07/29/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT
Sure, Tobey Maguire shares quality screen time in "Seabiscuit" with Jeff Bridges and Chris Cooper -- as the horse's owner and trainer, respectively -- but those aren't ordinary fans cheering for the "Spider-Man" star as he plays jockey Red Pollard in the period drama.
They're inflatable dummies.
Variety reports that the 7,000 indefatigable extras occupying the grandstands as the Biscuit races to victory after victory are really blow-up dolls wearing T-shirts that look like proper period costumes of the '30s.
The total cost of savings per extra: $50-$60 (which is what a real actor is paid) per person, per day.
The trade paper reports that the idea to use dummies instead of actors -- the hand waving and head bobbing were later added with computer graphics -- was the brainchild of Joe Biggins, the movie's assistant to the unit production manager.
"It's a weird job," Biggins tells Variety, "because I'm supposed to create something that people aren't supposed to notice."
Other studios have. Biggins has now parlayed his "Seabiscuit" optical illusion into his own business, the Inflatable Crowd Company, whose 15,000 life-sized dummies -- that is, "employees" -- cost $15 a week to rent, fully dressed and easy to ship.
Crowd's representatives reportedly are now working on "Wimbledon," starring Kirsten Dunst, and are also said to be devising full-body dummies to go to "work" on war pictures.