Thursday, August 15, 2013
Casting Directors are the unsung heroes of Hollywood (and New York). I’ve always said that the most important decisions producers and directors will ever have to make is casting. Everything else can be changed. Everything else can be fixed. But if you have the wrong people you’re dead. Period. You could write the greatest screenplay in history and if there’s no chemistry between the leads your movie will suck.
And the decisions are totally subjective. Someone thought Lindsay Lohan as Elizabeth Taylor was a good idea. William Devane has been in comedies. So has Vin Diesel.
Not only is it hard to find the actor with the perfect quality, even if that actor is out there, he may not be available for your project. Timing and good fortune are major factors. What if Shelley Long and Ted Danson were both doing movies and couldn’t sign on for CHEERS? How long do you think the show would’ve lasted with Fred Dryer as Sam? (And yes, he was a finalist.)
The planets pretty much have to line up.
A good casting director must scour the landscape, discover new faces, glean talent from inexperienced performers, satisfy a producer’s or director’s vision when often times that vision is hazy, and essentially shoot at a moving target.
Then you often don’t make the final choices – the producer or director (or network or studio) does. But they only see who you bring them. That's a huge responsibility. And your reputation hangs in the balance of someone else’s performance. An actor tanks in front of a live studio audience and even though the producer chose him, you get the blame.
And rarely get any credit.
There is no Oscar category for casting directors. When numerous stars and studio heads tried to get Marion Dougherty an honorary Oscar for fifty years of service and basically redefining the position, the request was denied.
Hackford also believes that casting directors are not entitled to Oscars. Ultimately, he says, HE makes the decision, HE is the director and so the casting director doesn’t really contribute. He had no answer when the questioner asked, “Well isn’t that true about make up and production designers? Ultimately the director makes the final decision. And yet these craftsmen are recognized." As a director myself, and a proud member of the DGA, I’m appalled and ashamed by his pompous selfish misguided stance. Yeah, it’s all YOU, Taylor. No one else deserves any credit for LOVE RANCH.
I hope this documentary will expose people to the monumental contribution casting directors make. And maybe the Motion Picture Academy will someday give them their proper due. (But the reality is they don’t want to add any more categories because they weigh down the show and the whole point of the Academy is to get ratings for the Oscarcast. So instead of honoring the dedicated people who actually make the movies, they set aside time to expand the Best Picture category to ten even though seven have no fucking shot and are only there to attract younger viewers. Like TOY STORY 3 was ever going to beat THE KING’S SPEECH and THE SOCIAL NETWORK.)
I’ve had the honor to work with some amazing casting directors. Lynn Stalmaster, Lea Stalmaster, David Rubin, Molly Lopata, Sheila Guthrie, Steven Kolzak, Jeff Greenberg, Sally Stiner & Barbie Block. For our last pilot, Sally & Barbie found us Aaron Paul and Kat Dennings. For the MARY show Molly Lopata discovered Katey Sagal. Sheila Guthrie brought us unknown actress, Jenna Elfmann. For FRASIER, she discovered David Hyde Pierce. And the list goes on and on.
The TV Academy awards Emmys for casting. The Motion Picture Academy stages production numbers about women’s boobs.
The documentary is called “Casting By.” I’m sure HBO will be airing it throughout the next couple of weeks. It’s also on HBO ON DEMAND and HBO GO if you can access either of those. Trust me, it’s a much better film and far more enlightening than LOVE RANCH.
UPDATE: Comment from reader Wayne --
Don't mess with Taylor Hackford. He's so powerful, Washington did away with the title CIA Director. It's now Intelligence By...
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM