Dan Rattiner’s Film Career: Roger Corman, Rob Lowe, Steven Spielberg, Michelle Pfeiffer and More

Dan Rattiner movies cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas
Cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas

As this weekend is the Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF) and all the bigwig producers, directors and distribution company executives are in town, I thought I should brag a little bit about my acting credentials.

You might be surprised to learn I was a film star. Look up Dan Rattiner on IMDB, the film industry bible. You will find me there.

RELATED: Anecdotes About Films Shot in the Hamptons and on the North Fork

I have an acting credit on a major motion picture called Cyclops, starring Eric Roberts, which was the brainchild of the king of monster movies, Roger Corman. The year was 2007. I happened to be free. Mr. Corman’s film was low budget, as are all his films, and it would be shot in a fake Roman Coliseum atop a hill outside of Sofia, Bulgaria.

In one scene, the monstrous 12-foot-tall one-eyed Cyclops, in chains, is to be taken out to the center of the Coliseum for armed combat with Roman slaves. A master of ceremonies is droning on and on about what is to come. The place is packed. But since the crowd assembled is actually about 100 local Bulgarians who know no English multiplied into a crowd of 10,000 by CGI, Mr. Corman was seeking someone who did speak English to be dressed in an important senatorial white toga and stand up amidst that crowd and utter the four scornful words in the script at the master of ceremonies: “Get on with it!”

I added a scornful wave of my arm to these words. I am credited. And thus given space in IMDB.

Dan Rattiner on the set of "Cyclops"
Dan on the set of “Cyclops”

I should explain how this came about. Scoop Wasserstein, my wife’s son, is today a filmmaker in Hollywood with his own company, but in 2007 he was just out of college and looking for his first job. What he got was to be Roger Corman’s assistant. He was 23 years old. After six months fetching coffee for Roger and other things, the master trusted Scoop enough to send him to Bulgaria to look after the budgetary interests in the making of this film.

The director of the film was Declan O’Brian, and he took a shine to Scoop. He needed an actor to be a young slave in the film. He volunteered Scoop. It was to be a small part, but his first part. And when the time came, Scoop invited his mother, me and his sister and brother to come to Bulgaria for the weekend. It was there that Declan plucked me out to become a senator and say those unforgettable lines. My wife and stepdaughter and stepson were in that quarter-scale Coliseum, too. We had a fine time.

But let me start at the beginning of my long career in film. Almost all of it has been in the Hamptons. Here are my credits.

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I worked on the set of the horror movie The Flesh Eaters. The year was 1964, I was 25, and the set was an isolated ocean beach west of what is now known as Umbrella Beach in Montauk, where a former Nazi scientist played by Martin Koslick produced a chemical brew inside a tent that caused a group of small squids to assume mammoth proportions, swim out to sea and come back to shore to spread havoc amongst the local citizenry trying to stop it. The location for the laboratory was a tent on the beach, and my job, amongst others, was to jostle the tent flaps when the wind howled. I was unseen. It was my first assignment. What the hell.

In 1985, I got a part as an extra in the film Sweet Liberty, directed by Alan Alda and starring Michael Caine. It was a night scene. The filmmakers had rented the entire Main Street of Sag Harbor between 2 and 5 a.m., sprayed oil on the street to make it look in the spotlights as if it was just after a rain, and then hired me, my girlfriend at the time, and about 50 other locals to stroll up and down on the sidewalk while Michelle Pfeiffer and a slightly drunk Michael Caine stroll down the middle of the empty main street talking to each other. I went to the premiere. My girlfriend and I had been cut, our footage spilled out on the cutting room floor, as was said in those days.

I was on the set at the Montauk railroad station in 1982 in the middle of another night during the making of director Sidney Lumet’s film Deathtrap. Young Christopher Reeve gets off the train—it’s 3 a.m.– because he slept through the station he intended to get off at, Southampton. As a result, he has to take a late-night taxi parked at the station back to that town. The woman taxi driver, a heavyset local woman with a beat-up sedan, helped him and his luggage in and proceeded to talk his ear off as he sat in the back. I got coffee for the taxi driver between takes.

I was also paid to be an extra on the Rob Lowe film Masquerade in 1987. The scene was shot on the beach patio and in the restaurant part of what is now the Ocean Resort at Bath & Tennis on Dune Road in Westhampton Beach. Rob Lowe and some other actor playing a bad guy come walking one at a time from the patio and through the dining room, talking at each other. They were not getting along. That is the whole scene.

Our job, and there were about 40 of us, was to be sitting at the dining room tables, eating, drinking and talking. We do not speak, just pretend to be talking. It will be dubbed. Also, we do not eat. I was there with another girlfriend. We got there at 10 a.m., were assigned to a table that had on it two glasses filled with water and two plates of salad.

We remained there as they shot this scene over and over for the next five hours, not eating the salad. At one point, I lifted a leaf of lettuce and came upon a large dead moth under it. How had he died? Salad dressing? I never knew. During breaks we were taken to a side room that had cream cheese and bagels, coffee and soda, where we could stretch our legs, talk and eat. We were paid $6 an hour. Seeing the film, I came to see that a large pillar blocked the view of our table the entire scene. But we were there, behind it. Another credit.

I was present as a photographer during the shooting of Woody Allen’s film Interiors in 1977. Actually, I was hiding out in the dunes, 100 yards from where it was being shot at this white beach house off Meadow Lane in Southampton. I was hoping to get a picture of Mr. Allen if he would come out to stretch his legs between takes, which he finally did. I published the picture of him I took in Dan’s Papers, along with an article about that day, bright outside but dark inside.

At one time, bored out of my mind, I stealthily approached the house from the beach side—the shades were drawn—and actually got into a hallway where security people asked what I was doing there and then angrily escorted me back out. I felt embarrassed and ashamed to be doing this. I confess, to this today. Strike this from my IMDB.

I filled out a form at the Amagansett Fire House in 1998 and was selected to be an extra in the making of the Steven Spielberg executive-produced film Deep Impact, starring Robert Duvall, Tea Leoni, Elijah Wood, Vanessa Redgrave, Maximilian Schell and Morgan Freeman. The film is about a huge comet approaching the Earth that crashes into the sea, sending this 200-foot tsunami wave sweeping across the beach at Amagansett and subsequently all of civilization everywhere. We extras were to be down on the beach when the tsunami arrives, but in the end the film showed the two film stars down there on the empty beach, holding each other tight as the wave sweeps through.

Frankly, as I write this, I see how thin my film résumé is. But you never know. Anyway, I’m available if anyone’s interested.

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