OWENSBORO — When Ellen Suwanski went to the Improv Theater in Los Angeles recently, she wasn't going just to see the performers — she was there for the filming of Funny People starring Adam Sandler.
The former Owensboro resident frequently visits the Improv in Irvine, Calif., where she's lived for almost three years and is on the club's e-mail subscription list. When she got a message announcing a casting call for a Sandler movie, she responded with a bio and photo.
The next day, Suwanski, who works for Ticketmaster in Irvine, got a call from Funny People telling her to be in L.A. the next day to shoot a scene at the Improv and to come dressed "Hollywood trendy." The Western Kentucky University graduate works in the college division of Ticketmaster and was in the midst of one of the busiest weeks of the year when she got the call to go to Los Angeles.
"I couldn't just take a day off," Suwanski said. "So I called my parents. Any time I'm confused about what I should do, I go to them. "They said 'You got called up from the bullpen, you got to play,'" Suwanski said. This was a big opportunity, because she would be in the same room with Sandler, whose career she has followed since his days on Saturday Night Live in the early 1990s.
When she got to "base camp" where the 200 extras were told to meet, she and 50 others passed the "Hollywood trendy test" and were sent to hair and makeup. "I wore skinny black jeans, tall boots and a purple top," Suwanski said.
The extras then boarded a shuttle and were taken to the Improv. "It was awesome walking past the huge cameras onto the set," Suwanski said. "It was like any normal Saturday night, except this was all fake." The drinks on the tables were colored water, she said.
Judd Apatow was directing Sarah Silverman, who was cutting up with a bunch of people on the set, but Suwanski only had eyes for Sandler, who was sitting two tables away.
"I got to be in his presence," Suwanski said, and there is a good chance she might be in a scene with him. The movie is about a stand-up comedian, played by Sandler, who has been a "jerk all his life," and when he learns he has a terminal illness, begins mentoring young comedians, Suwanski said.
"There is an up-and-coming comedian in the movie who I guarantee will be a household name when this movie comes out," Suwanski said. "Aziz Ansari steals the show."
Suwanski doesn't seek out stars, but she has seen quite a few in LA. "I've seen Scarlett Johansson, Lindsay Lohan and Natalie Portman. If you're not looking for them, you wouldn't know they were around," Suwanski said. "They're just like anybody else."