Tina Holliday and her 9-year-old son Cole burst into applause, excited that their favorite wrestler, Mil Máscaras, was winning his match. Quickly, their excitement turned into horror as Máscaras ripped the mask off his opponent, Neutron, only to reveal that — gasp! — Neutron was actually a green-faced monster.
Terrified and screaming, Holliday and her son ran out of the arena to save their lives. Once safe, they went back to their seats to do it over again. All of this on cue, of course.
The Hollidays were two of about 350 at the Missouri Theatre on Monday night for the filming of “Mil Máscaras vs. The Aztec Mummy,” a lucha libre film shot largely on the MU campus and downtown.
Lucha libre is a Mexican film genre that combines masked wrestler superheroes and acting. “Mil Máscaras” is the first lucha libre film in English.
While Holliday is not very familiar with the genre, she said, “Filming has been very interesting. I’ve never been on a set before.” Holliday, who is from Jefferson City, said she decided to be an extra because Cole wants to be an actor.
Producer Colin LaVaute said that production, which began in December, is going well. “Everyone in Columbia has been great, and people have been very cooperative,” he said. “People are willing to work on it because not many films are made around here.”
While much of the cast and crew are from Hollywood, the second lead is played by Shakespeare’s co-owner Kurt Mirtsching. Mirtsching first became involved with the film when his two daughters auditioned for small speaking roles. Upon their suggestion, he tried out and was surprised when he landed the role of The Professor, who is a close friend and adviser of Mil Máscaras.
“They were going to have a paid Hollywood actor to play The Professor, but they found me and said, ‘He’s adequate, and he’s free,’ ” Mirtsching said with a laugh. He even wears his own suit in the movie and gave out Shakespeare’s gift certificates to extras, making his role especially cost-efficient.
Although he’s participated in community theater, this is Mirtsching’s first experience acting professionally. Mirtsching is excited to be working on the film, but described it as “a lot of work.”
There are big Hollywood names in the movie, however. Willard Pugh of “The Color Purple” plays a police officer. Mil Máscaras, who stuntman Daniel Flynn described as “the Mexican equivalent of Hulk Hogan,” is the most recognized name in the lucha libre genre and has made 17 movies.
With bulging muscles and a gigantic chest, Máscaras wears black spandex with a touch of silver sequins. While Máscaras speaks a little English, the native Spanish speaker will be dubbed on the film, as is the tradition in lucha libre.
Despite the broken air conditioner and the fact that they were working for free, the hundreds of extras seemed excited to have a part in the film.
Rock Bridge High School senior Alex Olson spent the day handing out flyers for the film, and then became an extra herself. While not interested in acting, she said, “I like movies enough to want to know how they’re made. It’s slow and a little boring sometimes, but when they get it going, it’s really fun to see.”