Elginites to walk white carpet, look for themselves on screen in movie ‘Contagion’
When you see a TV commercial or promotional trailer for the Hollywood movie “Contagion” and you see Matt Damon’s character angrily shouting, “What happened to her?”, you’re seeing a bit of Elgin. And if you go to see the Warner Brothers medical thriller after it opens in theaters on Friday, chances are you’ll see some Elginites, too.
At least 10 Elgin-area residents — and possibly scores — filled out crowd scenes as “extras” when “Contagion” filmed scenes in this area last December and June. And many will be reuniting at the Marcus Elgin Theater on Friday as Books at Sunset owner Judi Brownfield stages a gala premiere party starting at 6:30 p.m.
Brownfield said everyone is invited to the premiere and is encouraged to come dressed in medical scrubs or even patient pajamas. A large delegation of employees, dressed to suit, is expected to come from Sherman Hospital, whose old building on Elgin’s east side was the main local location used for the filming. As they enter the theater, “patients” and former extras will walk a white carpet as an ambulance and hearse standby and “Elgin Today” host Jeff Myers does Joan Rivers-style interviews.
“We’ll have a few patients staggering down the white carpet with hallucinogenic symptoms,” Brownfield promises.
All this extra for the extras comes for the price of the movie ticket. Brownfield suggests that those attending order their tickets in advance, either in the theater lobby or online, so they’ll be able to devote attention to the premiere events before the movie screening begins at 7:40.
‘Wanted: An empty hospital’
Director Steven Soderbergh’s 3D drama — about a deadly bird flu-like disease that spreads around the world as doctors search desperately for a cure and chaos replaces law and order — is far from a minor-league production. Besides Damon, the cast includes Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Lawrence Fishburne. Almost all, including Soderbergh, have won or at least been nominated for Oscars. At least Damon, Paltrow and Fishburne are known to have participated in the Elgin-made scenes.
Elgin was hardly the only location used. Filming began in Hong Kong in September 2010, then moved on to London, Geneva (Switzerland, not Illinois), Atlanta and San Francisco. But the Chicago area — sometimes playing the role of other locales — was one of the main focuses of the production as it continued through last fall and winter.