There’s an old adage, often attributed to Emily Dickinson, which says that if you take care of the small things, the big things will take care of themselves. In the case of David Fincher’s Gone Girl, Lindsay McGrail and her team of law enforcement experts are to thank for their attention to detail when it came to sweating the small stuff.
As an actor and trained nurse, McGrail was brought on board the film to assist in a sequence during which evidence is collected from a character after an alleged sexual assault. “It was a small scene, and very specific,” she says. “I worked with another nurse and we collaborated with the art department, make-up and props to go over the (administration of) a rape kit.”
And as is often the case in Hollywood, the moment is a bit blink-and-you’ll-miss it one. “At the end of the day, the rape kit was a blur in the background and never used in the scene,” she admits. “This happens all the time.”
Getting these details right has always been important to McGrail. As the co-founder of agency Hollywood Detectives, McGrail has specialized in providing the industry with skilled supporting actors capable of performing the functions of law enforcement and emergency services.
“I saw a niche that needed to be filled,” she explains of the company she co-founded with bounty hunter Art Torres. “We provide producers complete packages of skilled actors to play police, sheriffs, L.A.P.D., S.W.A.T. and real private investigators and bounty hunters.”
As much as McGrail and Torres strive for authenticity, “What we have to remember is the audience isn’t looking at our work,” she admits. “They’re looking at the characters and the story, and the work is only there to make it look good and believable.”
In the case of Gone Girl, McGrail wonders whether law enforcement professionals might cast a curious gaze over some of the police work on show. But the story works regardless. “There’s a beautiful dance of the real and the imagined that makes movies, movies,” she concedes.
McGrail’s nursing skills will be put to work again soon, as a technical advisor and E and Sloan’s Lamaze coach in the Entourage movie. At the other extreme of budget, she’s just as proud of her work with a group of USC filmmakers on a short about human sex trafficking, Only Light. “It was an amazing experience watching these students come together to shed light on a subject that is very dear to my heart.”
That passion and talent is contagious, McGrail enthuses, and it’s what keeps her doing what she’s doing. “They say real life isn’t interesting; perhaps on the big screen that’s true. Then again, perhaps if it were, many people would be out of work.”