At the age of 72, Jimmy McMullan has that Extra Factor - he has appeared as an extra (and in various small roles) in a galaxy of TV and film productions. And it continues this weekend with the start of Series Five in ‘Game of Thrones, the Sky TV classic filmed here in Northern Ireland.
The diminutive pensioner - all 5’5” of him - is in big demand in the province’s healthy film industry, having passed an interview back in 2008 to appear in the Tom Hanks produced ‘City of Ember’ (starring Bill Murray, Tim Robbins and Toby Jones). He has never looked back.
They mistook my height and produced an outfit for a 6’5” actorJimmy McMullan
Proudest moment was in Series Three of ‘Game of Thrones’ when he played The Sorcerer (three hours of hideous make-up) and he was delighted that his name appeared in the credits. “But it wasn’t simply ‘Jimmy McMullan’ - there was already an actor of that name and Equity doesn’t allow two, so I went up-market and was called my full title ‘Harold James McMullan’!”
‘Thrones’ is shot all over Northern Ireland, and Jimmy was extremely fiendish in the role. And he recalls that Sean Bean lost his head (literally) in the first series. “Poor chop!” Jimmy chuckles. “And Conleith Hill had another part of his anatomy removed, but we’ll not discuss that...”
Most of his roles have centred in Belfast, playing everything from a tramp (‘Christopher and his Kind’ with Dr Who actor Matt Smith) in a Belfast scene. “Trouble was, I needed the loo in that production and the staff at the designated hotel - for actors taking short - thought I was a real tramp and wouldn’t let me in, but one of the crew explained!”
He has played a beggar in a Nazi scene (again in Belfast) and “had a bit of craic pretending to beg from the public, but I was soon sussed.” And he was in a bar scene in ‘Occupation’ with James Nesbitt, not to mention another pub scene with Jamie Dornan (‘Fifty Shades of Grey’).
Other films where he has played in the background include ‘Mo Mowlam’ (starring the superb Julie Walters) and he has rubbed shoulders with the great Judi Dench in the classic offering ‘Philomena’, shot in Rostrevor. It was supposed to be filmed in the deep south of The Republic, but had the Mournes as its backdrop. “She walked along the main street chatting to local people - she was super,” said Jimmy.
Other credits include’ The Killing of Bono’. But humorous Jimmy recalls most of all the film he was called for, but in which he never appeared - ‘Dracula’. “They mistook my height and produced an outfit for a 6’5” actor. I’m a foot shorter than that, so I just went home! I still laugh at that.”
Jimmy’s wife Doris died three years ago and his pastime helps him cope.