- Paul Dantz retired in his 60s and became an extra after a chance encounter in a pub.
- He's appeared in films like "Enola Holmes" and "Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore."
- This is what working on set is like, as told to Jack Needham.
This as-told-to essay is based on a transcribed conversation with Paul Dantz, a 69-year-old who works as an extra in film and television. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I always liked to dress up as a kid. I would be a cowboy one day or a penguin the next. I've also always believed that you need to enjoy the moment and enjoy yourself. Life is too short.
I'm originally from London's East End, but I moved to Ibiza in the 1970s and became a DJ there for a while. I've played in bands. I lived abroad for 17 years, spent time living in Brussels and Luxembourg, and I'm blessed to have two good kids.
I officially retired in 2018. I'm 69 now. I help run a family beard-grooming business — Judge & Stoker — and I still play music. But when you retire, you need a purpose in life. I can't waste my time sleeping and watching daytime TV. For me, there's nothing worse than not keeping yourself busy.
That's why I became a film and TV extra, something I fell into accidentally
I was in a pub in 2019 with some friends when we got chatting to a guy who came in to watch football. He told us he was a film double — I think he was an Antonio Banderas look-alike — and asked if I was an actor.
He told me I had a particular "look" — a big beard, quite medieval maybe — but I wasn't an actor. This person said I should consider it, and he gave me a list of names of agencies to contact.
One was called Universal Extras. Anyone can be an extra, so I signed up. I didn't hear anything for a few months, but then I started to be offered roles.
I've played characters such as a Hebridean local dressed as a fisherman and a Victorian gent. I've tried on a suit worn by Bob Hoskins, but it was a little too tight for me around the shoulders, which was disappointing. I was looking forward to wearing it.
I worked on "Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore," where I had to have an argument during a tea ceremony while people ran around holding sticks as wands. It's funny to see that before they put the effects in. I've also been in "Enola Holmes" with Millie Bobby Brown.
Because filming takes place for months on end, which then has to be condensed to a few hours, you don't know if you're going to be in the films
But that doesn't matter, it's just a nice day out for me.
I get to visit the Harry Potter studios outside London and have my makeup done by Oscar-winning artists. I've spent days on set with guys running around shooting fake guns at each other and falling off motorcycles, and you meet lots of nice people. The fact that you get paid for doing it is a bonus.
You can earn quite good money though. There's a standard rate of between £125 and £130 a day, plus overtime. I know people who earn £80,000 to £90,000 a year. They are always working though and are signed to multiple agencies. They're the people sitting in the pub in "EastEnders" or lying in hospital beds on TV dramas such as "Holby City."
You need patience to be an extra
There is a lot of standing around and waiting for technical issues to be fixed, which can sometimes be physically hard. You need to be reliable and show up on time. I sometimes have to wake up at 5 a.m. for filming to start at 6.30 a.m., but none of the work is a slog.
It's awesome to stand next to people such as Eddie Redmayne and say good morning to them, but you can't get starstruck, and you can't take sneaky pictures.
I've seen a couple of people get chucked off set. You get people moving in front of the camera, sometimes even looking into the camera. You're not the star of the show. You just enjoy the day and the fact that you're in something that's bigger than yourself.
I'm working on other projects at the moment, but I can't speak about those
Film companies normally give films code names so that people don't know what they are until the last minute. The companies don't want to see photos on Instagram from the set either. If they do, they'll ban you, and then you won't work.
I feel blessed. As a retired person, I know people who get to a certain age and work in supermarkets, directing people to the right aisles. Not to disrespect anyone who does that, but that's not for me.
I need to keep my mind active, and it's not always about money. It's about having experiences.