Casting director reshaped the profession

Casting director Marion Dougherty, who helped define the contemporary role of those in her profession, died Dec. 4 in Manhattan of natural causes. She was 88 and had been ailing from heart disease.

Dougherty provided first breaks to numerous actors of note, including Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman, Jon Voight, Robert Redford, Warren Beatty, Anne Bancroft, Glenn Close and Christopher Walken. She ran her own casting company before a long run at Warner Bros.

She cast films including “Midnight Cowboy” (1969), “The Owl and the Pussycat” (1971), “Escape From Alcatraz” (1979), “Urban Cowboy” (1980), “Reds” (1981), “Sudden Impact” (1983), “The Killing Fields” (1984), “Full Metal Jacket” (1987), “Gorillas in the Mist” (1988), “Batman” (1989), “Joe Versus the Volcano” (1990), “Payback” (1999) and the films in the “Lethal Weapon” series.

Dougherty directly influenced contemporary casting directors including Juliet Taylor, Amanda Mackey and Ellen Lewis.

She began in the business casting the early episodic anthology series “Kraft Television Theater” for eight years; among those she cast was James Dean. In the early 1960s, she worked on “Naked City” and “Route 66.” Speaking of her influential casting on “Naked City,” she once said, “This was Hollywood’s window on the New York talent pool. There were people like Duvall and Matthau, and all of these people — they had no idea who they were, and they saw them for the first time on ‘Naked City.'”

But she soon transitioned into casting for the bigscreen — and her key innovation was reshaping the process from one in which typecasting was relied upon to one based far more on individual character. Moreover, she reshaped the role of the casting director from that of an organizer or clerk into someone with influence on the creative process, a collaborator with the director.

Her first bigscreen credit was 1964 Peter Sellers comedy “The World of Henry Orient.”

Dougherty launched her company Marion Dougherty Associates in New York in 1965; the firm’s employees were famously all female.

She eventually relocated to Hollywood, becoming the casting chief at Paramount in 1976 and then, in 1979, head of casting at Warner Bros. She spent more than 30 years at the latter studio. Later in her career, she discovered thesps including Debra Winger, Diane Lane, Danny Glover, Brooke Shields, Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey.

She also produced Michael Ritchie’s 1975 satiric feature “Smile.”

Her last casting credit was for 2001’s “Venus And Mars. ”

Dougherty won a Crystal Award at the Women in Film Crystal Awards in 1986 and picked up the Casting Society of America’s Hoyt Bowers Award the next year.

She appears in the Tom Donahue documentary “Casting By,” about the role of the casting director and set for release next year.

Dougherty is survived by two sisters and a number of nieces.

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