Saving the world from certain doom is hard enough, but try spending a day as a movie extra: endless hours on your feet, stricter bathroom breaks than on a cross-country road trip, nondairy creamer shortages. After braving more than 12 hours on the set of The Dark Knight—the newest installment of director Christopher Nolan’s revival of the Batman franchise, filmed largely in Chicago last summer and hitting theatres July 18th—we managed to come away with a few insights into moviemaking: (1) Maggie Gyllenhaal (in for Katie Holmes as assistant district attorney Rachel Dawes) has an itsy, bitsy waist. (2) Aaron Eckhart likes Red Delicious apples—or at least we saw him eat one, once. He’s also a slave to his BlackBerry. (3) Gary Oldman, on the other hand, is a ham who entertains cast and crew alike with his antics. (4) All film crew types wear cargo pants . . . (5) . . . except Nolan, who’s nattier than a real-life Bruce Wayne.

Paparazzo-like moments aside (and no, we didn’t manage to spy Christian Bale or Heath Ledger), life as an extra resembles nothing so much as waiting in line for concert tickets. By our count, we stood on LaSalle Street with about 300 fellow Chicagoans, including many off-duty CPD officers and others who, like us, donated our $65 pay to local nonprofits. If you go see the movie, we’re all part of a key scene involving lots of police. When the cops scatter, check out those two mops of hair crouching behind the third car on the right. That’s us! Twelve hours of work for 0.8 second of screen time in one of the blockbusters of the summer. Top that, Meryl Streep. 

Photograph: Courtesy of Warner Brothers