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Emmy Creative Arts: Casting Directors Pitch in to Sell Actors on Recreating Iconic Film Roles

They're great parts, sure -- if you dare to take them.

This TV season sees some familiar bigscreen titles on TV: “Bonnie & Clyde,” “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Trip to Bountiful.” That opened the door for new actors to step into famous roles — at least those brave enough to fill the shoes of the thesps that came before.

“We kept hearing from the agents that people were reluctant to take on something that was iconic,” says Margery Simkin, U.S. casting director for NBC’s two-part “Rosemary’s Baby.”

But once it was decided that Rosemary didn’t necessarily have to be white, Simkin, who cast Zoe Saldana in “Avatar,” suggested her for the role. “Getting Zoe to do it was very important because people wanted to work with her,” Simkim says.

For Lifetime’s TV version of “The Trip to Bountiful,” helmer Michael Wilson inherited a core group of players from the Broadway revival of the play, including Tony winner Cicely Tyson, but he says adding Keke Palmer and Blair Underwood to the mix was not without its challenges.

“No artist that is as great and talented as Blair is would ever not have apprehension, especially coming into a situation where Vanessa (Williams) and Cicely had this rhythm,” he says.

But as it happened, Underwood’s NBC series “Ironside” was cancelled the same day he was offered “Trip to Bountiful,” and he decided to take it.

Richard Hicks, casting director of A&E Networks’ “Bonnie & Clyde,” says distancing himself from Arthur Penn’s acclaimed 1967 feature helped him find actors to play Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. The new version focused on the outlaws’ youth: “They weren’t quite adults yet,” says Hicks.

He stared at pictures of the real Bonnie and Clyde on his wall for months. “to try and figure out who makes sense to fill those shoes,” he says. Emile Hirsch and Holliday Grainger ultimately fit the bill.

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