WARRENSBURG — Becoming movie extras and working alongside Captain America and Iron Man was something Gary and Janice Curtis, of Warrensburg, never considered when they retired, but working with superheroes is something they now look forward to several times a year.
Gary is a retired administrator for the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg and Janice is retired as an elementary teacher at Whiteman Air Force Base.
The couple’s son, Barry Curtis, is head of security for Marvel Studios in Los Angeles, which helped them get their foot in the door to work with celebrities such as Tobey Maguire (Spider-Man), Chris Evans (Captain America), Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) and Paul Rudd (Ant-Man). Their nephew, Grant Curtis, is also a producer for Marvel; he has the “Spider-Man” movies plus many others to his credit.
To add to their credits, the Curtis’s recently played extras in the May 6 release of “Captain America: Civil War.” They play a couple seated behind Captain America (Chris Evans) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) in a funeral scene.
“It’s a lot of work,” Gary said. “The little scene we did in Captain America we probably did several takes.”
Janice is wearing a black hat and black scarf and is probably on screen five or six times.
“When Chris Evans is helping carry the casket down, that’s the first time,” Janice said. “I’m right there beside the casket, and they have a pretty good shot of (Gary).”
“The neat thing about it now, is the directors all know us,” Gary said. “We’ll get there and … the assistant directors will say ‘we need you right here.’”
The adventure into the realm of superhero films began for Gary in 2007 with the first “Spider-Man” movie. He received a call from his son Barry, who at the time was working as a Marvel production assistant. Barry asked if he’d like to come to New York. Both Gary and his son Dr. Mark Curtis, a Warrensburg optometrist, arrived and obtained parts as extras.
“We went to visit (Barry), but as it turned out we had a little shot in ‘Spider-Man,’” Gary added.
Since the first appearance in “Spider-Man,” the couple has stayed busy traveling several times a year for Marvel Studio productions.
“We’ve been to London twice, Cleveland once, Santa Fe, New Mexico, once, Atlanta three times, and Rose Hill, North Carolina,” Gary said. “I did a piece in ‘Iron Man’ (III) with Robert Downey Jr., just him and I, but that got cut.”
Although that piece was cut, both Gary and Janice are featured in a crowd scene in another portion of the film.
Gary said he enjoyed working with Iron Man star Robert Downey Jr.
“After about the third or fourth scene with him, my job was just to acknowledge him and walk by on the street and he was to acknowledge me,” Gary said. “I would get off to the side because I didn’t want to bother him because the directors were talking to him. But he kept waving for me to come over, so I went over and we talked awhile.”
Gary added that while filming “Ant-Man” he and Janice met and talked to actor Paul Rudd, a Kansas City native.
“We talked for probably five minutes about the (Kansas City) Royals,” Gary added. “He’s a big Royals fan.”
To date, Gary or Janice has been in “Spider-Man” (2007), “Thor” (2011), “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011), “The Avengers” (2012), “Ant-Man” (2015), and Captain America: Civil War” (2015).
Although they didn’t get to act, because they needed working visas, they were on the set of “Thor: The Dark World” in England and were privileged to met Anthony Hopkins, who played Odin.
This year they have already filmed as extras in a new Marvel Studios movie and plan to film again for another one later this year. Both films are closely guarded secrets, although Janice did say their son Barry traveled to Nepal recently for the film “Dr. Strange.”
“Sometimes, like the movie we were just in, most of the actors have extravagant makeup and some of them have to come back day after day,” she noted. “The only movie we (worked) two days on was ‘The Avengers.’
“I don’t want to do it more than one day, personally,” she added. “We had to be there the other day at 5:30 in the morning and we didn’t get done until 8:30 (p.m.), so it’s a long day.”
Gary and Janice usually only work one day on the set of each film. They are each paid $120 for their appearance. So far their favorite movie to be in is the current “Captain America.”
“Simply because the action is so great and the story line is great,” Gary noted.
He added that the film is bringing in a new Spider-Man.
“Our grandson worked very close with him (actor Tom Holland) in Atlanta,” he said. “He’s really good, his emotions in the movie are really good.”
Janice added she never expected to be acting in movies after retirement.
“No, no, not at all,” she said. “Unless you’ve been to one of those big movie sets, people just don’t realize how much work and how many people are there.”
On April 12, the couple attended the premiere of “Captain America: Civil War” with their granddaughter Sarah Curtis at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.
“It’s the second one we’ve been to, it went well,” Gary said. “We were on the red carpet and I got a chance to shake hands with Robert Downey Jr. It was pretty neat because all of the actors are there.”
The both agreed that although acting as extras is labor intensive, it’s worth the travel and long hours.
“It is very much worth it, mainly because we get to visit our son,” Gary said.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.