20 years since "Mars Attack"ed Burns

Staff writer

As some drive by the city of Burns in the far southeastern corner of the county, they may not think much of the town of 228.

For Hillsboro Middle/High School choir director Lynn Just, she thinks of the 1996 Tim Burton film “Mars Attacks!,” and her time spent as an extra on the movie set.

The movie, which will have been out 20 years in December, filmed scenes for the movie in Burns. They held a casting call for extras, which Just attended with her sister-in-law from El Dorado.

“I thought it sounded like fun,” Just said, “and there aren’t that many films with an open casting call filmed in Kansas, so, hey, why not?”

The casting call for extras did not involve what a typical audition may be.

“There really was no audition,” Just said. “Just different stations to give your information and for them to take a few pictures.” 

Just and her sister-in-law were chosen to be extras in two scenes: a bus scene as Billy-Glenn, played by actor Jack Black, leaves to go fight the Martians, and a funeral scene. 

One memorable moment, Just said, was seeing how demanding some of the cast was.

“It was chilly the day we filmed in the cemetery, and one actress demanded a LOT of attention,” Just said. “‘Get me a blanket,’ ’Take the blanket off.’ If the poor assistant wasn’t fast enough, we all heard it.”

As an extra, Just’s day started off in a wardrobe tent.

“My costume was made from wool curtains I think,” Just said. “My neck was raw by the end of the day because it was so scratchy.” 

After receiving their costumes, there was lots of standing around, both waiting to be bused to the site and standing on set between takes. When they were not on set, the extras got to enjoy a lunch buffet.

Just also got the chance to talk with some of Burton’s personal assistants.

“One of the assistants told us working with Tim Burton was so different than other directors,” Just said. “He kind of flies by the seat of his pants on what he wants with each take.  Will they film just the outside of the bus when Billy-Glenn gets on, or will they bring a camera on the bus?  That kind of thing.”

Just said that she would do it again just for the experience, and that those who want to shouldn’t be afraid to try something different.

“It was just something fun to do,” Just said. “It’s more of a novelty if it comes up in conversation, which it doesn’t.”

Last modified Oct. 19, 2016