When it comes to the casting industry, no single individual has ever come close to surpassing the impact Lynn Stalmaster has had on film. As the first independent casting director in motion pictures, Stalmaster has collaborated intimately with directors, producers, and actors for more than 60 years. His work has been included in “Inherit the Wind,” “Judgment at Nuremberg,” “The Graduate,” “Harold and Maude,” and “West Side Story.” He has worked with virtually everyone in the business, including directors Stanley Kramer, Billy Wilder, George Stevens, William Wyler, and Sydney Pollack.
Stalmaster is one of four individuals to receive an Honorary Oscar from the Motion Picture Academy.
Stalmaster, who speaks almost exclusively with a smile, notes that the honor transcends beyond his impact, and is a testament to the casting industry as a whole.
“As you can imagine, I was just overwhelmed by the fact that they were recognizing 60 years of casting,” Stalmaster says. “It reflects on the entire casting community, that has suddenly been brought into the spotlight as comparable to the other creative crafts.”
Born in Omaha, Neb., Stalmaster began his career as an actor. After receiving a master’s degree from UCLA in 1952, he worked as a production assistant at the famed production company Gross-Krasne.
In 1955, he went on to open his own casting office.
Given his success, Stalmaster believes his biggest asset stems from his background as an actor.
“You know, I care so much about actors,” he says. “Having sat on the other side of the desk for four or five years, I wanted to treat actors with dignity and respect, and have them come in and feel comfortable. It’s tough [being an actor]. If I knew [an actor] was having a bad day, I would always be sensitive to their needs.”
When asked if there is anyone with whom he would have liked to work, Stalmaster is quick to answer.
“I would have loved to work with Steven Spielberg,” he says. “But it just never happened.”