AMESBURY — More than a year after Hollywood crews visited the area to film the Mel Gibson movie "Edge of Darkness," locals are flooding the theaters to catch a glimpse of local landmarks or their own backyards.
For weeks, film crews spent time in Merrimac and West Newbury, and hundreds of locals gathered to try to catch a peek of Gibson. At the premiere of the movie last night, Amesbury's Richard Syphers was hoping to catch a glimpse of himself.
Syphers, a commercial fisherman, was filmed driving his boat, the Janice Marie, down the Merrimack River in the scene where a car careens off a bank along Merrimac's River Road into the river.
"I'm curious to see if I'm in it or if I got cut," Syphers said.
Either way, Syphers, 50, said the experience of being an extra in the movie was a great one — he was hobnobbing with the stars, invited to the wrap party in Boston and was treated to free lunches with the rest of the cast.
"The food was fantastic — it was all five-star restaurant quality food," Syphers said. "Anything you'd like to eat, they had it. It was incredible. And you're right on the scene."
Syphers was able to chat with the cast, as well as director Martin Campbell, and brought his 17-year-old daughter, Ashleigh, to meet Gibson.
"I was able to have lunch with Mel a couple times and talk to him," Syphers said. "I'm his type of person — just like his movies, a little out of control. He gets wound up quick."
As to what a commercial fisherman has in common with a bona fide Hollywood superstar?
"I can talk fishing," said Syphers, of the State Pier Lobster Pound in Hampton, N.H. "I don't know much about movies, but can talk fishing all day long."
It's fishing that got him into the movie, actually. One of Syphers' friends was a prop worker on the set and asked Syphers to help obtain a Hampton Harbor green crab for a scene in which Mel Gibson has a shoot-out in Manchester-by-the-Sea.
"Mel takes a shot and goes out on the rocks and falls down," Syphers said. "He reaches into the tidal pool and picks up a crab, which makes his mind go back in time to when his daughter picked up a crab on the beach."
Syphers had also helped his prop worker friend obtain fish for "Furry Vengeance," a comedy starring Brooke Shields and Brendan Fraser, which was shot in Topsfield in July.
Syphers also had another connection with "Edge of Darkness": His brother-in-law helped set up the scene where the car plunges into the river and told Syphers that the production crew was looking for extras for background scenes. A longtime Mel Gibson fan, Syphers jumped at the opportunity.
"Edge of Darkness," an adaptation of the 1985 British television miniseries of the same name, stars Gibson as a police detective who investigates his daughter's death, uncovering corruption that led to her murder. It is Gibson's first movie since 2002.
For Syphers, who keeps a few autographed photos of Gibson in his home as mementos, he hopes the movie is Gibson's big comeback. And whether or not he sees himself on the big screen, Syphers said the experience was unparalleled.
"It was a great experience, and Mel's a great guy," Syphers said. "We're big Mel fans — always have been and always will be."