Arts & Entertainment

A lot more than a bit part: Small acting gigs a big deal for Tri-City man with nonspeaking role in 'Twilight'

Dave Trader's had an eventful life -- railroad clerk, school and tour bus driver, nature lover, horse trainer, actor.

Though the West Richland man has never had a speaking role in his acting gigs, he doesn't consider that a bad thing.

"I've auditioned for speaking parts before but never got them," Trader said. "But it didn't matter to me whether I had a speaking role or not. Sometimes just being an extra in a scene is memorable, and I've been lucky that I have a look filmmakers are interested in from time to time."

A distinctive look

Trader, 69, is a tall man with long, white/gray hair and beard and enough cragginess in his face to be photogenic, he said.

His distinctive look earned him a bit role in the movie Twilight, which opens in theaters Nov. 21.

Another distinguishing look for Trader is his baseball cap stuffed with feathers, which has become his trademark in the industry.

"During the filming of Twilight, the director (Catherine Hardwicke) tapped me on the shoulder one day and said, 'That is a great hat,' " Trader said. "I'm wearing it in the scene I'm in during the film."

Trader's unique look also earned him a part in the 1994 film Maverick as well as The Hunted, Zero Effect and a flock of TV movies. He's also been in a few commercials.

"I played one of the people watching the high stakes poker game on the sternwheeler," he said. "I really enjoyed taking part in that film. The headline actors (Jodie Foster and Mel Gibson) were very cool."

He even had a few opportunities to chat with Foster between scenes and found her to be charming, highly intelligent and loads of fun to be around.

Working in the Northwest

Most of the work he's done was filmed in Oregon and Washington, which kept him close to home. The boat scenes in Maverick were filmed in the Columbia River Gorge, and Twilight was filmed in Vernonia, Ore.

"I was actually cast for two roles in Twilight, but one of those ended up getting cut from the film," Trader said. "In the other scene, I'm a fisherman walking down the streets of this small town called Forks. I'm wearing my trademark hat with the feathers."

Trader said he won't know if his scene ended up on the cutting room floor until the movie premieres.

"I don't worry too much about it," he said. "Another role will come along eventually, and I'm pretty busy with other stuff in the meantime."

From railroad to acting

Trader grew up in Milwaukee and moved to Los Angeles to work for the Union Pacific Railroad as a clerk in the 1960s. There, he became friends with Terry Leonard, a movie stuntman/actor/unit director.

Leonard introduced Trader to Chuck Roberson, who was John Wayne's movie double for decades.

"Chuck had a ranch where he trained horses for movie work," Trader said. "And that's where I first got interested in training horses."

Trader learned a lot about the movie business from Leonard and Roberson, he said. He used that insight to gain a better understanding about everything that's involved in making movies."

There's a tremendous amount of down time in acting, he said.

"Sometimes hours go by before you're needed on the set," Trader said. "Some people read, some listen to their iPods. I use that time to get a better understanding of the role I'm doing. Doesn't matter to me that I'm just an extra. It's important to know exactly what I need to do when the director needs me to do it."

And that, he said, is one of the key elements of making it as an actor, whether it's a speaking role or a nonspeaking one. And talent and looks shouldn't be the only thing an up-and-coming actor should focus on.

"If I was to give any advice to young people seeking an acting career, I'd tell them to lose the 'me, me, me' attitude and focus on everything that's happening in a film because the more you know how to please, the better your chances are at being chosen for a part."

Trader moved to Oregon after retiring from the railroad. He worked for the Oregon School District for a time before retiring again about three years ago. That's when he moved to the Tri-Cities, where his daughter lives.

"Most of my life, I played it safe," Trader said. "I have never been a risk taker," he said. But that all changed when the acting bug kicked in.

"Acting has been an adventure, that's for sure," Trader said. "And I find I like it."

*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com

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