Based on an actual historical event, Midway, now in theaters, steps back in time to when conflict escalated into war between the United States and Japan. The Battle of Midway, a decisive naval battle in the Pacific Theater of World War II, took place six months after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor between June 4 and 7, 1942.
When producers were looking for extras in the movie, Jenny Schmidt Smith, Navy wife and mother of four who grew up in Hillje, thought, why not? Her husband Jarrod, a commander in the Navy, was on shore duty the summer of 2018 when the casting call was held.
“Jarrod was stationed at Pearl Harbor working for Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet,” she said. “They had a casting call on base at Pearl Harbor.”
The Smiths had gone sight-seeing one day when they learned about the casting call, and Jenny told them “‘let’s go do this casting call.’”
To be considered as extras in the movie, she filled out forms, providing information about their family and some photos.
“They called two weeks later,” she said. “So many people were at the casting call. I had no idea what our chances were. We were really excited.”
Jenny, Jarrod and their two oldest children, Charlotte, who is 9, and Trenton, age 10, were asked to be extras.
For the Smiths, World War II was already more than just facts in a history book.
While Jarrod was stationed in Pearl Harbor for two years ending in July 2019, they lived in a 100-year-old home on Ford Island. From that house, they could see remnants of the war that took place more than 75 years ago.
“There was a plaque outside with the name of the service member who lived in the house when the Pearl Harbor attack happened,” she said. “The USS Utah, the first ship attacked at Pearl Harbor, was 100 yards from our front door. The ship rolled over and sank. Parts of the ship are still visible above water, and seeing this every day served as a reminder of what many sacrificed.”
“Ford Island is a little island in the middle of Pearl Harbor,” she said. “This is where the USS Arizona, USS Utah, USS Oklahoma and many other ships were moored the morning of the attacks on Pearl Harbor.”
Their home was also within walking distance of where the movie was filmed in September 2018. Because of the secrecy of the location, they were bused in for filming, which all took place in one day.
The family did some research prior to filming to get a better idea of the conflict during that time period.
“Living at Pearl Harbor for two years and getting to know so much of the history there really made the movie more real for us,” she said. “Before our film date, we did some research on the Battle of Midway and also watched the original Midway movie from 1976.”
Two weeks prior to filming, the four were called in for wardrobe fittings.
“It was a really neat experience,” Smith said. “They had this huge warehouse.”
The movie company also had a hair team on location and brought another team from Hollywood.
Jenny and the kids were in the last scene, her as a military wife with the children, while Jarrod, who was dressed in Navy khaki, was in three different scenes.
“It was a very long day,” she said. “We checked into wardrobe ... me for makeup and hair. It was super windy that day ... I got my hair done four times that day. And by the time we filmed the homecoming scene, the wind had died down a bit. Because of the scale of the scenes and the need for child actors, it was done on a non-school/work day.”
Her son Trenton needed to make a little adjustment to fit the appearance of that time period.
“Trenton got a haircut ... he was not too happy about that, but he got over it,” she said.
Jenny had to arrive three hours prior to Jarrod and the kids arrival time.
“My call time was 5 a.m. and Jarrod and the kids had an 8 a.m. call time,” she said. “By the time we wrapped set, checked out, and got home, it was after dark.”
For the “homecoming scene,” Jenny and the kids welcome home her movie Navy husband who returned safely from Midway. For this scene, it took several takes to “get it right. In the actual scene the kids and I were in, they filmed that scene 40 to 50 times ... it’s a one- to two-minute scene ... before bringing in the big actors,” she said. “We would do the same thing over and over. And you can’t talk, just mouthed and act like you’re talking. It wasn’t as fun as we thought it would be, but it was neat seeing it on the screen.”
Then they brought in the “big actors,” which they were not allowed to approach or talk to unless the actors initiated it.
“Ed Skrein and Mandy Moore were in the scene we were in,” she said. “Ed Skrein was really nice and came up to all of the kids after we wrapped set to tell them thank you.”
For the roles they played in Midway, the kids each made a little more than $100; Jenny got a check for $230, and Jarrod made $175. The kids put some of their money in savings.
Jenny and Jarrod met while attending Texas A&M University. During her husband’s Navy career, he was on a submarine in Guam right after they married. Then, he was stationed at Yorktown, Va. for shore duty, had an Afghanistan deployment and then aircraft carrier assignment.
“When Jarrod was on a submarine, we’d go without any contact at all for weeks,” she said. “I would sometimes worry about what would happen if things went wrong, but deep down I never feared that he wouldn’t come home.”
When he was in Afghanistan, they communicated with Skype “as often as we could,” she said. “On more than one occasion, the incoming bomb siren went off while we were on Skype. Jarrod would always email me as soon as possible after those events, but it was nerve-racking. Once again though, I had complete faith that he would come home.”
After Afghanistan, her husband was in postgraduate school in Monterey, Calif. and then shore duty at Mechanicsburg, Pa. with six months of duty in Bahrain.
The next move was to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii where they lived for two years and now their most recent move to Virginia in July of this year. Currently he is at Senior War College in Washington, D.C.
“Senior War College offers professional military education to senior officers of the U.S. Armed Forces,” she said.
This is the first and only film the Smith children have been in, however Jarrod has had a role as a background actor in one other film, and Jenny in two other films.
“We still have to be tight lipped on the details of those films,” she said.
These movies have not been released.
“But we’re excited to see them too,” she said.
Since the movie has been in theaters, the Smiths have seen it.
“The kids were super excited. Charlotte like to have jumped out of her chair when she saw herself. Overall we really enjoyed the movie. It was a wonderful war film that really showed the bravery of the sailors and pilots of that era,” she said. “We went into the movie knowing that film critics didn’t give it the best reviews. As the movie ended, Trenton leaned over and said, ‘Those critics got it all wrong. This movie was awesome!’”