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Dustin Harvey goes the extra mile on Outlander

The local actor and playwright recalls being on set for the alien Viking film, now on DVD.



"Keep moving. We are still rolling."

I am running as chaotically as I can manage through a mucky field. I am dressed in fur boots, leather armbands and a metal helmet. I am wildly swinging a sword in one hand, and a shield in the other, as bodies emerge from the darkness and disappear again. We're screaming unintelligibly. All around me are explosions, copious amounts of fake blood, fire and smoke, and I must confess it doesn't take much imagination to feign terror in the dark field. Suddenly, a voice over a microphone shouts, "Act more chaotically! Look for your lost children."

Outlander, a sci-fi Viking flick by Americans Howard McCain and Dirk Blackman, is about the humanoid alien character Kainan, played by Jim Caviezel, best known for his title role in Mel Gibson's 2004 Passion of The Christ. Kainan is from a world more technologically advanced than Earth; however, when his homeland is destroyed by monstrous beasts called Moorwens, Kainan manages to crash-land in eighth-century Norway. Unbeknownst to Kainan, one of the Moorwens---described by an assistant director as "the size of a small elephant but only scarier"---secretly hitches a ride with him to Earth. This leads to nothing but death, destruction and a romantic make-out scene with a lady Viking.

"Your turn. Show me something."

The Moorwen has broken through the walls of the village, which is an elaborate construction of wooden buildings surrounded by a fortification. It is located in a farmer's field, 15 minutes past the airport in Nine Mile River.

Suddenly, Jim Caviezel whizzes by me and collides head on with another chaotic villager. As a crowd of people gathers to see if Caviezel is injured from the accident, I overhear somebody saying, "That is going to look really great in post."

My first day as an extra on the Nine Mile River location was sometime in mid-November, 2006. The production had been underway for several weeks, and the area in and around the Viking compound had turned into a mud pit. I ran through the mud. I played a dead body in the mud. I shot flaming arrows in the mud. I played a wounded Viking in the infirmary after a Moorwen attack. Again I was a dead body on the ground in the mud. This was all in the same scene.

By December it was cold, and the fake blood now stuck to my face like the shell of a candied apple. Between shot set-ups I waited in a canvas tent the size of a small living room with about 40 other people dressed like Vikings, each painted with fake-dirt make up and oiled-down hair. These people were a mix of professional actors and locals who replied to a newspaper ad. They were mostly men. And they all had beards.

As the weeks of waiting in the tent accumulated, so did the bonds. We spent so much time living together in these eighth-century get-ups, being shuttled back and forth from the city, that it didn't seem so strange when one day the bus stopped at Tim Hortons and the 40 of us walked inside wearing dirt make up and full Viking gear to get coffee and egg sandwiches.

By the end of principle shooting in January 2007, I estimate that I played about five dead bodies, not excluding a three-day stint at the soundstage in Halifax where I was a corpse in a pile of dead bodies---some of which were real people, and some not. I remember each of those days beginning with the pile being hosed down with a blood gun in which you had to remain very still.

In an industry that is saturated with ridiculous entertainment, it is hard to see what public need a film like Outlander fulfills. With a price tag rumoured to be around 42 million dollars, the movie now seems somewhat out of place in this tentative economy.

Regardless, I feel amused to have been a part of something so epic, which is lot more than I can say for that extra who got run over by Jim Caviezel.

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