Women's Impact Report: Specialists

I’ve had the great fortune to work with directors who make me look good,” says casting director Francine Maisler, uncommonly humble for someone who’s had such a stellar year.

Casting Rob Marshall’s all-singing star fest “Nine” (Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz and Marion Cotillard are onboard) was “a thrill” says Maisler, a longtime musical theater aficionado.

She takes care to point out that Marshall chose his actors “because he felt they were perfect for the parts — not because they were stars.”

Likewise, working with Gus Van Sant for the Harvey Milk biopic “Milk” was easy, as Van Sant “clearly is a magnet for great talent … actors love him.”

After honing her skills at NBC, she was provided a springboard by Ben Stiller, who admired her work on HBO’s “The Larry Sanders Show” and recruited her to cast his first feature film, “Reality Bites,” leading to breakout indie hit “The Usual Suspects.”

Since then, Maisler has cast more than 50 features, including “Memoirs of a Geisha,” “Meet the Fockers,” “21 Grams,” “Spider-Man” and “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” picking up four Artios Awards along the way.

The last 12 months have seen Maisler put her formidable instincts to high-profile use in “Hancock,” “The Soloist,” “Quantum of Solace” and Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life.” Regarding Sean Penn’s “Into the Wild,” she’s characteristically quick to remind us that its star, Emile Hirsch, was already attached before she came onboard. “It was all Sean Penn,” she says. “… He knows what he wants, but he is always open to being surprised.”

Maisler, who is gearing up for James L. Brooks and Cameron Crowe’s next feature films, admits that while financial pressures have made “every level of filmmaking, including casting” more difficult, they haven’t lessened her enthusiasm for the job. At the end of the day, she says, “It’s thrilling to get a front-row seat to watch these directors and actors at work.”

If not Hillary, then who?: “Well, this is obvious. … Obama, Obama, Obama.”

Most important issues facing Americans in this election year: “The economy, global warming and bringing our troops home.”

Fave leisure activity: “When I’m not working, I just want to spend time with my kids. But when I have a spare moment, I like to watch ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ over and over again.”

Career mantra: “Persist, persist, persist.”

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