I Knew This Guy Before He Made It to the Big Screen

I’ve often wondered what it would be like to know someone who was in the movies, and now I finally do. And I have to admit, it’s kind of cool.

We just watched An American Pickle, which stars Seth Rogen as a Jewish immigrant who gets preserved in a vat of pickles and wakes up 100 years later in modern-day New York City, attempting to fit in with the assistance of his last remaining descendant (also played by Rogen).

Director Brandon Trost concedes that filmmakers have been doubling people numerous times before, using a combination of split-screen photography, body doubles, CG-assisted-dots-on-the-face technology, and tons of invisible post-production trickery. All of this was used on An American Pickle, but with one specific caveat.

Normally, you’d shoot one side of the “person whose face you need to see,” and then immediately set up the other side with that actor playing the second person in that same location, in real-time. But in American Pickle, while every scene featuring both characters was shot twice, they were shot months apart, as Rogen didn’t want to wear a fake beard. As a result, everything featuring Herschel was filmed first. Rogen shaved his enormous beard off, and the movie went back to each location and had to re-shoot the scenes again, using the exact same lighting, camera position, and movements.

A key part of the success in making all this work was Ian Poake, who was Rogen’s body double for both characters throughout the film.

Ian grew up right across the street from where I still live. He is the same age as my youngest son, and the two would occasionally play together. Ian had the acting bug from an early age. I remember going to see him play the Cowardly Lion in a middle school production of The Wizard of Oz, where he stole the show. To no one’s surprise, Ian went on to study acting in college and has pursued acting as his career ever since. An American Pickle is his biggest role to date.

Poake never actually spoke dialogue as Rogen’s double, only emoting with his face to Rogen’s off-screen playback, and sometimes had to literally say what he was doing physically so Rogen could follow with his eyes. Here’s a behind the scenes look at some of this movie magic. (Ian is the guy on the left.)

Rogen says that Poake made his performance “much better.”

“It was in some ways very selfless,” Rogen said. “He was compensated, but in some ways, a very selfless thing for him to do was essentially act in an entire movie with the understanding he would be removed from it later.”

Like Rogen, Poake played both roles and was opposite Rogen “in almost every scene.” He’d frequently just “sit there and look at me,” the star explained and was totally “malleable” and adept when it came to blocking.

“I remember telling him, specifically, like ‘The better job you do, the less it will seem like you exist,” Rogen told Meyers. “Thriving for complete evaporation on your part — that’s the bulls-eye you’re really trying to hit,’ and he really did an amazing job.”

Perhaps as a reward for a job well done as Rogen’s double, Ian did get to have a small speaking role in the movie, playing opposite Rogen in a bar scene as Devon.

It was wonderful to read what Gregory Lawrence, a reporter for Collider, had to say about Ian: “It seems like a technically impressive, and ultimately thankless job — but I, for one, thank Mr. Poake, and can’t wait to see him in a role where his dang face is on screen.”

Here’s the trailer, and I should note that even if we didn’t have this connection to the movie, we found it to be quite an enjoyable film.

I wish Ian the best of luck; I’ll be sure to tell everyone I know that I knew you way back when…

And here is a little bonus of Ian from back in his high school days:

49 thoughts on “I Knew This Guy Before He Made It to the Big Screen

  1. It’s always fun watching people you know in a movie. Very cool. We had a movie shot in our home a few years back. It’s always fun to go back and watch it and see the home, we raised our girls in.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It makes us feel special to know a famous person. Ian is a great reminder that “ordinary” people can make their dreams come true.

    As a side note, from the Radnor video it seems I may have been in your neck of the woods in 2011 for the AT&T National golf tournament that was played at Aronimink Golf Club. Starwood points got me in the pro-am. I had to buy a golf shirt because my luggage was delayed and the golf shop at Radnor Valley Country Club was the only place open. The whole area looks like a fabulous place to live.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I played with Troy Merritt. He was a very young pro. Since then he has won twice on the PGA Tour. It was a real pleasure to play with him. The tournament was held at Aronimink because the regular site near D.C. was being prepared for the U.S. Open. Aronimink is a classic Donald Ross course. That’s a very good thing, and the clubhouse is amazing. The pro-am was the only way I’d ever get to play there. 😄

        Liked by 1 person

      2. that must have been fun being out on the course with a pro. Do they offer any golfing advice when you are with them?

        And those rewards points have given you many opportunities!

        Like

  3. This is interesting, Jim. I’ve never really thought about how they do the double person shoots. A clever idea. It is nice to know an actor. I went to school with one of South Africa’s well known actors. He was a prat them and that hasn’t changed but it’s still fun to remember him as a boy.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s very cool, Jim. My mom was an extra in a movie filmed in our area. We used to get the biggest laughs watching our old Chevy Impala cruising down the road in the film. Now, don’t forget your loyal followers when you become famous. I used to know that guy. He was into his WordPress stats!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. that’s so cool, jim! some kids you just know early on, are cut out to be performers. this looks like a fun film and it’s really interesting how this was done.now i will watch it with different eyes.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a great opportunity for Ian. I am sure his hard work and devotion to his craft will pay off down the road with greater roles. The chance to work with Seth Rogen must have been as fun as work can get. I look forward to watching the movie! Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I like the premise of the movie, as sort of a pickle version of Rip Van Winkle. That’s cool you know the nameless guy who played opposite Seth Rogen. I know what it’s like to be nameless, as this has happened to me in several stories posted by a certain blogger, who I will not name. But who knows, maybe with luck one day, both your friend and I will have our chance to become famous.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Ahh! Wizard of Oz, A classic! How great that he got the chance to be in a movie. Hope its just the beginning of many opportunities for him.
    Very cool that you know him. I don’t personally know any actors but I grew up with a boy who told me he would be President. LOL! He is a lawyer now. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ian did get a credit in the movie, since he did have a brief speaking part. How cool that you’ve met Michael Schumacher.

      As an aside, I don’t know much about racing, but Lewis Hamilton seems to be on a different level than everyone else…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think I remember you telling me that before, and I can’t recall if I mentioned Hamilton’s interview with David Letterman. I didn’t know anything about him (I didn’t even know he was a driver), but I thought he came across pretty well in the interview.

        Liked by 1 person

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