“Think of your favorite movie. Now, think of it with an entirely different cast,” said David Rubin, a member of the Casting Directors Branch on the Academy’s Board of Governors. “Hard to do, isn’t it.”
Renowned casting directors Lynn Stalmaster, Juliet Taylor and Mike Fenton were celebrated at the first-ever “Perfect Choice: The Art of the Casting Director” event held at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills on Wednesday night.
“I think the Academy has gone a long way in a short period of time and I feel honored to be here,” said Fenton. “We casting directors have always hoped the time would come when the Academy would realize that we had something to offer Hollywood and I think that time is coming soon.”
Taylor and Fenton joined Academy governors Rubin, Lora Kennedy and Bernard Telsey onstage to discuss the creative process behind casting films and some of their most memorable moments along the way, while Stalmaster joined via video.
“One of the treasures of my career has been being able to work side by side and very close with directors because we are the first part of the process,” said Taylor. “(Directors) haven’t had the script read out loud yet and it’s the first time they’ve heard the words said and so that can change a lot of things. Almost every movie now has a casting director. That wasn’t so 50 years ago.”
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Clips of Stalmaster, Taylor and Fenton’s work were presented onscreen throughout the night as well as congratulatory messages from some of their past collaborators, including Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen and John Travolta. They were also joined onstage by Annette Bening, Henry Thomas and Geena Davis, actors they’ve worked with throughout their careers.
The governors said the idea for Perfect Choice was conceived after continuously being asked “What does a casting director do?” or “We don’t know what your process is?” They wanted a way to make the casting directors more visible.
“We just said you know what, ‘We’re a branch, let’s share with the Academy, let’s share with the public what it is that we’re all about,'” said Telsey. “And, more importantly, let’s honor those three people who basically started casting.”
The event kicked off with a reception and photo op for the honorees. The governors plan to continue the event in the future.