PHOENIXVILLE >> Phoenixville native Charles Kronmuller, a pilot by trade, recently found his way into the blockbuster franchise “The Hunger Games,” playing a pilot on the big screen.
Kronmuller answered a casting call in September 2013 for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1,” which was shooting near Atlanta, Ga., where he currently resides.
“They were looking for someone who is a fighter pilot that had experience on an aircraft carrier flight deck,” said Kronmuller, a graduate of Phoenixville Area High School. “Many films are filmed here in Atlanta. I have a major Hollywood studio four miles from my house. There’s a lot of opportunity to do extra work for people that want to act in the Atlanta area.”
After graduating from PAHS, Kronmuller enlisted in the Marine Corps, and then became an officer. From there, he became a fighter pilot and then went on to be an airline pilot. Kronmuller has flown combat operations in Bosnia and in Iraq and flew an FA-18 in the Marine Corps for 10 years. He said his background as a fighter pilot qualified him to answer the casting call.
The part of a hover craft pilot during a rescue scene was originally a non-speaking role, but while preparing to shoot his scene, directors took note of Kronmuller’s extensive knowledge around the cockpit.
“Initially I was hired as an extra. I’ve been a pilot for 30 years. I think that got noticed by the director, the fact that I wasn’t really acting, I was very natural,” he said. “Instead of just sitting there, he cast me to do some things and I did them very convincingly. We kind of cliqued, the director that day, Christopher Surgent. So he gave me a speaking part. Basically it went from an extra, to a Cinderella story of getting a part in this major movie.”
Kronmuller said he took the role mainly for the experience and hopes his story of ending up in a hugely successful film will inspire young people in Phoenixville to try new things and to follow their dreams.
“The reason I answered the casting call — I went for the experience of doing something new. Go out there and do things in life. Do what you’re not comfortable with. It could turn into something that’s watched by hundreds of millions of people.
“Just because we grew up in this little ex-steel town doesn’t mean that we cannot do something great enough that could be seen by a million people. It doesn’t mean you’re limited. I take a lot of pride in being from Phoenixville, Pennsylvania,” Kronmuller continued. “Just be open, be authentic. Be open to new things, because you never know what can happen. To be part of something that you know is going to be seen by millions of people is a wonderful feeling.”
Kronmuller said he enjoyed the excitement of doing something new and working in front of the camera. He also noted the intense pressure of filming a scene with hundreds of cast and crew people watching.
“It was very exciting, but it was a lot of pressure at the same time because a lot people are counting on you not to screw up. Throw in the pressure that this is going to be seen by a couple hundred million people. … It was very exciting, but a lot of pressure. Hundreds of people go in to the making of a movie. You spend days for seconds of a shot. It’s overwhelming; you can’t imagine how much money is being spent. It’s thrilling to be part of that exciting experience.”
Kronmuller said he met different actors in the film, including Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. He said he enjoyed his time on set with Hoffman, who died just days later.
“We filmed together on Tuesday and actually Saturday he was dead. That was hard. We bantered together.”
He added, “Probably the highlight of the whole thing was I got makeup done less than three feet away from Jennifer Lawrence. It was just me and Jennifer Lawrence in makeup together. They are just people like we are. They followed their dreams. When you follow your dreams, great things can happen.”
“Mockingjay – Part 1” was released on DVD and Blu-ray earlier this month and is available in stores now.