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Extra goes Hollywood in Hagerstown

March 24, 2003|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

Imagine being in a Hollywood movie and not knowing it.

John Frantz was an extra in "Gods and Generals," but he doesn't know yet if his scene was kept or cut. He hasn't seen the movie, which was released a month ago. It's almost four hours long, he said, so it's worth waiting and watching it on video at home.

It's not that Frantz - who's known by his nickname, Jay - isn't curious. He is. But he doesn't feel a burning need to find out right away.

Friends have seen the movie, but no one has reported back whether he made it. It will remain a mystery until someone who recognizes him figures it out.

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Dressed in a coat and top hat, Frantz plays a man in a crowd when Gen. Robert E. Lee (Robert Duvall) and Gen. James Longstreet (Bruce Boxleitner) ride into Fredericksburg, Va. In one scene, the crowd is walking down the street as Lee and Longstreet approach. In another scene, the crowd stands by as an older man confronts Lee.

Those scenes were filmed in Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

Frantz, a committed community theater actor, has been through this before.

He was an extra in the 1994 movie "Guarding Tess," which starred Shirley MacLaine and Nicolas Cage. Frantz played a man in the audience at an opera. The scene was filmed at The Maryland Theatre.

The camera pans the front of the audience, row by row, then rises up to focus on MacLaine in one of the balcony seats. Frantz just missed being in that film; the camera stopped one row short.

His third shot at the movies may be his best.

Frantz was an extra in the new Chris Rock movie "Head of State." In a scene in which Rock, as a presidential candidate, gives a speech at a grange hall in Iowa, Frantz plays a farmer in the audience. He wears blue jeans, a flannel shirt and a black cowboy hat.

The scene was shot in Baltimore last August. The movie is due to come out Friday.

A movie trailer showed part of that scene, and Frantz sat at a table near Rock's podium, within camera range so he's optimistic this will be the one.

If he's not in, he won't mind. If he's in, he won't float on air. He's not that type.

"I'm not impressed by myself," Frantz said.

Frantz, who turns 62 next month, is a vice president at Wright-Gardner Insurance in Hagerstown.

Acting has been a pursuit for him since 1993, when he joined Hagerstown Community College's troupe, Robinwood Players. His first play was "South Pacific."

He thinks he picked up the craft quickly.

"I'm in sales," Frantz said. "I was an officer in the Army. I've been active in the rescue squad. I'm used to being in front of people."

In addition, he said, "I can sing and I have a good memory, very retentive."

Frantz dabbles in many things - skydiving, skiing, art, pottery, almost anything new and educational.

He was in emergency services for 20 years.

He works with Medical Ministry International, helping poor people in Central America and South America get medical care. In October, he'll continue that project in Nepal.

Frantz doesn't expect to be a movie star. But he has fun. He's been in about two dozen musicals, dramas and comedies with the Robinwood Players. He's had roles in local B horror movies.

He said he lives by the motto, "Growing old is inevitable. Growing up is optional."

"Peter Pan forever," Frantz said.

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