What In Tarnation? Stepford Wives Casting Call? Now?!

Vying to be ‘Stepford’ execs
(Original publication: February 25, 2004)

Hundreds of women in black business suits with briefcases in tow lined up outside the downtown Performing Arts Center yesterday to vie for a job, but not for any Fortune 500 company. They’re hoping to simulate high-powered executives as extras in the forthcoming remake of the feature film “The Stepford Wives.”

Open casting calls for the film — staring Nicole Kidman, Glenn Close, Christopher Walken, Bette Midler and Matthew Broderick — began during the summer in Connecticut and New Jersey.

Yesterday, the talent search for 300 extras swooped into White Plains. Within the first hour of the planned four-hour tryouts, more than 200 women from Westchester, Putnam and Rockland counties showed up for a chance at Hollywood fame.

“Westchester is a great place to find successful, powerful women,” Grant Wilfley, head of the eponymous casting company, said before asking the women to file on stage for a 30-second screen test that involved reciting their name, height and hometown. Women were to be between 30 and 55 years old.

Those chosen to participate in a Manhattan street scene would receive $75 a day, but would have to supply their own wardrobes consisting of three or four black, gray or navy blue outfits, Wilfley said.

The female characters who live in Stepford, a suburban community where husbands turn their wives into compliant robots, will wear pastels.

“I’ve dreamed of being an actress but never tried before,” said Dawn Albanese of Shrub Oak, who owns a silk-screening and embroidery business. “I’m really excited.”

Albanese, smartly dressed in a black business suit and pearls, her dark blond hair pulled back in a ponytail, arrived at 10 a.m. to be first in line for the 3 p.m. casting call. Kathleen Davisson, the Performing Arts Center’s theater manager, said many of the women in the long line that snaked through the lobby had arrived shortly after noon.

Trish Shenefield of Ossining, a nursery school music teacher and mother of two, prepared for the tryout by renting a video of the original 1975 film and seeking advice from experts on appropriate business attire.

“I borrowed the briefcase from a neighbor,” she said, holding up a well-worn one. “I wasn’t prepared to spend money on a new one.”

Roxane Slaughter of Carmel, a former executive who was laid off from her job in Westchester two years ago, said she had read the best seller by Ira Levin and had seen the original movie starring Katharine Ross when she was in college.

“It was during the early stages of the women’s movement,” said Slaughter, who now owns a business specializing in feng shui. “I hope they still keep the message about women not losing their identity. That resonates with me.”

The film points out Americans’ unrealistic efforts to achieve physical perfection through artificial means such as botox treatments and cosmetic surgery, said Agnes Legrady of Putnam Valley, who was born in Hungary.

“There is a huge pressure on women and men that we don’t have in Europe,” she said. “People feel miserable because they are not perfect instead of accepting themselves as getting older and wiser and having a face and body that matches their soul.”

Those who make the cut can expect to receive a phone call by March 5. Filming of the montage of women streaming to work in New York City is scheduled for March 7, 13 and 14.

“It’s supposed to take place in the spring, outdoors,” Wilfley said. “You can wear silk long johns underneath your spring business attire.”

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