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Dakota County deputies catch a break on the big screen

Woody Harrelson took a moment during their busy day on set to take a photo with the movie extras. Pictured are, from left, Matthew Regis, Zach Loken, Woody Harrelson, Jeffrey Leopold and Ryan Googins. (Submitted photo)

Lights, camera, action. The big screen be could in the future for three Dakota County Sheriff deputies. They recently had the opportunity to work as extras in the upcoming Woody Harrelson movie titled "Wilson." According to the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com), Wilson is about a lonely, neurotic and hilariously honest middle-aged man who reunites with his estranged wife and meets his teenage daughter for the first time.

Jeffrey Leopold, Ryan Googins and Matthew Regis were asked to be extras in the movie during a jail scene. The casting directors were looking for real life cops to work as extras in order to make the scene appear more realistic. Being that the three men are deputies in real life, acting like a cop was easy for them because they do it every day.

"The demeanor of being a cop for us is natural. We don't have to act," Googins said.

As soon as the three deputies arrived at the Stillwater set location, they said they had everyone convinced that they fit the part. They even brought some of their own personal gear. Although they were given a uniform to wear, they ended up using their own duty belts and the vests that they typically wear under their uniforms. Regis said that the costume uniforms didn't look as professional without the vests, so it added some realistic value to the costume.

The deputies said that the crew on set were adamant about making sure the jail scene looked as real as possible. That meant asking the deputies questions. Leopold said that originally, the inmates were handcuffed in the jail facility, but that is not something that is typically done in real life. Leopold brought that up to a crew member and they decided to use Leopold's suggestion.

"They needed the jail to be looking like a working jail, so they took a bunch of us and put us in the background," Googins said.

During their scene, the deputies were asked to look busy in the background, so Googins said that they were asked to escort prisoners from one side of the jail to another, look busy at a desk with paperwork, standing watch and more.

It was a very repetitive process. Leopold said that they would run a scene at least 15 times. They would start the background movement first and then start the scene with Woody Harrelson so that everything would be timed properly, Regis added.

"It was extremely neat to see how it all unfolds," Leopold said.

Regis said that he remembers looking at the scene and seeing a clean and orderly space, but in reality, there were members of the production team hiding in nooks and crannies.

"As soon as they say cut, everybody kind of floods into the picture and you would never guess that from a movie," Regis said.

Now, Regis admitted that he watches movies and wonders where people are hiding in the corners of a scene.

The deputies said that no one should expect them to quit their day jobs to pursue acting just yet, but it was a great experience. They aren't even entirely sure if they will be seen in the movie. They were told on the set of the movie that it is possible the scene they were in could get cut from the movie entirely.

"It was definitely worth it, even if we're not in it; it's absolutely worth seeing how everything works," Googins said.

With the movie coming out in March, the three deputies hope to be able to find some time to see the movie together. Anyone who wants to try to spot the deputies in the movie can see the movie when it gets released March 24, 2017.

Michelle Wirth

Michelle Wirth graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2013 with a degree in journalism and web design. She worked as a web content editor for a trade association before coming to the Hastings Star Gazette in 2016.

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