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OSCARS: The Role Of Casting Director

By | Thursday December 6, 2012 @ 10:53pm PST

Monica Corcoran Harel is an AwardsLine contributor.

A great film can feel a lot like a fantastic dinner party. Actors mingle and clash in the best possible lighting, and conversation is fraught with wit and emotion. The director usually gets the bulk of the credit. But before he or she can play the consummate host, someone must carefully select the right guests, send out the invites, and keep track of the RSVPs.

That would be the casting director, of course. It’s a job that can’t garner an Oscar, but its mighty importance is always felt behind the scenes. In his wildly amusing book If the Other Guy Isn’t Jack Nicholson, I’ve Got the Part, Ron Base writes of the near-casting decisions that would have changed film history. Imagine The Graduate starring wry Charles Grodin, for instance. Or a gum-cracking, mustachioed Burt Reynolds playing the paunchy, debauched astronaut in Terms of Endearment.

Related: SAG Cast Award As Predictor

This season, a bounty of films showcases the brilliance of casting directors who hit their marks. Case in point: Jamie Foxx as a freed slave seeking revenge in Quentin Tarantino’s socially controversial Django Unchained, Hugo Weaving playing roles outside of his gender and ethnicity — also a controversial turn — in Cloud Atlas and an assemblage of Academy Award nominees and victors in Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master.

Putting together a roster of stars is just a fraction of the work, though. In the case of Lawless, the project languished in uncertainty for almost three years and various actors were forced to jettison the film for other roles during the limbo. Originally, in 2009, the Prohibition era-Goodfellas had Shia LaBeouf, Ryan Gosling, James Franco, Amy Adams, and Scarlett Johansson in the cast. Three years later, when the film premiered in Cannes, Guy Pearce, Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hardy, and Mia Wasikowska sauntered down the red carpet. Incidentally, LaBeouf never abandoned the cast and fought to attract talent.
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John Karna In Talks For ‘Premature’

By | Friday May 18, 2012 @ 12:44pm PDT

John Karna is in negotiations to play the lead in Premature. The University of Oklahoma freshman would play a high school student in the movie, which occurs on Groundhog Day. Dan Beers will direct Premature from the script he co-wrote with Mat Harawitz. Aaron Ryder and Karen Lunder are producing. Karna’s last film Bindlestiffs was at Slamdance this past year. It was picked up for distribution by Kevin Smith. Karna is represented by the Coronel Group and attorney Jeff Frankel.

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ABC Splits Network And Studio Casting Into Separate Departments

By | Thursday January 12, 2012 @ 1:36pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: ABC Entertainment Group’s consolidated casting department, which handled casting for the network and ABC Studios, has been split into two teams under Keli Lee, EVP casting, ABC Entertainment Television Group. She will oversee both with emphasis on ABC. VP Ayo Davis, executive director Randi Chugerman and VP Sandi Logan will handle casting on the network side, while VP Claudia Ramsumair will spearhead casting for ABC Studios, working with director John Villacorta, manager Marcello Bellisario and Peachy Pascual. The move is aimed at having the two departments focus on the specific needs of the network and the studio. After supplying almost exclusively ABC for the past few years, ABC Studios ramped up sales to outside networks this season with big commitments at NBC, Fox and CBS, including a pilot order for drama Beautiful People at NBC. People in the casting community welcomed the news of the reorganization, noting that it will likely bring more clarity in their dealings with ABC and ABC Studios.

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Casting Directors Under Scrutiny After Investigation Finds Convicted Molestor Hired Child Actors

Jason James Murphy served a five-year prison term for kidnapping and abusing an 8-year-old boy near Seattle, but has been working for a decade as Jason James hiring kids as a casting assistant for productions including Super 8, Bad News Bears, The School Of Rock, Cheaper By The Dozen 2, and the upcoming film The Three Stooges, the LA Times reports.  Police said that they have no reason to believe that he molested anyone else; he is cooperating with their investigation into whether he complied with laws that apply to registered sex offenders — including that they report within five days when they use an alias. The law also bars sex offenders from working directly with unaccompanied minors. The fact that he has had so much power and opportunity to victimize kids has child protection advocates up in arms: Several say that they want unions to screen people who work with children, and to have them submit to background checks and fingerprinting. Murphy is a member of Teamsters Local 399 since 2008. The union and casting directors told the paper that they were unaware of Murphy’s background. “It’s shocking and it’s devastating, not just as a filmmaker but as a father and someone who is entrusted to make sure that everyone I work with, especially children, are safe,” Super 8 director J.J. Abrams said. “To think that someone like this was among us is unthinkable.”

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Tobey Maguire Cast In ‘Life Of Pi’

Tobey Maguire has been cast in Ang Lee’s novel adaptation Life of Pi, the Fox movie that is shooting in India ahead of a December 2012 bow. Yann Martel’s bestseller centers on an Indian boy who escapes a shipwreck but is stranded on a life raft with a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena and a tiger. Maguire will play a writer who interviews the boy as an adult. Maguire, who will play Nick Carraway in Baz Luhrmann’s 3D The Great Gatsby for Warner Bros, also appeared in the Lee-directed movies The Ice Storm and Ride With The Devil.

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Showtime Head Of Casting Beth Klein Exits

By | Tuesday April 5, 2011 @ 5:02pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: Showtime’s SVP of talent and casting Beth Klein, a well-respected TV casting executive, is leaving the pay cable network after 23 years to pursue other casting opportunities. “I’m incredibly proud of my body of work here at Showtime and have been fortunate to have worked with such talented and creative artists within our community. They have taught me more than I ever imagined I’d learn,” said Klein. “I’m looking forward to the next chapter doing what I love to do most.”

During her tenure at Showtime, Klein has overseen casting for the network’s scripted series, including Queer as Folk, the L-Word, Dexter, Weeds, The Tudors, Nurse Jackie, United States of Tara, The Big C, Episodes, Shameless, Californication and The Borgias; more than 30 made-for-TV movies; as well as recent pilots House of Lies and Homeland. For the last 23 years, Klein spearheaded casting for Showtime while also working for other divisions of CBS/Viacom, including Viacom Prods., where she cast such series as Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and Ed.

Klein is the second senior Showtime executive to depart following the regime change at the cable network last year that saw David Nevins taking over from Robert Greenblatt as president of entertainment. SVP original programming Danielle Gelber exited at the end of her contract in December.

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Several More Actors Join Broadcast Pilots

Nellie Andreeva

Danneel Ackles (formerly Harris) and Jamie Lee Kirchner have landed the last 2 leads in NBC’s comedy pilot I Hate That I Love You. The single-camera project, from writer/exec producer Jhoni Marchinko and 20th TV, is described as a twisty romantic comedy in which a straight couple, Brad (Nick Thune) and Missy (Kirchner), introduce their lesbian roommates, Brad’s Allie (Ackles) and Missy’s Sarah (Anna Camp), to each other. Ackles, repped by Gersh and Untitled, co-stars in 20th TV’s comedy series for NBC Friends with Benefits, which is yet to be scheduled.

A day after his FX series was canceled, Lights Out co-star Billy Brown has booked a pilot, NBC’s drama Reconstruction. Written by Josh Brand, the project is set in a Missouri town during the post-Civil War Reconstruction era and centers on Jason (Martin Henderson), a soldier who crosses the country and settles into a complicated town where he is welcomed as its savior. Brown will play Sam, a former a former slave with a hearty, life-affirming laugh who brings Jason up to speed on the happenings of the their small Missouri town. Brown, represented by TalentWorks and Benerspink, played “Death Row” Reynolds, the boxing nemesis of Patrick “Lights” Read More »

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Young Hollywood Lining Up For Indie Films

By | Wednesday March 23, 2011 @ 6:41pm PDT

Young Hollywood loves indie films, and this time the beneficiary is Adult World, the coming-of-age drama being produced by Michael Ohoven at Infinity Entertainment (Capote, Saved) and Kevin Turen (Arbitrage) from a script by Andrew Cochran. Meeting for the female main character with director Scott Coffey (whose Ellie Parker was in the main competition at Sundance) were hot talent like Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan, Rooney Mara, Emily Browning, Juno Temple and Brie Larson. But Emma Roberts snagged the part. Turns out Coffey wrote a female-driven script for Fox Searchlight that had Emma’s aunt Julia Roberts attached once upon a time. (Emma is Eric’s daughter.) What a small world Hollywood is, eh? Anyway, Adult World now has offers out to Zach Galifianakis and Shiloh Fernandez for great male roles, too. It’s a funny satire about an over-validated generation of American kids who think they’re all special and have a right to fame only now they face the reality of real life. Roberts, who recently signed with CAA, was a teen star (Nancy Drew, Hotel For Dogs, the upcoming Scream 4) now seguing into her first adult female roles. She already has done theFox Searchlight indie film Homework, set for a June 17 release.

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Denzel Washington Back In Bad Guy Mode

Mike Fleming

oscars-actor-training-day-05-ssDenzel Washington is looking to join producer Scott Stuber on Safe House, a David Guggenheim-scripted Universal Pictures drama that will be directed by Daniel Espinosa (Snabba Cash) about a young CIA agent who must transport a dangerous criminal to safety after both are attacked at a safe house. First word of this came from New York Mag’s Vulture website, which puts Washington in the criminal role. That’s something Washington has done with relish in American Gangster and his Oscar-winning turn in Training Day. Washington’s coming off the Tony Scott-directed drama Unstoppable with Chris Pine. Pine also met on the project to play the CIA agent, I’ve heard, but the studio claims there won’t be a re-team. Insiders say Washington’s in discussions.

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Alice Eve, Tommy Lee Jones Take Marvel Superhero Turns

Mike Fleming

Alice Eve262px-Emma_Frost_in_current_costumeAlice Eve is now in negotiations to play Emma Frost in X-Men: First Class, the 20th Century Fox prequel that Matthew Vaughn will direct. Her power in the mutant universe is telepathy, and she was voted Hottest Comic Book Babe of 2005 in one poll. She started out as an X-Men nemesis and became an ally. Eve joins James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, previously set as lead mutants Xavier and Magneto. Also in the Marvel pantheon, Tommy Lee Jones has been confirmed to play Colonel Phillips in Captain America: The First Avenger, the Joe Johnston-directed Marvel Studios film that Paramount will distribute.

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Kevin Spacey: Another Horrible Boss Turn

Mike Fleming

spacey-headshot2Now here is perfect casting. Kevin Spacey has joined the roster of Horrible Bosses, the Seth Gordon-directed New Line comedy that stars Jennifer Aniston, Jamie Foxx, Colin Farrell, Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis. Donald Sutherland has also joined the cast–playing a nice boss. Brett Ratner and Jay Stern produced the film.

Of course Spacey’s playing one of the title characters. (For my money, Spacey played the most horrible boss I’ve ever seen onscreen in 1994′s Swimming with Sharks.) Filming on Horrible Bosses begins in July. CAA and Joanne Horowitz made Spacey’s deal. Spacey, who most recently completed the George Hickenlooper-directed Casino Jack, is now shooting the JC Chandor-directed indie Margin Call about eight high finance-types in the first 24 hours of the financial crisis of 2008. Spacey’s been working more lately, but he still is Artistic Director of London’s Old Vic Theatre.

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10 Set To Star In The Disney Movie ‘Prom’

By | Monday June 21, 2010 @ 6:37am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

aimee-teegarden-photobeneslerDisney has assembled the cast of Prom, its high-school comedy feature revolving around a group of teens and the emotional ups and downs they go through prepping for the big dance. The studio stuck to its original plan to cast mostly unknown young actors as the leads in the movie, which is eyed as a potential launching pad for a franchise in the mold of High School Musical and whose tone is said to be similar to John Hughes’ Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink. Cast as the leads in Prom are: Thomas McDonell, Aimee Teegarden (Friday Night Lights), Danielle Campbell, Nolan Sotillo, Yin Chang  (Gossip Girl), Jared Kusnitz (Surviving Suburbia), Nicholas Braun (10 Things I Hate About You), Ben Esler (The Pacific), Kylie Bunbury and DeVaughn Nixon. Joe Nussbaum is directing from a script by Katie Wech. Ted Griffin and Justin Springer are producing.

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Johnny English 2 Recruits New Agent

By | Friday June 18, 2010 @ 7:57am PDT

EXCLUSIVE: Working Title has signed Daniel Kaluuya to be Rowan Atkinson’s fellow secret agent in its spy sequel, due to begin filming in September. Apart from Atkinson, Kaluuya is the first actor to sign up for this latest mission. Oliver Parker will direct from a script by Hamish McColl. This time around, Atkinson bumblingly flushes out traitors in Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The original Johnny English grossed $161 million theatrically worldwide, and only cost $40 million to make.

Kaluuya has most recently appeared in Cannes Un Certain Regard entry Chatroom, as well as creepy BBC sitcom Psychoville and Channel 4’s Skins, which he also wrote for. He has just opened in Roy Williams’ latest boxing play Sucker Punch at London’s Royal Court. Here he is showing us how to skip rope:

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Spielberg Goes To ‘War’ With Newcomer

By | Thursday June 17, 2010 @ 12:39pm PDT
Mike Fleming

warhorse1xWhen Steven Spielberg weighed choices for the first live action film to kick off the DreamWorks/ Reliance/ Disney relationship, word was the bigger the better. From the cast he’s announced for his adaptation of the Michael Morpugo novel War Horse, the onus is on Spielberg’s own starpower. Most of the cast is new to me. The lead in the movie adaptation of the hit Nick Stafford stage play will be teen British newcomer Jeremy Irvine. Spielberg has Emily Watson and David Thewlis as the young horseman’s parents. The rest of the lineup: Peter Mullan, Benedict Cumberbatch, Niels Arestrup, Celine Buckens, Nicolas Bro, David Kross, Leonard Carow, Rainer Bock, Robert Emma and Patrick Kennedy. Last time Spielberg made a period war movie with a young actor discovery, he misfired (at least from a box office standpoint) with Empire of the Sun and a pint-sized Christian Bale. We’ll see how this one works out when Disney releases it August 11, 2011. Awareness on the British play will rise when it moves to Lincoln Center next April.

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Casts Firm Up For Following Pics: ‘LOL,’ ‘Abduction,’ ‘Tom’s Dad’ And ‘Ghost Rider’

By | Wednesday June 16, 2010 @ 3:30am PDT
Mike Fleming

get-attachment.aspxLot of pieces were falling into place on movies yesterday. Here are some of the highlights: Miley Cyrus got a leading man for her Mandate film LOL in Douglas Booth. The British actor who makes his American feature debut after starring in the Julian Fellowes-directed From Time To Time, and playing Boy George in the BBC Two biopic Worried About The Boy. LOL is the Lisa Azuelos-directed remake of the 2009 French film Laughing Out Loud, which starred Sophie Marceau and Christa Theret… Lionsgate has lined up a cast around Taylor Lautner for Abduction, which starts shooting July 12 in Pittsburgh. Lautner plays a youth who discovers the parents that raised him aren’t his real folks, a revelation that leaves him running for his life. Sigourney Weaver will play his therapist, Maria Bello plays his mother, Jason Isaacs plays his father, Denzel Whitaker plays his best friend, and Michael Nyqvist plays the villain. They join Lily Collins, who plays his girlfriend, and Alfred Molilna, a CIA agent vested in bringing the kid in alive…Lasse Hallstrom and Patrick Dempsey are teaming up on Tom’s Dad, a coming of age story in which Dempsey plays a vaudevillian nightclub performer at a crossroads because the changing styles of comedy are making him obsolete. Point Black and Johnny Depp’s Infinitum Nihil are producing…Crank team of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor are in early talks to direct the new installment of Marvel’s Ghost Rider that is … Read More »

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Neal McDonough In ‘Captain America’ Chatter

By | Thursday June 3, 2010 @ 5:40pm PDT
Mike Fleming

NicholasAdd Neal McDonough to the list of cast for Captain America: The First Avenger, the Joe Johnston-directed film that will star Chris Evans. McDonough is in talks to play Dum Dum Dugan. Marvel Studios was playing dum on it. Production starts in July in the U.K. and the film will be released by Paramount Pictures July 22, 2011. Hugo Weaving plays the villain, Red Skull. Sebastian Stan and Hayley Atwell have also been set. McDonough is available, as he famously exited the series Scoundrels because of his reluctance to do love scenes.

No Sex Please, I’m Neal McDonough

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Trio Joins Bill Condon’s HBO Pilot ‘Tilda’

By | Friday May 28, 2010 @ 4:26pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

wes_bentley--randEXCLUSIVE: Wes Bentley, David Harbour and Leland Orser have joined the cast of HBO’s comedy pilot Tilda, from Bill Condon. The project stars Diane Keaton as Tilda, a powerful female online Hollywood journalist with a no-holds-barred style. And no, her last name is not Finke, it’s Watski.

Bentley will play Tilda’s often called upon cute young IT guy whose relationship with her bleeds beyond just fixing her computer (they sleep together). Harbour will play an old school entertainment columnist  working for a major publication (in the version of the script circulated around town, it’s The Los Angeles Times) who harbors bitterness towards Tilda’s means of going about her job. In a guest starring/potential recurring role, Orser will play a movie studio head who is being exposed by Tilda. The three join Keaton as well as Ellen Page also was recently cast in the project. Condon and Tell Me You Love Me creator Cynthia Mort wrote the script and are executive producing the pilot, which Condon is attached to direct. Filming is slated for June in Los Angeles.

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CANNES: Bruce Willis Plays Mature Joseph Gordon-Levitt In Time Travel Pic ‘Looper’

By | Friday May 14, 2010 @ 2:38pm PDT
Mike Fleming

bruce-willisEXCLUSIVE: Bruce Willis is joining the cast of Looper, a science fiction time travel tale that reunites the Brick team of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and writer/director Rian Johnson. The Terminator-esque action film has a clever premise. Loopers are hit men whose victims are sent back in time from the future to be executed. The Loopers bump them off in the present, so there is no trace of a crime in the future. I’m told that Willis and Gordon-Levitt will play the same character, in those different time frames. That ploy is also being used in Men in Black 3, with Josh Brolin playing the younger version of Tommy Lee Jones’s Agent Kay. CAA is repping North American rights, and FilmNation Entertainment is repping it. Insiders said it is not being shopped at this fest. But buyers are all over it.

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More Casting Set For ‘Cowboys & Aliens’

By | Friday May 14, 2010 @ 11:28am PDT
Mike Fleming

41a_07_Paul-Dano_243x413Last time we saw Paul Dano on the rough frontier, his whiny preacher character was being clubbed to death with a bowling pin in There Will Be Blood. Dano is back in period mode, this time armed, playing a cowboy  who takes on extraterrestrials in Cowboys & Aliens, the Jon Favreau-directed DreamWorks pic. Dano is set, and Keith Carradine is aboard to play the town sheriff, with Clancy Brown also a cowboy. The film stars Daniel Craig, Olivia Wilde, Harrison Ford, Sam Rockwell and Noah Ringer. Production starts June in New Mexico for a July 29, 2011 release. At this point, a 2D shoot is planned.

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