On Monday evening, usedview.com was on the scene for a special screening of HBO’s latest documentary “Casting By,” which premieres of Monday, August 5. The legendary Martin Scorsese even made an appearance.
What would “Taxi Driver,” “Butch Cassidy, “The Graduate,” “Lethal Weapon,” “Midnight Cowboy,” and more look like without the actors we know and recognize? Would you even want to watch those movies with the actors you know now, or as complete unknowns you were taking a risk on?
That is exactly the dilemma Marion Dougherty faced when making those decisions. Marion Dougherty changed the act of casting from signed contracted actors to a whole new business in which talent could be discovered and it is because of her that some of our favorite movies are our favorites, and as Martin Scorsese states in the film, “More than 90 percent of directing a picture is the right casting.”
The film wonderfully explores not only the life of Dougherty, but the whole casting process itself, and how it evolved from on-contract actors to a whole new job industry. Dougherty got her start by casting the “Naked City” television series where she gave numerous [well known in today’s culture] actors their big break. Dougherty is known to have been the film industry’s best casting director – having brought such people like Clint Eastwood, Jon Voight, Dustin Hoffman, John Travolta and more to the limelight.
The film is filled with amazing footage of these now well known actors talking about their past and how they got their big break all in thanks due to Marion. But not only does the film have interviews with people who we look up to (Jon Voight seriously considered quitting acting after his first role on the “Naked City”), but it also goes into detail about the massive challenges the casting directors had to go through – and still do. They fought long and hard over the years to get credited, and then they pushed to be part of the main title sequence. To this day, when the Academy Awards ask the Directors Guild of America whether a separate Oscar category should be given to the casting directors, Taylor Hackford, a national board member, states with complete disdain that the director does everything and no recognition should be given to the casting directors. Casting directors are the only title cards that do not have an Oscar category.
The film is remarkably well made and shows the behind the scenes of some of your favorite movies and tells you about the troubles your favorite actors faced. With special interviews from Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Al Pacino, Clint Eastwood, Danny Glover, Martin Scorsese and more, the film is a must see.
Check out our exclusive interviews from the red carpet!
Director Tom Donahue
How did you get involved in directing this movie?
I knew two great casting directors, Joanna Colbert and Kate Lacey, and they had both worked with either someone that Marion Dougherty had groomed or had worked directly with Marion Dougherty and they thought someone should make a movie about her. Joanna asked me if it was something I wanted to do and I looked into it and I interviewed Marion for twelve hours and I just thought, “Wow, we have a movie here.” So that’s how it came about.
What were the challenges of making this documentary?
The challenge was getting everybody to be in the movie. Like Clint Eastwood said yes, but it took two and a half years to get him on camera. Bette Middler said yes but it took her three and half years to get her on camera. So I would say that’s the biggest challenge. And also, cutting two hundred people out of the films.
Producer Ilan Arboleda
What were the challenges of making the movie?
The challenge was getting the people. It took us three years and it was a challenge to get them. And my producing partner Kate Lacey was the indomitable force who got them all in the room for us. And it was an amazing adventure.
How did you get involved with filmmaking?
Halfway through college I decided I wanted to make movies so I hopped in a car and moved to L.A.
Why did you get involved with this documentary?
I knew there was something special about it. It was an opportunity to make a difference and it was an opportunity to meet my heroes. And I also thought it was a great opportunity to get recognition for the people who are vastly just not seen and now they’re getting the visibility they need.
What are some movies that have been remarkably casted by casting directors?
Oh well “The Sting,” which is seen in this movie, “Deliverance” had an incredible cast. I think when they put together an ensemble that is just unrivaled, I think we are lucky enough to showcase the casting directors that are a part of that.
What’s your message to anyone who views the film?
The message is to take note of who casts because they really are part of the glue that makes the film come together. Martin Scorsese even says in the film, “90 percent of the movie is casting.”
What brings you to the premiere?
Yes, I have been cast occasionally by some of these people haha!
Would you like to tell me about the experience that you had being cast by these casting directors?
The New York casting people are particular and that’s where I was raised and brought up by some of the nicest people in the world. I worked with theater actors and it really sets them apart from all other actors in the world because casting directors know theater actors and I just feel that they have been working for years and really take them into consideration for the casting, which I really bow down to them. And so many are mentioned. I don’t know how they managed to stay in this business and still maintain heart.
Can you tell me about “House of Cards” casting?
That was Julie Schubert and Laray Mayfield. The scary prospect was David Fincher and he’s just known for so many things like, “Don’t smile” or “don’t wear red,” but Laray and Julie in particular, who is the one who first brought me in, just put me at ease and David did eventually, but I was shivering in my high heels.
Casting Director Juliet Taylor
How did you get involved with the movie?
Well, the movie became a bigger idea than it started out to be. At first it started out to be a movie about Marion Dougherty pretty much exclusively and then it started out to be such a great film about casting as a profession and the community of casting, even the politics of Hollywood a little bit. I worked for Marion and I was her first assistant when she started shooting television. And I worked with her for a really long time.
Talk about the creative process that goes on with casting directors.
A producer and director will send you a script. People tend to be somewhat tied to certain directors so some people that you work with a lot, it tends to be a second nature thing where you know the way the director works or you worked with him before. But Marion’s thing was that you should read the script without knowing what the director’s ideas were. That you can bring your own perspective to it. Ideally, the casting director will bring some new ideas to how the part can be played that the director might not have even thought of. Because it is the very first thing you do on a movie and it’s part of the process of “How do you tell the story?” and it doesn’t always end up the way you think it’s going to end up. And that also depends on who is on top; you get someone on top and then you cast down so that the chemistry builds.
How did you get involved working with Marion and as a casting director?
Well, I always wanted to be involved in the theater or in the film really, but I came to New York and I got a job in theater under a theatrical casting director and someone through the theater told me she was going to work for Marion. I was a secretary, right out of college and they were looking for someone for an entry level secretarial job and I took it and I think because I really knew I couldn’t act but I loved performance and I loved actors, it was kind of a good fit for me.
Do you have one or two huge achievements in your career as a casting director?
I hate to put it that way, but I’d like to say that there was a great time when there was a lot of film in New York. I worked for Woody Allen for forty years so that’s pretty great – he makes a movie every year. And I think that’s a very special, and Mike Nichols and a number of other directors, and a lot of very funny people, too.
What do you love about casting?
My favorite part is working with the director and I like helping to create the vision the director had. And I love watching performances, I love watching the way actors work and it’s the impact they have. An actor can walk into a room and you know immediately they’re who you want and they move you. I like that quirky process.
Additional reporting by Catherina Gioino