As middle schoolers in Columbus, Ohio, Gunnar Vogel and his friends believed they had found a loophole in their history classes.
“We realized that when we had projects at the end of the year that, like if we made a video and put together lines and stuff, that we would get an ‘A’ no matter what just cuz the teacher knew how long it would take us to put it together,” Vogel said. “So we did that maybe like five or six times in middle school.”
Whatever the motivation for Vogel’s movie-making, his nascent acting career was underway. He said he admired Robin Williams growing up.
“I feel like I’m always kind of had like the goofy actor kind of personality,” Vogel said.
Of course, Vogel grew to be 6-foot-6 and 286 pounds — more like Andre the Giant than Robin Williams.
Now an offensive tackle at Northwestern, Vogel got a chance to prove his acting chops once again this past spring. This time, it wasn’t for class credit.
Alex Herz, a filmmaker and 2018 Northwestern graduate, was creating a movie called “Men of Clay”, a modern interpretation of a medieval Jewish fairy tale called The Golem of Prague in which a Prague rabbi creates and brings to life a giant man of clay to protect the city’s Jews from anti-Semitic attacks.
“I knew I needed somebody pretty large to play the monster and I figured like a football player is going to be bigger than the average Northwestern student,” Herz said.
Herz contacted RTVF major Lloyd Yates, a former NU football player, to ask for potential actors on the football roster. Vogel said he was excited for the opportunity.
“When Alex asked me to do it. I jumped all over it because I thought it was going to be funny,” he said. “I just thought it would be awesome to get to wear a costume and, you know, just act like a monster.”
To create the costume, Herz said he had to measure Vogel’s dimensions with a tailor’s measure tape, before sending the information away to company in Los Angeles, who constructed the Golem suit. At first glance, Vogel was “shocked” by the size of the suit.
“I know I’m a pretty big guy, but I don’t really realize it most of the time because I’m around a lot of other big guys,” Vogel said. “But when I was just looking at the suit that was fit to me, it looked just ginormous.”
The shoot took place over an April weekend in Evanston, summing up to 16 hours.
“Definitely not even close to as bad as Kenosha,” Vogel said.
Vogel didn’t have any lines in the 11-minute short, but he did his best to channel Herz’s directions.
“Be Frankenstein in this costume,” Herz recalled telling Vogel. “Imagine that you have to think before you make every move.”
Vogel said that staying still, a cardinal sin for an offensive lineman, was difficult in the suit. Still, he felt prepared for the role.
“I think it was probably easier than it would have been for somebody who’s never done anything like that,” he said. “But I’m sure it would be so much harder if you had to have lines in there that you had memorized.”
Vogel’s director heaped on the praise:
“Even when I was editing kind of forgot there was somebody in the suit,” Herz, an award-winning director, said. “To me, it was just a character in and of itself and I think that speaks a lot to Gunnar’s ability to portray this character.”
The movie has been submitted to several film festivals, but hasn’t been accepted yet, according to Herz. He expects the film to be released online at some point in 2019.
Vogel, who has his own IMdb.com page now, called the acting experience “enjoyable”, saying he hopes to act more in the future. Perhaps a speaking role is in the cards.
“I think I can handle it,” he said.