Why Casting Directors Deserve an Academy Award

Commenting on the Critics with Simon Columb…

Andrew Pulver highlights, for The Guardian, Woody Allen’s letter to The Hollywood Reporter regarding the lack of appreciation for Casting Directors in cinema…?

The issue has been raised by the imminent cinema release of Casting By, a documentary about the casting process which, in the words of the Hollywood Reporter is a “lament that casting is the only ‘single-card’ opening credit that isn’t recognized by the Academy Awards”. The film focusses on the legends of the casting business, including Marion Dougherty (Midnight Cowboy, Batman), Lynn Stalmaster (Deliverance, Tootsie) and Taylor herself, who has worked on 41 Allen-directed films as well as The Exorcist, Taxi Driver and Schindler’s List. Allen adds: “I owe a big part of the success of my films to this scrupulous casting process which I must say if left to my own devices would never have happened.”

Read the full article here.

If you know Woody Allen’s films, his note that “If it were up to me we would use the same half dozen people in all my pictures” rings true. Allen often works within the same upper-class areas of society and the vast majority of his films are set in America and – specifically – New York. He has no qualms in using the same actors time and time again – and it is Juliet Taylor who ensures he doesn’t.

Add to the list titans in casting including Mary Selway (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Love Actually and Withnail & I), Jane Jenkins and Janet Hirshenson (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Jurassic Park and Transformers) and Sarah Finn and Randi Hiller (Iron Man, Crash, The Avengers and every Fast & Furious film since Tokyo Drift).

These specific casting directors are important as the actors n the first instalments of Harry Potter, Transformers and Iron Man have led to billion-dollar franchises. Like a strong script holds a story together, a bad casting decision can destroy a film. Crash and Love Actually are also large, ensemble casts that had to work together to make a successful film. Logistically, casting directors organise the actors too. The best example is in the aforementioned films, whereby a number of sought-after actors were used and only required for a small group of scenes – it is the casting director who speaks to the actor’s agent to clarify the time required.

Watching 20 Feet from Stardom at the London Film Festival (a documentary about the backing vocalists who’ve supported acts including David Bowie, The Rolling Stones and many more), I have grown to appreciate elements of industries that regularly go unnoticed. Casting directors are clearly amongst these professions. And it is clear that time and time again, these casting directors ‘get it right’, time and time again – and an annual award to appreciate this isn’t too much to ask.

Simon Columb

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