Luling actor finds fortune, not fame

Craig Deroche with actor Burt Reynolds.
Craig Deroche with actor Burt Reynolds.

Any movie trivia lover who’s watched “Cat People,” “Stone Cold” and “Under Siege” may have recognized the same face in all three movies in the background – it’s Craig Deroche.

Okay, few would recognize him because he was an extra, but the Luling native’s name is in the production credits so he has some claim to fame. And, even though he hasn’t found Hollywood fame yet, it has gotten him an impressive number of opportunities to meet well-known people.

He’s got the photographs to prove it.

As a detective with the Long Beach Police Department in Mississippi, Deroche’s own life may be just as interesting as being an actor. But, as a theater student at Nicholls State University, he did have his heart set on becoming an actor and his resume’ now has a long list of acting roles ranging from commercials to movies.

They are small parts, but definitely big in matching his love for acting.

“It’s just super cool stuff I want to continue to do,” he said. “It’s about just having fun and the thrilling aspect of meeting stars who don’t mind taking a photo with you.”

But his list of star encounters reads like a Who’s Who of celebrities, including Patrick Wayne, Louise Mandrell, Mel Blanc, Jack Benny, G. Gordon Liddy, Willie Stargell, Joe DiMaggio, Andre’ the Giant, Mohammad Ali, Nastassja Kinski, John Heard, Annette O’Toole, Malcolm McDowell, Oliver Stone, Burt Reynolds Andrew Davis and Joe Pesci.

Deroche’s love for the entertainment business also helped him get to know cool people.

“Don Rickles was the nicest man,” he said. “I have a friend who is in the casino business and he invited me to meet him. I asked him what it was like to work with Clark Gable and he looks at me and slaps my face, jokingly, of course, and says, ‘My God, you are so young to remember my first movie.’”

Deroche said he did a few Gable impersonations and told him he was trying to break into films at the time.

“He told me how Frank Sinatra helped him after Mr. Sinatra saw his nightclub act, too,” he said. “I’m so glad to have met him because, like millions of other people, I was a big fan.”

Deroche’s acting goes back to his days growing up in Luling.

He wanted to do two things – be an actor and a police officer.

In a way, it worked out.

The latter emerged as his day job, but it wasn’t really a second choice as a career. In his family, Deroche learned respect for police and it made him think. In college, he got an acting job with a summer stock theatre in Virginia, which fit his plans perfectly – or so he thought.

It was 1983.

Deroche said he only made $55 a week doing off-season productions nationally – and he had a powerful urge to eat. When he returned to college, a friend invited him to do security work in New Orleans and he did it, but he also envisioned it as a place where he could get acting work on the side. His plans changed when he couldn’t advance his career with the State Police and took a friend’s advice that joining the military could provide the experience he needed to advance his policing career.

He joined the military.

For 10 years, Deroche traveled the world to countries like Cuba and Saudi Arabia. By 1998, he got a job as a police officer with the Long Beach Police Department and, 17 years later, he is still there.

During that time, though, Deroche also pursued acting roles.

He got an agent and then came to the “cattle calls.”

One of them was for a movie called “Cat People” being filmed in New Orleans. He’s the homeless guy in the background near the old mint. This is when he learned really good food is served at the service trucks on the sets.

By 1992, Deroche was hired as an extra for Oliver Stone’s movie, “JFK.”

He also auditioned for a speaking part, but was hired as an extra.

“They liked my FBI look,” Deroche said. “They allowed me to read for a role. I didn’t get it, but I was with Joe Pesci.”

Deroche’s work also includes earlier doing commercials for casinos and even Campo Furniture, all what he called “tidbit stuff,” but still loved doing it.

In real life, as a detective, he recounted meeting even more people on the job and how his drama background helps him communicate better.

“It’s not like the films and sometimes you have to get tough,” Deroche said. “One is make believe and the other’s not.”

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