When the call went out for little people, 55-year-old Dan Cota answered.
Cota, a Bowling Green resident employed as a desktop support specialist at Toledo Hospital, drove to Detroit to audition for the big-budget Disney film Oz the Great and Powerful. The prequel to The Wizard of Oz was casting Munchkins, and dozens of dwarves in the region were auditioning.
“They selected most of us,” Cota said.
Cota appears in four scenes: a funny song-and-dance number that introduces the Munchkins to Oz (James Franco); when the Wicked Witch of the West (Mila Kunis) first arrives to terrorize the land of Oz (look for Cota screen right to the green-skinned villainess); with other Munchkins as they assemble gunpowder for missiles and fireworks, and briefly during the subsequent missile launch.
“It’s all a total of eight to 10 seconds onscreen,” he said.
For that Cota took leave of absence from his job to spend 2½ months in a high-tech film studio in Pontiac, Mich., working 12-hour days that sometimes didn’t end until 2 a.m. Along with much of the cast, Cota was put up in a hotel by the studio, which kept him and his wife, Karen, apart for most of that time.
Cota’s days began with an early breakfast, followed by two hours of makeup, and then standing ready on the set, or, at least for his first few weeks, working through the choreography of the Munchkins’ routine.
“We spent more time learning the dance maneuverers than anything else," he said. “Some learned it faster than others. I didn’t find it all that hard to learn.” Not bad for the Fargo, N.D., native whose only acting experience until then was in local productions of The Wizard of Oz and Lend Me a Tenor.