The temps were low, but hopes were high as aspiring actors from all over the country lined up outside Park West on Thursday for an open casting call for “Star Wars: Episode VII.”
The line started at the Park West doors and went on for blocks, winding through the Lincoln Park neighborhood. It’s estimated that more than1,000 showed up, all with the hope that they would be chosen for the roles of “Thomas” or “Rachel” in the highly anticipated sequel.
Candidates were sorted through by casting associate Maryellen Aviano, who has worked on films including “Man of Steel” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” Each was ushered through the doors and got to spend a few minutes with Aviano, trying to make their best impression. Some brought resumes and head shots. Others merely offered handshakes and a hello.
Alyson Grauer, local actor/writer/musician--and Plan 9 Burlesque company member--attended the casting call and had her few minutes with Aviano.
“It was good. She took a look at our resumes, commented on what was on there,” she said. “She was very pleasant.”
And while the local acting community was present, the casting call also drew folks from outside of Chicago, all with different degrees of acting experience.
Layla Piorkowski, a resident of McHenry and ISU student, drove up from downstate looking for a new experience.
“I’m really passionate and I’m not really here to get famous,” she said. “You meet someone new every day, and that’s what I get most excited about.”
Although not an actor by trade, the full-time student and fitness instructor is confident in her acting chops.
“I’m pretty adaptable,” she said. “I definitely can make myself into any character that I need to be.”
She was accompanied by Ben Fahey, an actor who has done most of his work on YouTube.
“I’m a big fan of the project, a fan of ‘Star Wars.’ ” he said. “If they’re looking for some fresh talent, I feel like I can add that to the mix.”
Jonathan Lopez drove all the way from Philadelphia for a shot to be cast in the film, but it wasn’t his first casting call.
“I did one for ‘Avatar the Last Airbender,’ with M. Night Shyamalan.” he said. “That was pretty cool.”
It earned him a role as an extra.
“Oh yeah, I had long hair. I had to shave it all off,” he laughed. When asked who he’d look forward to working with the most on this film, Lopez said J.J. Abrams.
“ ‘Star Trek’ was amazing,” he said.
For some, there would be the excitement of being asked to sign a form at the conclusion of their brief meeting with Aviano, with the promise of a possible callback. But most left with the thought of knowing that they at least gave it a shot.
A one-in-a-million shot, like the one that destroyed the Death Star, to be a new star of “Star Wars.”
Elliott Serrano is a RedEye special contributor and resident geek expert.
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