LAKELAND — Gary Gross’ entry into the movie business began on a small scale. When his former high school buddy Joe O’Brien shot a low-budget movie in Lakeland back in 2009, he asked Gross — a longtime Lakeland Police officer — to serve as a technical adviser, providing guidance on scenes involving law enforcement.
Gross wound up with a small part in that movie, “Endure,” which didn’t have a theatrical release but did get exposure through Redbox.
That dynamic has been repeated in subsequent years. Gross has become a technical adviser for movies and TV shows, and in that role he is often given a chance to move in front of the camera.
The latest example of Gross’ adviser-turned-actor role may gain him more attention than any of his previous projects. Gross appears in a crucial scene in “The Florida Project,” a movie that drew acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival, where it premiered in May.
The movie, due for release in October, stars Willem Dafoe, a revered actor known for such films as “Platoon,” “The Last Temptation of Christ” and “John Wick.” Gross’ one scene in “The Florida Project” includes Dafoe.
“For me, it is a great escape from the stresses of being in law enforcement and a 30-year career,” Gross said. “I’m still shocked and amazed and — ‘You’re going to pay me?’ ”
Gross, 54, plans to retire from LPD in March, and he hopes to get even more involved with movies and TV shows.
“Right now I don’t use an agent because I don’t need an agent and an agent would get a lot of my money,” Gross said. “I can’t really afford to leave for two or three weeks and go to L.A., but when I retire I might be able to do that.”
Production teams often hire technical advisers to provide expertise on subjects portrayed in movies or TV shows. Current and former police officers can scan scripts and watch filming to make sure the details appear authentic.
Gross has worked as a…