PEMBROKE — A theatre professor from The University of North Carolina at Pembroke got to spend the day on a movie set with two of Hollywood’s hottest stars.
Holden Hansen won a role in a new movie starring Academy Award winner Colin Firth and Golden Globe winner Emily Blunt. He spent Oct. 31 in Wilmington on the set of “Arthur Newman: Golf Pro.”
In the movie, which is billed as a dark comedy, Hansen plays a small but important role. “Arthur Newman: Golf Pro” is not a big-budget film, but with two big-name stars and a strong supporting cast, it will be reviewed.
The movie also stars Anne Heche, Kristin Lehman and M. Emmet Walsh. Shooting started on Oct. 10 in Wilmington, where Hansen’s scene was shot. It moved to other locations, including Fairmont on Nov. 8.
In an interview on Nov. 11, Hansen was feeling less like a movie star and more like a professor of 14 years, wearing a polo shirt and jeans. Although acting is in his blood and all over his resume, he is more comfortable on stage.
His many stage credits include the roles of Horatio and Claudius in theatrical productions of “Hamlet,” Lysander in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Hornbeck in “Inherit the Wind” and the lead role in “Light Sensitive.” Television and movie roles have played a smaller part in his acting life. Hansen had a part in a TV show in 2009; his other TV credits include a Movie of the Week on ABC and “Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” in the early ‘90s.
At UNCP he has directed numerous student productions, including “Sylvia” and “The Laramie Project.” This spring, he will direct ‘The Crucible,” to be performed April 18-21 in the Givens Performing Arts Center.
Q: So what happened?
I went to Wilmington for just one day, on Halloween. They put me up in a nice hotel the night before because I had to be there at 7:30 (a.m.). I had one scene with no speaking part. It turned out my character is pivotal to the entire plot.
Q. How important was your role?
My character is a dying man, although his name, Beauregard Tulley, is not revealed until later in the movie. The setting is a bus station, and Emily Blunt and Colin Firth are in the scene. I’m having a heart attack and they put me down on the pavement. Colin Firth asks if there is a doctor present. There isn’t so …
Q. Wait a minute …
Colin Firth gives me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. We had to shoot the scene 20 times. I got to know him pretty well. When I met them before shooting, they were really nice. She (Blunt) joked that he is a good kisser. There were some love scenes that had already been shot, so I guess she knew. He was jokingly apprehensive. But he was very intent on making this scene work.
Q. Then you die?
I die, and Emily Blunt’s character steals my wallet. Because I don’t have identification, I become a John Doe. In a very important scene later, Colin Firth’s character makes Emily Blunt’s character give the wallet back to my wife. It is a turning point in the movie. So, I don’t think I’m going to be cut from this movie.
Q. What are your afterthoughts?
It was a thrill! I’ve been feeling the aftereffects for a couple of weeks. I’m just now getting back to being just an old teacher at the university. It’s great to be able to do something like this on the side. I’m glad I did it and didn’t blow my scene. The camera worries me. I’ve done a lot more work on stage. But Colin Firth said “good job, my friend. That’s not easy to do.” It’s nice to get affirmation from a guy who just won an Academy Award for Best Actor.
Q. So, how did you get the role?
My agent is Susan Tolar-Walters of STW Talent in Wilmington. She and I did a play together at the Cape Fear Theatre. It was my last musical. She was asked by Fincannon and Associates, a big casting company in Wilmington for the last 20 years, to start an agency. They got me the TV role also.
Q. This might sound impolite, but how much did you make?
I made the non-union minimum, $825 a day, plus 10 percent for my agent. They paid for my hotel and breakfast, too. This is a low budget movie, but I’m sure Colin Firth was paid a little more than me. I received $180 in travel and per diem as well.
Q. Is this the start of something new for you?
They will be shooting “Iron Man 3” with Robert Downey Jr. in Wilmington next year. So, you never know; there’s always hope. It’s hard to get professional work around here; you have to travel. I got lucky on this one.
Q. On another level, acting is also scholarship — what (theatre) faculty do.
Yes it is. As a faculty member, this role is part of my scholarly work. Creative work is what I do, and I’ve done quite a lot in 10 years. It’s also part of the tenure process. The faculty recognizes what I do as scholarship.
Q. Your students must benefit from this experience also?
Absolutely, it comes back to the classroom. I am able to talk to my students about acting as a profession. How to get roles, audition and things like that. Mostly, I tell them it is a hard profession to make a living at. I’m keeping my day job. I also tell my students to get a degree (Hansen has a Master of Fine Arts degree). You don’t have to have a degree to be an actor, but a degree is important. My wife is a former Broadway chorus girl. What is she doing now? Going back to school.
Q. What’s in your immediate future?
I’ll keep auditioning for film and television roles. I’m on break from theatre and stage work. It’s just a pause. I’m working on full professor status. I’ve also been nominated for an Adolph Dial Award for Creative Work. That’s a nice award here at the university. And this spring I’ll be directing a student production of “The Crucible,” a great play by Arthur Miller. I’m looking forward to it.