A casting coordinator for The Avengers needed a string quartet for a pivotal scene to be filmed in Cleveland. A Google search brought her to zinquartet.com. She liked what she saw on the musicians' site and so did the film's director, Joss Whedon.
And that's how Toledo Symphony members Merwin Siu, Jennifer Burns, Tim Zeithamel, and Renee Goubeaux managed to score 30 seconds of screen time in the nearly 2 1/2-hour-long blockbuster.
The musicians appear as a string quartet at a museum party crashed by the film's main villain, the evil god Loki. It was the first film acting gig for the Toledoans, though their roles weren't that much of a departure from real life. Siu plays violin, Zeithamel and Burns play viola (she plays violin in the movie), and Goubeaux plays cello.
Their brief appearance took 15 hours to film, from 3 p.m. to 6 a.m. in one day.
"It was a huge scene with a lot of people," Mr. Siu said. "There was a lot of cat herding between each take."
Many movies cast actors to play musicians, but with the actual musicians on set, Whedon had them play Schubert's String Quartet in A Minor as well as play along to a prerecorded version.
"It was definitely a piece he had chosen to emit a certain mood," Mr. Siu said. "It was neat that he had spent some time thinking about the music."
Seeing himself in 3-D on an IMAX screen during the film's opening weekend left him suitably impressed.
"To see your own face on that size of a screen in 3-D is pretty surreal," Mr. Siu said. "With so many story lines going and so many scenes going on, you never really know if you're going to make it. It was a rewarding process to make it and even more rewarding to see myself on the screen."
Contact Kirk Baird at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6734.