My first casting decision

Posted by Norman Bailey on Wednesday, September 11, 2013 Under: Casting
I remember my first casting decision - it was more of a re-casting than straight casting.  Although this was a long long time ago.  I was 16 and making my stage debut in the Birmingham Youth Theatre production 'Somebody's Daughter' at the Birmingham Rep.  It all came about quite organically. During the auditions I'd made friends with the lead (Tony Armatrading) and we had spent time running lines together.  When rehearsals began if any of the notes I'd given him (which he had dutifully penciled into his script) were put forward by the director he would very generously point out that I had suggested the same thing.   

Even at that tender age I fancied getting into directing.  I believe it was Tony who suggested that I ask the director if could assist in the directing process.  I asked and the answer was yes.  Both Director and Assistant Director happily taught me all my young brain could soak in about the directing process.

The production was an inner-city drama about teen pregnancy and in an inspired piece of casting the director had cast two posh kids as the gangsters of the piece.  (Yes there are posh kids in Birmingham).  One was a tall for his age burley youth and the other a small for is age very well-spoken young man.  When rehearsal began the big guy was cast as the leader and the smaller as his lackey.  We weren't to far into the process before I thought that maybe it would work better if the roles were reverse.  They tried it, and it it.

Casting is a flexible process built around creating the right dynamics.  And although you will more often than not see, 'White female, attractive, slim, 24', on a casting call, there are astute director out who will see the genius of going with something a little bit more imaginative.  

Casting history is little with many examples that prove the point.  I was looking through script from pulp fiction the other day and came across this little gem. ' We fade up on Butch Coolidge, a white, 26 year old prizefighter'.  Anyone who knows the film will know that that part was played by a far from youthful Bruce Willis.  And what would the Alien franchise have been if the written for a man Ripley character had not gone to Sigourney Weaver.  And who can get away from Morgan Freeman's portrayal of 'Red' in Shawshank Redemption?  Certainly not the producers of two subsequent theatre incarnations.  And then of course there's Red in Shawshank Redemption.  Although described in the book as an Irishman with red hair he as yet to be portrayed that way.  So far the character has been played by, most notably, Morgan Freeman in the movie, by Reg Cathey in the ill-fated copycat West end stage version and most recently by comedian Omid Djaili.

So when actors ask me, "What are casting directors looking for?', I say, "They're looking for what works best".  

In : Casting 



 

Art will feed itself


Life-long creative. I have one goal in life and that is to live from my creative endeavours, That what my motto 'Art will feed itself' means. this.