Saul Berman was one of approximately 50 extras hired early this year for a week of filming in Melbourne for Peter Farrelly’s (Green Book, There’s Something About Mary) new comedy Ricky Stanicky starring Zac Efron, John Cena and Andrew Santino.
The storyline is about three teens who pull a prank and burn down a house; they create a fake person named Ricky Stanicky to take the blame. Twenty years later they have been using this alibi to get out of every uncomfortable situation in life.
As founder and owner of Levella Promotions, Berman accomplished running his business and giving all to his movie performance.
He could be spotted between shots walking around the local park, mobile phone to his ear, taking orders for merchandise or checking up on delivery.
Running his branded merchandise business gives Berman just the right amount of “marketing kick” while accommodating his time in front of the camera.
“On the first day of shooting, I was talking on the set to Jeff Ross, an American Jewish comedian and roast master general who played the part of the rabbi who conducts the bris in the film,” Berman recalls.
“There was a menorah on the coffee table, nothing else. It was like having a Christmas tree in July to show that you’re Christian.”
The American actor Bill Macy came over and asked, “You are Jewish right, and that candelabra shouldn’t be on the table, right?”
“Three minutes later, Peter Farrelly, the director barrelled across the room making a beeline for me.”
“I heard you’re Jewish,” he said, “That candelabra [menorah] probably should beat it, right?”
“You bet,” Berman replied.
The next day Farrelly asked Berman for a word in Hebrew. “What’s a greeting that people would say in Hebrew when they walk into a room to get everyone’s attention?”
“Mishpachah, it means family,” he said.
It was the greeting Farrelly wanted co-star John Cena to say as he entered the room in the next scene.
Cena’s pronunciation was perfect the first time around, then it went from “Mr Baca” to “Miss Baka” to “Mitch Booker”.
After opening the scene with “Mishpachah”, Cena had to recite several paragraphs from the script. When the director cut and reshot the scene Berman had to remind Cena of the correct pronunciation.
“For the next 10 or 15 takes Cena walked past and looked at me so I could repeat the word correctly to remind him. He got it,” Berman said.
“I’ve been playing extras mainly for the last five years,” Berman said. “But I started when my daughter was born 20 years ago. We signed her up with an agency to get baby gigs and they asked me to sign up as well.”
While doing popular movies like Moulin Rouge and Ricky Stanicky were highlights, Berman’s favourite day as an extra was for Preacher when his son joined him on set for the day.
“To share that day with him was amazing. We both played Chassidic Jews, filmed mostly at East Melbourne Synagogue. As a bonus, I was able to go up to Rabbi Dovid Gutnick and say hi to him without him recognising who I was.”
Berman has appeared in movies such as The True History of the Kelly Gang featuring Russell Crowe, Better Man about singer Robbie Williams, The Very Excellent Mr Dundee starring Paul Hogan and in television productions including The Doctor Blake Mysteries, Neighbours, Wentworth, Jack Irish, Apple TV’s series Shantaram and many others.