“It’s a little surreal in the sense that it happened so fast,” Sanders, an on-air radio personality at WBHF, told The Daily Tribune News on Wednesday. “Ironically, Terri [Cox, The Grand Theatre’s program director,] has been working with this film production company for several weeks. Because they were going to come shoot, obviously there’s some planning [that needs to be done] ahead of time. And way back, three or four weeks ago she said, ‘Yes, they may need somebody,’ and I ... sent them a headshot and resume but I never heard back. So I just kind of assumed they had their own people, whatever, so I didn’t worry about it.
“Then I went on the air today doing the radio show and all of a sudden I get a message from Terri. She says, ‘Hey, they want to talk to you about maybe being Hamlet.’ That’s exactly how it went. So the next thing I know, I go over there and I’m rapidly being run through wardrobe, hair and makeup, everything to make sure that they can get sizes and make sure they have something lined up. What was kind of neat was while I was going through talking about costuming and stuff, Burt Reynolds came in from his trailer to go on to the stage. So it was kind of neat to see him actually here already working on stuff that they’re shooting today.”
While Sanders has never portrayed Hamlet before, he does sport an extensive community theater resume, having directed several Shakespeare plays at The Grand Theatre.
“The wild part about this is it’s just a one day kind of a shoot,” Sanders said. “It’s a small, tiny sliver of what the movie is really about. It really focuses on an aging actor who may be coming down with dementia. He is being asked by his family to come help save a small theater — by being a bigger named actor, coming to town and saving the theater by playing Hamlet or being in ‘Hamlet.’
“Obviously, that’s the real story. My piece that, I guess, we’re shooting tomorrow — and again I don’t even have the script in front of me yet, they’re going to send that to me later — we’re doing a scene on stage in front of an audience.”
For Sanders, possibly being able to share the stage with a legend like Reynolds is a thrill, especially now after having years of acting under his belt.
“Ironically, no, I’ve never played Hamlet in the full play,” Sanders said. “I [performed] in a play called ‘I Hate Hamlet,’ where I play a TV soap star who’s trying to show how he can act and is cast as Hamlet and realizes how he really sucks as an actor and that Hamlet’s way too big for him. But I’ve never had a chance to say the words that I’ve said so many times just reading the play at home.
“... It’s neat to be getting something like this when I’m a little bit older because I’m excited but I don’t think I’m freaked out about it. I’m looking at it as it’s a job. They want me to do a good job. They want me to make sure that I do what’s right for the character. So that’s my goal. I want to make sure that I make the director and the producer happy and that’s my mindset going into this.”
While extras are no longer being sought, Cox said the movie’s production company, Granite Digital Imaging, also will be filming an audience scene today. Also shooting some scenes in Blue Ridge, she revealed GDI’s search for a community theater came to an end when they discovered The Grand. After serving as a movie house from the late 1920s to 1977, the facility became a performing arts theater in 1988.
“I think it’s terrific,” Cox said, about The Grand being featured in ‘Hamlet and Hutch.’ “It’s something new and different for us. We know a lot about stage theater but we don’t know a lot about film.
“So we’re real excited about getting to know this process and I think it’s fun that people in the town get to participate in it in this way. I asked a lot of people who participate in our programs and come to our things. Those are the first people that I asked [to volunteer as extras]. So a lot of people are getting involved and I think it’s something for us to do together as a community.”