Terry Bolo has been a Hollywood extra for many years but is much more than just a face in the crowd. An original member of the Groundlings, Terry not only appeared in cult classics such as “Carrie” (as a student), “Big Wednesday” (as a party girl), and “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” (as a biker chick), she experienced them.
“Carrie” was one of my first jobs in the Biz, and the first one I worked on for a long period of time. I worked on it as a non-union extra. I was in The Groundlings at the time, we had only just formed the troupe a couple of years before.
The casting director of “Carrie” was married to another Groundling, so she used several of us in the movie. Edie McClurg and Doug Cox (wearing the tuxedo t-shirt at prom) also from The Groundings, were cast in small roles. We would car pool to the locations together, along with other actors and extras.
Amy Irving was dating Spielberg at the time, and Nancy Allen was developing a crush on Brian DePalma. Not sure if PJ Soles was with Dennis Quaid at the time. Wow, there were some great people in the cast. Michael Talbott, Billy Katt, John Travolta, Harry Gold became an agent, and father of Tracy Gold. Sissy was wonderful and sweet, very friendly with her Texas accent, and worked really hard. Her husband, Jack Fiske was the art director, they had met on Badlands.
It was fun working on the movie, cause we all got to go back to high school. Many of us were well into our 20's, and some even older! We filmed much of the school stuff at Pier Avenue Elementary School in Hermosa Beach. For some reason, it was abandoned. In the movie, it was Bates High School, named after Bates Motel, from Psycho. Playing volleyball in a movie was a lot more fun than P.E. class! I was really working it in that movie, and I am all over the place, working harder than anybody, except, Sissy, of course.
For the shower scene, they told us they would try to get us more money, we all knew when we were hired, that that was part of the deal. So, on the day, the producer came through the set and said, "20 above, girls." They gave us 20 extra dollars to be nude! It was all handled very nicely, they cleared the set of whoever was not directly involved in working on the scene, wardrobe people standing by with terry robes to put on between shots. Water was nice and hot, lots of steam. I really think it looks beautiful, with the slo-mo and the music. I was used part of the time to stand in for Sissy, as well, in that scene and a couple others. She really went through a lot for that scene.
For some reason, Brian DePalma let a lot of us come and watch the dailies. That was great. Well, in that shower scene, they shot her from every angle, and over and over, she was in there all day! Getting that blood just right, inserts of grasping the soap, close ups of washing her face, I mean, she was really exposed. I think she got embarrassed watching the dailies, and said, "Thanks, Brian". There was a lot of footage. Of course the taunting of her was a lot of fun to do. Being a brat.
I was in the classroom scene, where Sydney Lassick was the teacher, who teased Billy Katt about his poem. It's hard to see me, cause of the way the camera moves, but I always tried to get right in the shot. I'm wearing a green sweater. All that other gym stuff where the bad girls are being punished were fun too. When the teacher, Betty Buckley from Eight is Enough, oddly enough, she replaced John Travolta's girlfriend Dianna Hyland. Anyway, when the teacher slaps Nancy Allen, I'm back in the cluster of girls and have this very shocked reaction. It always cracks me up.
The Prom scene. (First of all, I just wanted to say, working on the prom scene in "Carrie" was great for me, because I never went to my own prom!) That [scene] went for a long time. I can't remember, weeks and weeks, 3,4,6? Hard to remember. Long time. Twelve hours a day or more, then we'd go watch the dailies! I always hated my dress. It was like wearing plastic, the material was so cheesy. And who ever heard of a long sleeved prom dress? They had them cleaned every couple of days. I loved the decorations, bees and stars. I like the band too. Again, I tried to put myself in every shot I could. Doing bits of business to get noticed. I ended up in the movie more than some of the actresses.
One day Amy Irving came up to me and told me I was very good in the dailies! There was some interesting camera work in that movie. At the prom, when they collect the ballots, it is one long shot that follows P.J. Soles completely around the room, and interacts with several people, and then to the stage, where she signals, Nancy Allen under it, then follows the rope she is holding up the back of the set to the rafters where we see the bucket of pig's blood. No cuts! One long tracking shot. Again, poor Sissy, she couldn't have been paid enough for what she went through! Covered in dyed corn syrup, twelve hours a day, day after day. Then when all the craziness started, and he did all that split screen stuff, that's why it took so long. Lots of stunts, special effects, all very tedious. When the hose came out of the wall, and the kids got wet, between shots, they would start to dry off, so the props people were sponging them down, to be wet again, but it was taking too long, so Brian yelled, "Aw just hose 'em down!" So we called him old hose em down. When PJ gets killed by the hose, she really injured her ear drum, and had to go to the hospital.
DAYS OF HEAVEN
Working in casting on "Days of Heaven", was a wonderful experience for me. I had befriended casting director, Geno Havens, and one time we were talking about the interview process, and I asked him if I could sit in on a casting session some time, to see how other actors were in interviews, you know, get some pointers. So he called me in on this movie, "Days of Heaven" he was working on. The director, Terrence Malick, wasn't going to be around for awhile, so he had Geno, and the other casting directors, Dianne Crittenden, and Karen Rea, putting people on video tape, so Terry could watch them later. Now, remember, this was in the late 70's. This was very new. No one was doing this, we were using Sony Betamax. Some of the actors were very thrown, or upset by it.
At first, I was reading lines off camera for their interview… After awhile, I guess I was getting bored, and I was in the Groundlings at the time, and we were improvisers, so I started doing improvisations with the actors, based on the characters and storyline of the script. Some of them loved it, and had a great time with it. Others, like Dennis Quaid, for instance, and Jeff Goldblum, I remember them in particular, were very uncomfortable, and, again, this was very early in their careers, so this was not the norm, like I said, to be recorded, and then, no script!? Both are done all the time now, especially commercial auditions.
Anyway, when Terry came back and saw all the audition tapes, he just loved it, and was very complimentary to me about what I was doing, and how it helped him get a feeling for the actor, because he just couldn't stand hearing his words read over and over again. We saw so many people for that movie. He loved Brooke Adams from the start, and kept going back to view her interview. Now, oddly enough, I never met or read with anyone who ended up in the movie!
Linda Manz and her friend that she runs off with in the end they got from a school in New York. They told the teacher they were looking for some street urchin types. Linda was 16, playing 12. The narration they would get Linda to read whenever they could grab a moment, driving in the car on the way to the location, etc. They said a good percentage of the movie was second unit. And there were so many beautiful and amazing shots. Terry had made a list of shots he wanted.
One scene that I always loved, and I have to admit, it ruined it a little for me: when they are in the river, drinking out of the cut crystal glasses, and they drop one, and you see it in the river with a fish swimming around it – that was done in art director Jack Fiske's fish tank at home in Topanga Canyon! Oh, there goes the magic, see what I mean? Brooke Adams said that Terry said to Richard Gere, "I don't believe a word you say". He cut so much dialogue, and the editor said that it's really hard to cut a film with no dialogue, so that's why the narration was so effective, and her voice is so great. He would just direct them like a silent film director, look here, walk there, look sad, etc. The editing took a year, and they weren't sure what they would end up with, and it was just so amazing to hear that this wonderful, beautiful, critically acclaimed movie, was patched together, with spit and b-roll, and Linda Manz's voice! Never underestimate the art of editing! Sometimes things turn out differently from the way they start out. It takes on a life of it's own.
I had gotten myself cast in a small role, "Party Girl #3, (#1 in real life!) but that was only working the party scene in town, so Carolyne wrote me a letter saying I was to be hired as an extra on the movie, and got me into the Screen Extras Guild. There used to be a separate union for extras, and we had a better contract. Anyway, off we went on the crew bus up to Lompoc. They grow a lot of flowers there. We took over this motel, and wreaked havoc for weeks. There was a notice put up about all the partying, and how were were too noisy, from the unit production manager. It was wild! A lot of the cast and crew were musicians, and there was a little lounge off the motel restaurant and we would all party there and play music and dance, dance, dance. It really was a constant party, and it actually went on for years, many of the people all hanging out together.
So there was a long bus ride in the morning to the location, and everyone would still be half asleep, nursing their hangover, and we'd spill out onto blankets on the beach for a day of shooting. We had all these awesome well-known surfers doubling the actors, Gerry Lopez and others. Robert Englund, of Freddy Kruger fame, was one of the smaller surfer roles, Fly. Charlene Tilton, of "Dallas" had a small role of a beach bunny. Jan-Michael Vincent, Billy Katt, and Gary Busey pretty much kept to themselves. I didn't hang out with them a lot.
The party crowd led by the Pied Piper, Sam Melville, who played Bear, and Darrell Fetty, hung out in Sam's motor home, dubbed The Motor Hooter. Some people would go home on Sun, back to LA, again, I can't remember how long we were up there, maybe 3 weeks or more. Well, the crew and extra bus, coming back from the location, was the place to be. Word soon got out, and even the principal actors and some of the key crew, would pass on their privately driven cars, and join the party bus.
Darrell and his friend Yancey who was in a band with him in college, came out to work on the movie, they would sing and play on the bus on the way home, and there was a cooler full of beers. It was so wild and crazy. "Margaritaville" was our theme song. I still think of that time every time I hear it. Darrell was a real party animal. Speaking of parties, the party scene in the movie took about a week at least, on the largest sound stage at MGM, now Sony. That was where we were the day Elvis died. Like I said, after the movie, everyone kept hanging out and partying for years!
PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE
I was in the Groundlings with Paul Reubens, and was there the night he did Pee Wee for the first time in front of an audience. I loved him instantly. So funny, and cute! We used to have special shows called, Scene Nights, for ourselves and invited family and friends, to show what we had been working on in class. Gary Austin, the founder and director of the Groundlings at the time, told Paul to do this guy they used to see at the Comedy Store, as a character, and Pee Wee developed from that. The first suit he wore was Gary's old "straight" suit, from the 60's, and it didn't fit Paul too good, but it worked for the character. He had several more made, just like it. He turned it into a late show at The Groundlings, then produced it himself at the Roxy, on the Sunset Strip, and the rest, as they say…
Phil Hartman, also a Groundling, co-wrote the movie with Paul. I was chatting with Phil one day about the biz, and acting, and stuff we liked, and wanted to do, you know, actor talk, and I said I always wanted to play a waitress in a truck stop. He said, "Really, well there is a waitress in a truck stop in the Pee Wee movie, I could bring you in on it, no guarantees". I said, "Cool". BTW, little back story here, when I was working in casting on Big Wednesday, I brought Phil in on the movie, and he got cast in a small role, but he broke his leg rehearsing "West Side Story" and couldn't go on location with us! So, I said, you bring me in, I'll do the rest.
He told me it was patterned after the Bette Davis character in "Petrified Forest" with Bogie, she was going on about going to Paris, or someplace. Anyway, I'd seen the movie, so I thought I would be kinda like that, sweet, eager, naive. I went in and read, and Phil, and Paul, and Tim Burton, and a few other people, casting, producers, whatever, and I thought I was pretty good. I was very disappointed when I didn't get it. I talked to Phil about it later, and he told me just because you're making a movie, it doesn't mean you can put all you friends in it. He said everybody really liked me, but when Diane Salinger came in, she did something completely different, and they all just went, yeah, her. It wasn't who was better, it was just that something about her they liked for the character, and it could have been something completely different from what was first envisioned. He said Edie McClurg was considered for Large Marge, but they thought an older woman would work better for the role. He said it was almost as if the thing cast itself. I remember he was fascinated by that process.
Weeks later, at a friend's house, I met a friend of hers, who was going to be the first assistant director on the Pee Wee movie. I told him my story, and he said well, we're gonna need a couple of biker chicks, as background, would you want to do that? So we were in this real biker bar, way out on Sierra Highway, in Canyon Country, and I had to move my car, and it wouldn't start! I called AAA, and I was dressed in my biker drag, or, excuse me, colors, and he towed me to a garage to get a new battery. YEARS later, I had car trouble in the same area, and the same AAA white knight came and helped me, and asked if my name was Terry. HaHa!!!! He remembered me! Strange world.
Anyway, real bar, real beer. Some of the bikers were actors, some extras, some were real bikers, and some were stuntmen. Luis Contreras, the tall Mexican biker, great guy; we went to Jr. High together! He married his Jr. High school sweetheart! He worked all the time. He'd do anything, actor, background, stunt. And he always played a biker or a bandito, he was in "Three Amigos", Great, funny, funny movie. I saw in the SAG Magazine that he passed away a few years ago. There were a couple of other biker chicks there, but only Cassandra Peterson, "Elvira" and I were the only biker chicks that ended up in the movie. Incidentally, when Cassandra was getting ready to make her movie, Paul had told her to try to resist the temptation to put yourself in every scene. It's exhausting! So it was fun hanging out with all those biker guys, we had a great time that day, and when we all go outside when Pee Wee is leaving, to see him off, I was in the back, and I'm so short, and one of the guys pushes me right out front, you can kind of see me suddenly bounce into the frame! Thanks, Dude! Nice Shot!
The Groundlings was such a wonderful, creative time in my life. My aunt and I were both original founding members. A friend of ours told us about this class at the Comedy Store, on the Sunset Strip. We both went to see Gary Austin's workshop and I just remember being so blown away by what I was seeing, and I wanted to do it, but was scared to death.
Gary's workshop grew to a core of about 25 people who were coming on a regular basis. We were meeting in a warehouse space in West L.A., sitting on pillows on the floor. It was the 70's. We decided to form a company, develop material, and do shows. We were improvising different theater styles, one of them being Shakespeare. We voted on the name, and The Groundlings was from Shakespeare. They were the poor people who couldn't afford to buy a seat, so they sat on the ground in the front of the theater. Because of our humble beginnings, and the Shakespeare style improvs we did, which were hilarious, by the way; never my strong suit, but I so enjoyed watching the ones who were good at it, we decided to be called The Groundlings. Never could we have envisioned that this school, and company, and shows would go on for over 30 years!
So many famous, and working people in the business have come from there. Laraine Newman, was one of the original founding members. And on the first cast of SNL. I was on stage with her the night she was picked by Lorne Michaels. So were 25 other people. Our first theater was so small; some nights there would be more people on stage than in the audience.
Lily Tomlin came and cast a bunch of us for her specials. It was such a fun time. We all hung out together, after class, after shows. It was a very supportive, creative environment. We just laughed our way through the 70's. Gary made you feel like you could do anything. So much good work was being done. It is very different now from how it started out, but it just got bigger and bigger, and needed more structure.
We went from 25, to 125 in the workshop. We built that theater on Melrose Avenue. There were classes and shows almost every night. Laraine Newman, Phil Hartman, Paul PeeWee Reubens, Cassandra Elvira Peterson, Cheri Oteri, Will Farrell, Lisa Kudrow, Jennifer Coolidge, Cheryl Hines, Kathy Griffin, Jon Lovitz, and several more SNL cast members over the years, and so many more talented people. Helen Hunt was a student of Gary's, after he left the theater. Pat Morita was an early Groundling. I am very proud to have been a part of creating something lasting and a part of the fabric of the culture of Los Angeles.
"Strictly Background" [directed by Jason Connell] is a documentary film I am featured in that puts the focus on the background actors you always see in movies and TV, but don't pay much attention to. It follows 10 people and their experiences in Hollywood. It's a really fun, entertaining movie. A friend had emailed me about the casting call, and it was close by, and I was on my way to work, so I scooped up a bunch of pictures of me from all different movies, in different outfits, and posing with stars, and went to the interview.
When I splayed the photos all out I remember Jason, the director, said, "Ok, she's in it for sure!" We each have an interview, and then plenty of film clips of everyone. We were in 22 film festivals, and won 6 awards! Not bad odds! It's available on DVD, it's on Netflix, and at Blockbuster. Jason did a great job with it. There was so much footage to go through. He also runs the United film festivals in Tulsa, his hometown, Los Angeles, New York, and he's branching out, to London in the fall. We did several Q&A's at some of the festivals, and the response to the film has been great. We are working on getting it seen in schools, libraries, at group functions, clubs, acting classes, any place people would be interested in seeing another side of the business, or just be entertained. There are many clips of the movies I've talked about in this interview, so if you see the movie, you've got the backstory on all my clips!
Interview by James M. Tate
Terry Bolo’s website… www.thehollywoodgal.com
“Strictly Background” site… www.strictlybackground.com