal wrangler for the movie and as a movie extra. He was among a group of extras dubbed the "flock of farmers.''


The group played roles as farm neighbors who supported the main characters in a number of scenes.

They know those scenes only too well. Scenes were shot time and time again to get them right, said Virgil Kulzer of Paynesville, one of the farmers. During one shoot, he and the other extras placed golf tees in the ground to mark where they stood so that they could go back to the right spot when the next take was made.

Filmmaking was new stuff to the extras, but the reverse was true too. The movie crew turned to local people like Arner and Richard Kvols, a former University of Minnesota extension educator, to serve as consultants on farming for the movie. Kvols and his wife, Jean, also own Past Reflections antique store in Montevideo and helped supply many of the period pieces needed for scenes in the 1920s and 1960s in the movie.

Selim said it is the people, landscape and all the help they found here that makes "Sweet Land" the movie it is.

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