Earl Smith was standing in a former Philadelphia penitentiary when a 60-year-old Swedish fighter wrestled his own son through the door flanking Smith. That fighter was Dolph Lundgren, the actor who Smith used to see sparring with Sylvester Stallone on “Rocky IV” movie posters.
It was a surreal moment for Smith, a Pasadena resident and Havenwood Softball coach, who appears in “Creed 2,” a spinoff from one of his favorite movie series.
In the movie, Adonis Creed — played by Michael B. Jordan — trains to fight Viktor, the son of Dolph Lundgren’s character, Ivan Drago. For that scene, Eastern State Penitentiary was turned into a dance club.
“I got on set and they gave me a fake Russian girlfriend,” Smith said. “I was wearing a brown leather jacket. A fight breaks out at the bar between [actor] Andre Ward and Florian Munteanu, who was portraying the son of Drago.”
That was as much as Smith could spoil in advance of his role in “Creed 2,” which opens in theaters on November 21 and also features Sylvester Stallone reprising his role as Rocky Balboa.
Smith said it was around the holiday season last year that he applied to be an extra in the film by sending an email with his photo and background information. Six months later, Heery Loftus Casting asked him to visit Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia on April 27 and be in a Russian night club scene.
Check-in was at 5:30pm. Smith arrived early. He walked the stone steps, knows as the “Rocky steps,” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He ordered a hoagie. He posed for a picture with the bronze statue of Stallone’s Rocky Balboa.
Once he arrived, it was a “very long night.” About 80 to 100 extras were packed in the “dance club,” he said. Fake snow peppered the prison floor. Actors stood in line, mingling with sunglasses over their eyes. A director told Smith he had the face of a superhero.
Filming commenced until 7:00am or 8:00am. “The directors were serious,” Smith said. “I probably heard the world ‘reset’ 100 times.”
On his break, he marveled at his surroundings. “I was walking through this creepy old penitentiary, and on my way out, I could see this plaque with Al Capone’s name and information on it,” he said.
Once it was done, Smith rushed back to Pasadena in time for his daughter’s spring hit-a-thon. The experience was priceless.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “The people were great. The directors were cool. A lot of Russians were from New York or the Ukraine.”
Smith guessed that his scene is near the middle of film, but he’ll wait to find out along with the rest of audiences.
“I have a new respect for acting,” he said. “That might sound strange, but it is a lot of standing and repeating the same thing.”
He received another acting gig with the film “17 Bridges,” which he worked on overnight from October 28 to October 29.
According to www.imdb.com, the film is about a disgraced detective who uncovers a massive conspiracy while hunting a cop killer. During the manhunt, all 17 bridges leading in and out of Manhattan are blocked.
Smith can’t divulge any more details on that movie yet, but he encourages others to learn about Heery Loftus Casting and drive to the city of brotherly love if they’re bitten by the acting bug. As for his personal experience, he hopes to find more roles. He is especially proud to be a small part of “Rocky” history.
“This could be the last of the ‘Rocky’ series,” Smith said. Then, pondering its significance, he added, “Rocky has a lot of motivational quotes and people can learn from his work ethic.”