I was an Oscars seat filler

Sitting in front of the TV discussing the red carpet is always fun, but didn't compare to the year I actually attended the Academy Awards.

I hadn't been nominated, as such. I hadn't actually even been invited. But I managed to score every out-of-work actor in Los Angeles's dream job — to be an Oscar night seat filler.


Theatres around the world employ fillers for televised events, so that when the camera captures an audience shot, there's a bum in every chair. It just wouldn't do for those at home to see a half-filled venue. But who's going to tell Russell Crowe he can't step outside for a smoke or Halle Berry she can't reapply mascara during the Achievements in Film Editing montage? Hence the filler, and this year my behind was to have the distinction of warming chairs while the glitterati powdered their noses.

Lights, camera, action

At last the big day arrived. Brimming with excitement in my borrowed tuxedo, I took the stairs of the Kodak Theatre two at a time and bounded inside to attend my "seat filler briefing". The first few rows from the stage were filled with several dozen similarly excited young people dressed in high school formal attire. "This is amazing!" one girl gushed. "I'm going to die when I see Tom Cruise!" We were so star-struck, we failed to notice a tiny, severe-looking woman in bright yellow taffeta take to the stage.

Enter shrew, stage left

"That's enough!" Throwing her clipboard to the floor, the woman glowered. "I'm Francine and I'm in charge of butts in chairs. There is to be a butt in every chair at all times tonight. And your butts," she leered, "are mine." Francine placed hands on hips for emphasis, taffeta engulfing her little fists. "Your job is to always be ready. If Harrison Ford even thinks about having a bowel movement, you need to be in his lap."

Though only five feet tall, I was convinced Francine could kill me instantly, and without breaking a single one of her press-on nails. "You are not to speak to anyone unless spoken to. Don't smile, don't talk, don't look anyone in the eye. As far as the attendees are concerned, you aren't even here. Break these rules and I call security. Now, melt into the wallpaper." Fully briefed and slightly terrified, I assumed my position in the wings.


At long last every seat was filled with an attendee and it was time to get to work. All eyes were on Whoopi Goldberg as she opened the ceremony — all eyes apart from mine, which were firmly trained on Ethan Hawke's furrowing brow (is that an "I've got to pee" face? Or is he just gassy?). I took a sprinter's stance, ready to leap at any moment. The ball boys at Wimbledon had nothing on me.

Ethan must've used the loo before arriving at the theatre, as he never required my services. The same was true for most of the gentlemen in attendance (though the women were a different story entirely — Kate Winslet's seat filler had a full-blown cardio workout dashing back and forth each time Winslet wee'd). I managed to fill a few seats of the vaguely famous, but the night would have been a celeb-meeting non-event had I not required the men's room myself.

Fancy meeting you here

Hours of standing and dashing in and out of crowded aisles had taken their toll and I couldn't hold it any longer. Francine hadn't said anything about what to do if we had to go (did seat-fillers have seat-fillers?) so I slunk from my spot on the wallpaper to the restroom, stage right. I walked up to a urinal and, mid-stream, a pleasant-looking guy about my age stepped up to the porcelain next to me.

"Good night so far?" he asked.

"Yeah, you know," I replied. "Just another night at the Oscars. How about you?"

"Oh, it's been pretty good. I'm tired of all the getting up and down, though!" he said with a conspiratorial chuckle.

Now this is where I made a serious miscalculation. I assumed that my bathroom buddy was speaking of his role as seat filler, not as an attendee whose ups and downs were direct responses to Oscar handouts. He was just a 20-something dude in an ill-fitting tux like me.

"Yup," I sighed, "gets old after a while. But that's why they pay us the big bucks."

"Exactly," he grinned.

"Gotten any good ones so far?" I asked him.

"Oh, one or two," he chuckled, doing up his trousers.

"It's been a bit of a slow one for me," I said. "I did Will Smith's sister, then I almost got to do Nicole Kidman before she changed her mind at the last minute. But the person I really, really want to do tonight is Orlando Bloom."

"Um," my buddy managed. "Orlando is a pretty great guy."

At this point I got my first full-frontal look at my assumed colleague in the mirror. The shock. The horror. "Oh. My. God." I stood slack-jawed for a moment, looking at Elijiah Wood. "You're not a seat filler. You're a hobbit!" The words were out of my mouth before I realised it.

Oh, the shame

"Right…" said Elijah as he made his way back to his seat, presumably occupied by one of my peers.

I stood there for a few eternal moments, imagining the gleeful hobbits as they told Francine of my indiscretion. She'd blacklist me from the industry! As a failed seat filler, I'd never work in this town again. At that point on Hollywood's night of nights, I slunk into an empty toilet stall, locked the door and hid until I was positive Elijah would have left the building, thus forfeiting the chance to relieve Orlando so he could relieve himself.

On second thoughts, watching the Academy Awards in front of the telly wasn't so bad this year after all…

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User comments
When I was in the defence forges from the NATO I was station in Muchen clabach where Elvis Presly was station. one Night I was walking to the centre of the city when a Jeep pass me by He stop and ask me of I wanted a Lift I yes and jump in I look who he was and I ask him his name he say ElVIS PRESLY o I say you a Guitar player and singer and we start to talk he was on his way to his mother who he had broughd to Germany. he was anice person to talk to and after he drop me of in the city etc
Yeah, so I was lost in Sydney with a friend a few years back, and I pulled a couple guys up to ask how to get to Oxford St. Little did I know that I was actually asking Guy Pearce..I didnt realise til I walked a few meters away, and had a think about the faces I just looked at...I turned back and yelled as quick as I could 'Hey! Isn't that Guy Pearc"?'..he turned to me, smiled and kept walking..sigh....
It's a good story, but unfortunately, this story has been run verbatim in previous years. Perhaps you could editi it to read "I was a seat filler at the Oscars in 2008" Like I said though, it's a good story,
Any advice on how to become a seat filler at this year's Academy Awards? I have been trying to find out how for about 3 months. Thanks for any help you can offer!
I go to a few shows a year, sometimes getting backstage. While at the BET Awards backstage, beyonce walked right in front of me and I didn't recognize her till she was maybe 5 feet away and suprisingly she said hi to me first! i've also mistaken d-listers for other stars as well, lol
Well I think they are just people doing a job, a highyl overpaid job at that, they do the same things every other human being does, and command some outrageous amount of money for it, and some them even *** it on mindless rubbish. I am sick of these rich people flaunting what THEY have and with that look at me attitude, when the economy is on a serious downturn, they could do so much more with their money, let them survive on our menial wage for a year and see how long they last. I am sick of so called celebrities, over them completely.
Was at a cosy london pub in quiet but posh suburb of London with my friend. Enter Sean Bean and his girlfriend and they sat down beside us in the corner of the small room. Of course, I was the only person in the world who hadn't heard of him but I did wonder what a pretty young blonde woman was doing with a scruffy, rough looking, jean-torn old fella. A girl got up from a nearby table and asked for his autograph. I wondered why she said she is his biggest fan. My friend said his name was "Sean somebody". When his girlfriend and my friend got up to use the bathroom, Mr Bean slid one seat closer to me and started to chat me up. Of course, I didn't know him from a bar of soap so I smiled nicely and said Hi and looked away...Our companions came back within a few minutes. After a small conversation from them as to what food we managed to buy from the bar, they said goodnight and were off.