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City Councilor ‘transformed’ into actor

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Posted: Thursday, June 30, 2011 12:00 am

Beloit City Councilor Eric Newnham appears as an extra in the new Transformers movie

Eric Newnham went from the Beloit City Hall forum to a Hollywood movie set.

The Beloit City Councilor and owner of Denali’s restaurant can be seen as an extra in “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” The third film in this blockbuster series opened nationwide Wednesday in 2-D and 3-D.

“I’m thrilled to be a tiny piece of this amazing production,” Newnham said. “Everyone should see the film. They’re really going to love it.”

Newnham is inviting the community to see the film along with himself at a special showing of “Transformers” Friday at 7 p.m. at the Marcus Theatres in Menomonee Falls.

The Beloit native and his fellow extras will receive the star treatment as they will be arriving in limousines wearing their costumes before entering the theater on a red carpet. They are expected to arrive between 6 and 6:30 p.m.

“It should be pretty fun,” he said. “I hope people attend. It’s good for Beloit as well. It’s generating a lot of excitement.”

For instance, he said TV crews from Madison and Milwaukee are expected to line the red carpet.

Newnham has had to wait about a whole year for the big premiere.

In order to try out to be an extra, he had to wait in line along with thousands of others on the streets of downtown Milwaukee last June on a blistering hot day.

Newnham, who was selected as one of 25 men and 25 women, filmed his scenes in and around the Milwaukee Art Museum on two just as blistering hot, long days last July. He was careful not to disclose too many details, but he said he plays a business executive in a non-speaking role who can be seen in shots in and around the museum.

“People were constantly moving,” Newnham said of his experience on set. “I can’t say enough of how impressed I was with the crew. They were just so professional. Every little attention to detail was addressed and to the most minute detail. Everyone was professional and obviously focused on creating an amazing movie.”

Naturally since it was a movie set, Newnham got to see up close and personal stars like Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Patrick Dempsey, as well as director Michael Bay.

“They were everyday folks,” Newnham said of the stars, whom he said their privacy he respected. “Everyone was very nice.”

Often he would be seated at just a few tables away from some of the stars at the breakfasts and lunches they shared together in an air-conditioned tent, and another time he had a close encounter with LaBeouf when the two were at breakfast by themselves.

Playing an extra in “Transformers,” however, wasn’t Newnham’s first brush with fame.

An acting major at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., he had the opportunities to play a minor, speaking role in “Karate Kid Part II” and a principal role in a TV movie. He got offered these roles while on spring break his senior year of high school in Los Angeles, but he had to turn down the roles because he didn’t want to drop out of Beloit Memorial High School.

“I wish I would’ve taken (those roles), but my life has been very exciting and interesting, so I’m perfectly happy,” Newnham said.

Newnham, who has also taken acting classes at Beloit College, continues to stay involved in the film industry by working on a film with one of his friends. Called “Integration,” the film tells the story of his friend’s grandmother’s experience in a Russian concentration camp.

Due to the impact and excitement generated over films, Newnham also hopes Wisconsin’s film tax credits get reinstated. He believes films shot in Wisconsin can bring lots of tourism dollars and encourage people to visit or re-visit the area.

Meanwhile, he encourages people who can’t make Friday’s showing in Menomonee Falls to see “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” here at Beloit’s Luxury 10 Cinemas.

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