For 55-year old Bayonne resident, Michael Delbert, being an extra in a Spielberg film was the thrill of a life time.
"I would have to say that beside getting married and seeing my two daughters born, being an extra for the movie was one of the most exciting events in my life," he said. "Meeting Tom Cruise and being an arms length next to Steven Spielberg was really something else."
Delbert went to Bayonne High School last October for a Saturday call for extras.
"They didn't say what the movie was or who was in it," he recalled. "I filled out a small information sheet and the man in charge there took a photo of me."
Three weeks later on a Sunday morning, the studio called.
"Michael would you like to be in the movie War of the Worlds?" the man asked.
Delbert said, "Sure."
Delbert later reported to the former Military Ocean Terminal in Bayonne where Paramount had rented studio space as well as space for special effects. Here, Delbert was confronted with hundreds of racks of clothing.
"They fitted me with workmen clothes (Longshoreman look), took another photo and said I'll get a call," he recalled.
When the film crews arrived in early November, Delbert had to report to the A&P parking lot on Avenue A from where they were driven in white vans to the area of the shoot at the foot of the Bayonne Bridge.
Paramount had three large white tents - which it would transport to each of the film shoots - one for wardrobe, one for makeup and the other for dinning. Delbert went to wardrobe, got assigned his clothing, then went to breakfast.
"There were hot trays of everything imaginable that you could eat for breakfast," he said.
Afterwards, he was escorted to the makeup tent where they sat in high chairs in front of mirrors that were framed in lights. The staff applied "dust" to each of the extras, putting dust on their heads, faces, necks and clothing. So extras were luck and were decorated with fake blood.
Still dark outside, Delbert and others finally made their way to the set around the corner where Paramount had constructed a phony gas station.
The landscape was littered with cameras, lights and large screens as well as an assortment of cars with their hoods up along lower Kennedy Boulevard. Crews had watered down the streets so that the asphalt glistened. People strolled around with hand held fog machines, creating an eerie effect.
"We were in the Panic Crowd scene and both actors and extras (were) scattered in different position along First Street waiting for the call from the crew," Delbert recalled.
The scene which has since been depicted in trailers for the upcoming film, Cruise leaves his house with his house and walks hurriedly towards the gas station. When he reached the corner, someone shouted, "Background! Action!" Delbert ran towards Cruise then passed him.
"I almost ran into (Cruise) on about three different re-sets/takes," Delbert said. "In that scene I'm running behind Miranda Otto, the actress who plays Tom Cruise's estranged wife. She is screaming with two other actors along side of her, and all hell is breaking loose."
Extras were never told why they were running but later, as the trailer shows, special effects has Bayonne Bridge exploding.
After each take, the extras went back to their original positions, received more dust and waited for their cues.
"They (the staff) were professional in every way and a credit to Paramount," Delbert said, recalling running a lot.
Delbert said Cruise always seemed energized, anticipating the scene and friendly with the people around him.
"We both said our hellos to each other between one of the takes," Delbert said.
At times extras were mingled with the professional actors and Delbert recalled on actor saying, "It doesn't get any better than this: Tom Cruise & Steven Spielberg."
In another scene, Delbert got to stand next to the Voyager van the Cruise character steals from the gas station - less than an arm's length away. As depicted in the trailer, Cruise drives the van up Kennedy Boulevard as the bridge explodes behind him. Delbert said there were a lot of retakes so he go to stand next to him a lot.
Cruise traveled to and from the set via a black SUV truck, often sitting out the lull between takes in his trailer with satellite dish.
Delbert described Spielberg as "the master on the set."
"His presence, with assistance around him was awesome," Delbert said. "He was sampling cookies in front of us and they looked good."
Extras hardly starved. Meals consisted of filet migon, shrimp, rib eye steak as well as an assortment of vegetables. Desserts included ice cream, cake and, yet, cookies.
"When my last day was over, I wanted more," Delbert said. "Asked by someone, would I do it again, I said yes, in a heartbeat."
War of the Worlds staring Tom Cruise will make its New York City premier on June 24 at the theater and will make its debut in Bayonne's Cinema 12 on June 29.