Disney film features local Plymouth man


Mar. 28, 2013  PLYMOUTH VOICE.


Measuring only four foot two inches while standing as straight as possible, Dan Gruenwald is happy with his height, or lack thereof, and his good physical condition that landed him a once-in-a-lifetime acting job in the major Walt Disney movie, Oz the Great and Powerful, considered a prequel to the 1939 classic, Wizzard of Oz.

Gruenwald is like a lot of the other kids who grew up in Plymouth that attended Central Middle School and Canton High School. But, one difference is Dan is a bit short.

Gruenwald who was born with a genetic disorder, Dwarfism, was a popular student and athletic-type guy who coached junior varsity wrestling and he found out he’s still is in pretty good physical condition for his 36 young years.

In 2011, Gruenwald along his fiancée spotted an ad in the Detroit Free Press for a casting call asking for extras for a new movie to be filmed in Pontiac’s Michigan Motion Picture Studios.

“The only requirement was you had to be 4’, 10” and under, and I’m 4’2”. Gruenwald said with a big smile describing the initial 3-hour interview and exacting measurement tests at the studio. “Some people hunched over while others stood on their toes.”

On the first long screening day, the nearly 100 respondents who met the height test were also evaluated for their ability to perform rigorous physical activity, and weighed. While Gruenwald easily passed the physical tests, he was over the 128-pound weight limit and worried he would be rejected. He said he passed the height requirement but weighed in at 148 pounds but wasn’t too sure he’d be accepted.

In the interim weeks before the next scheduled follow-up interview, he went on a crash diet and lost 20 pounds. He knew the studio was looking for extras that could sing, dance and perform stunts, and he had no formal training with song and dance routines; but felt he could possibly do the stunts.

After weeks went by, Dan learned he had a part and was going to choreography class. It was a 4-week affair, with a lot of memorization. Gruenwald was made to look much older with a two hour make-up appointment every day.

Before the year end and the filming was over Walt Disney Pictures-Roth Films, Gruenwald and all the cast extras would spend over 100 days and $200 million as they filmed the classic movie which starred James Faranco as Oz, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, and Michelle Williams.

With the blessing of his boss, he took a leave of absence for one month, which turned into two. “I gambled on the outcome, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be in a classic Walt Disney money”, Gruenwald said, “And it was a great experience.” He was selected to play the part of three different Muchkins. The stunts Gruenwald performed were very “grueling”, he said. “My shoulders were all bruised.”

Gruenwald, is a very well liked l7-year employee of a Plymouth Township company as a shipping and receiving manager.  On March 8, opening night for the film his boss rented a theater at the Emagine Complex in Novi and invited 200 of his friends, colleagues and their families to watch the movie. “I’m still on cloud nine.” he said.

When asked if he’d like to make acting a career, Gruenwald responded, “I’d like to do it again, but I don’t want to risk my great job, friends and family, and my home. |News Plymouth Michigan

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