Filming of The Deer Hunter

Weirton Daily Times
July 7, 1977

Filmmakers Well Received

By Joe Sterling
Times Staff Writer

Area residents observing the making of "The Deer Hunter" on Main Street above Avenue A seemed impressed by the whole affair, according to an informal poll.

Three types of residents attended the filming sessions: curiosity seekers; those who secured parts in the film; and those, like the police and the press, who had to be there.

Curiosity-seekers have been few since the shooting began on Saturday. An average of 15 people at a time loitered in the vicinity, waiting to catch a glimpse of a performer or to take a snapshot of a scene.

"This is my first day down here," Doris Zagula of 127 Scenic Drive said yesterday, "and it is very interesting."

Sitting in a portable chair amidst weeds on a Main Street lot, Mrs. Zagula was accompanied by her neighbor, Mrs. Mary Visnic of 131 Scenic Drive. Mrs. Visnic was amazed that the cast and crew were such "hard workers."

"But I don't understand," Mrs. Visnic said, "how they can get anything pretty out of it.

"They want authenticity, I think," Mrs. Zagula answered. "What I didn't realize is that it takes so many people to work together to make a good film."

Have you met any actors?

"No," Mrs. Zagula said, "but I just saw one good-looking blond actor. Wow. Hey, you're not going to put that down, are you?"

Bill and Marilyn Crago, both of 510 Basil Drive, expected to see more glamor and less sitting around.

"We didn't know," they both said in unison, "that they would shoot the same scene over and over again."

But the couple enjoyed the ordeal, especially when they got to meet, kind of, Robert De Niro. "No, De Niro didn't talk really. But I thanked him and he waved to us."

The Cragos, who carried a home movie camera with them, said they got to talk with people on the crew and liked them.

"A lot of them are from California and we talked about that state," Bill Crago said. "They were saying how pretty the San Fernando Valley was. But we'd still rather be in Weirton."

Many local people secured brief roles in the film. Called "extras" these people are, in a sense, living props. They enhance a particular environment's credibility with their presence in it.

In "The Deer Hunter," the extras will play mill-workers, party-goers, and tavern people. And most of them have no acting experience.

"I was at a party when I met Tony Gaznick" (in charge of securing extras), Wallace (Wuz) Jaffe of 108 Barnhart St. explained.

"He wanted to know if I was interested in being in a movie and he wanted to take my picture. Later, I was called and I got a part."

What are you doing in the film?

"Well, I'm in a party scene with three kegs of beer and five to 10 cases of Rolling Rock.

"It's only for a few seconds. But I thought about it. It will be good when you get older to see yourself in a picture."

Sitting next to Jaffe was another extra, Argenia Mastromichalis of 3304 Elm St. She, like Jaffe and most extras, had no prior experience on stage or screen.

"I came up as a joke. But last week, my cousin and I talked with them and asked them how they could shoot a movie without a Weirton girl."

Miss Mastromichalis also will appear, for a few seconds, in the party scene with Jaffe.

"I'm here because I'm curious, too. Movie-making seems exciting," the pretty brunette exclaimed. "But the filming is slow moving. Didn't Elizabeth Taylor say movie-making is boring?"

Miss Mastromichalis, who wouldn't admit her real age (she must be near 20), isn't sure if she will pursue an acting career. But bystanders agreed when she asserted that she was "a talented my own right." And attractive, bystanders thought to themselves.

One local extra, Dave Rasicci of 131 Height St., has acted in Weir High productions and he, unlike others who are in it for a "lark," is considering the pursuit of an acting career.

"And I'm here because I gotta start somewhere. It is good experience in case I do get into it in the future."

Rasicci, who plays a millworker ("I get to walk past De Niro"), liked the members of the cast and the crew he had a chance to meet.

"And they know what they are doing. They're well-educated, well-bred. Each man has a specific job. They communicate well, too."

Rasicci said becoming an extra wasn't the easiest task.

"You gotta push your way in if you want it."

Weirton police officers were at the production site and on its outskirts. One officer, M. J. Ivan, said he knew of no trouble that occurred that may have hampered the production.

He said he thought the crew was friendly and courteous ("they try to make you happy"). When someone asked him if he agreed with what other policemen had said - that the cast and crew eat like kings - the officer more than concurred.

"They eat great. Their catering wagon puts out a fantastic meal. They had prime rib the other day, too."

The filming, at the site on Main Street, above Avenue A, continued today.

Editing changes made by West Virginia Archives and History

Arts and Entertainment

West Virginia Archives and History