Dark Fields Star Abbie Cornish Uses BWP’s PT Expert!

What do you have to do to score a taste of Hollywood in Philly? Be a great physical therapist

When a casting agency called Excel Physical Therapy and Fitness two Mondays ago looking for a physical therapist to assist Australian actress Abbie Cornish (best known for her role in Candy, opposite Heath Ledger) on the film set of Dark Fields, I quickly volunteered. I had seen the movie being filmed up by Callowhill Street in March and knew Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro were Abbie’s co-stars. A couple of weeks earlier, Abbie had fractured her ankle while performing martial arts with her personal trainer and was placed in a “walking boot” to protect it while it healed. My job, along with my boss, co-owner of Excel, Joe Ruhl, was to make sure we managed her pain and alert the producers if we believed her ankle would be compromised while filming.

So two days later, on October 27th, I went to set. My day started early, and I was soon introduced to Abby after being led down a long row of trailers. Abbie was sweet and easy to talk to and asked me to come into her trailer to work on her back which had been acting up. If you ever wondered what the inside of those trailers look like, just envision a cheap 70s motel room. We both had a good laugh at living the “glamorous life” when she couldn’t find soap and had to offer me toilet paper to dry my hands while I washed up to perform a massage.

During the massage, she quickly brought me up to speed about the movie. It is a thriller in which Bradley Cooper plays a former drug addict and struggling writer. He finds a super drug which makes him incredibly smart and he rises to success. Abbie plays his on-again-off-again girlfriend. The movie’s twist is that he needs to get off the drug; however, coming off means death. The rest of the movie, he tries to find a way to end his addiction without dying.

Abbie Cornish and Joe

An hour later, we were called on set (yes, someone really does rap on the door and say “Ms. Cornish, they are ready for you on set”), and we were taken down to an area of the Philadelphia Zoo they had cornered off and made to simulate Central Park in New York. Abbie filled me in that while the movie was set in New York City, much of the filming had been done in Philadelphia due to it being much cheaper to film in our lovely city. (By the way, she is a huge fan of Philly!)

Sarah on set

I was thrilled to be placed behind the monitors, where I could watch director Neil Burger consult with Abbie after each scene. For the next four hours, I watched as they shot the same one-minute scene over and over again. (No wonder why it takes so much money to make a movie!) I was able to watch as a stunt double stood in for Abbie during a chase scene, and was also saw a fight scene being rehearsed, then filmed.

It was a fantastic feeling to be able to consult with the producers and Abbie during her more arduous parts of the scene. Everyone was incredibly nice and I was reluctant to go when Joe came to relieve me.

Will I go see Dark Fields? Absolutely! I just have to know why Abbie was being chased by a man with a knife!

Sarah Walmsley is a physical therapist and works at Excel Physical Therapy and Fitness. She is also a running coach for Team Philly Race Training.