The Dark Knight Rises' Most Explosive Scene Was Especially Rough On Its Extras

Being an extra in the film world can be a pretty thankless job. I use the word "job" here loosely because extras aren't always paid, and if they are, it isn't usually an amount to get excited over. That doesn't mean it isn't work.

Film days are long, sometimes excruciatingly so, and extras spend most of their day sitting in one spot, trying not to mess up their styled hair, professionally perfected make-up, and loaned outfits. They are totally at the mercy of the production. They might wait half the day to appear as a blurred-out figure in a scene that takes a few hours to shoot or spent all day repeating the same actions over and over and over again until the scene is complete.

That's dedication.

But it's not all bad. They get some snazzy clothes, selfie-worthy hair and make-up, a pretty cool story to tell their friends, and the ability to watch as movie magic happens.

Sometimes, working as an extra can come with rain delays and thick jackets in the summer heat, but it might also come with the ability to watch some pretty cool explosions. That is exactly what extras experienced on the set of "The Dark Knight Rises."

Let the games begin

According to The Pittsburg Post-Gazette, back in August of 2011, over 10,000 unpaid extras sat in the stands of Pittsburgh's Heinz Field for the explosive football scene in "The Dark Knight Rises." While the final scene turned out pretty cool, the day of filming was anything but.

The day started with rain, which delayed production for a while, but the extras took it in stride and entertained themselves by doing the wave. It was early in the day and I'm sure they were excited to be on set, but that wouldn't last forever.

It was 90 degrees that day, but that's not what the script called for, so extras were given thick coats to wear. Although removing the coats between takes was an option, it wouldn't solve the problem for everyone. The huge number of extras made passing out water a whole event in itself and some were frustrated by the long waits for hydration. The lack of readily available water and the huge winter coats in August made for a long day, and on-set medics treated several cases of heat exhaustion throughout the shoot. Understandably so, tempers became a bit hard to manage.

Chants of, "We want Bane!" erupted from the restless extras when the production came to a standstill for a while. "We want T-shirts" also became a battle cry at one point. I don't blame them for that one — PA's want the same thing when production wraps.

None of this stopped the crowd from remembering why they were really there though.

Extras just want to watch a stadium explode

John Thrasher was an extra that day at Heinz Stadium, and he shared some of his experiences online, explaining:

"...We were told to check out the mound of dirt that was just put together in the center of the field because it was going to explode. The entire stadium cheered with excitement! Finally, we were going to see something other than football players! But that wasn't all. We were then told to focus our attention [on] the corner of the stadium. We hear a loud roar, and sure enough, right on cue, 3 tumblers, one armed with a cannon barrel, came rolling [into] Heinz field as loud as trains! Everyone went crazy!"

Of course, they went crazy. This was the moment they'd all sat through rain, heat, and thirst to see. The production did its best to make it worth their while because the tumblers, which were essentially camouflaged versions of the tanklike Batmobile, were rolled out onto the field just for them. They weren't part of the scene, but they were used to hype up the exhausted, at times irritable, crowd, and it sounds like it worked.

Thrasher explains that the explosions would only really happen once, so it was important to get it right, which meant the extras needed to rehearse running away and screaming several times before the 60 carefully prepared explosions actually blew. After several practice runs, they were beyond ready to see the real thing, and you can see some behind-the-scenes footage of that final explosion here.

After it was all over, Thrasher, like most others that day, went home "sunburned, dehydrated, and exhausted beyond anything [he's] ever felt before." Despite this, the writer calls his experience at the stadium "a highlight of [his] life" and considers the final real explosion "the coolest thing [he's] ever seen."  

If a day on set can supply you with a lifetime of memories, it is probably unfair to complain about a little heat, thirst, and rain.