Tom Donahue's documentary finds its through-line in the career of Marion Dougherty, who more than anyone revolutionized the role of the casting director in American film and television during the slow collapse of the studio system. Dougherty worked against type, saw past conventions of beauty, age and race, widened the talent pool and utilized her creative-intuitive understanding of the fusion of persona and craft that make an actor right for a role or magnetic on camera generally. Originally based in New York, she plucked fresh talent from the stage and the then-iconoclastic training centres, such as the Actors' Studio—one of her early discoveries was James Dean. She also launched the careers of many of today's most renowned casting directors, such as Woody Allen's lifelong collaborator Juliet Taylor. A complete list of filmmakers who pay homage to Dougherty over the course of Casting By would consume my allotted wordcount, but they include Martin Scorsese, Jon Voight, Glenn Close, Jeff Bridges, Richard Donner, Robert Duvall, Clint Eastwood, Buck Henry, Norman Jewison, Bette Midler, Robert Redford, John Travolta and Al Pacino.
Between the well-chosen talking heads and the unimaginative use of stock footage, Donahue employs lame push-ins on archival photos in which key figures are colourized, slide around or are otherwise isolated, a corny staple doc technique that felt dated the moment it was invented. At times Casting By can be frustrating for the brevity of the comments or lack of deeper, more detailed insights into the casting process, but what makes the film essential viewing for anyone interested in how movies are made are 1) its relentless emphasis on just how radical casting directors' impact on a film can be—Lynn Stalmaster's push for Dustin Hoffman to star in The Graduate being a famous example—and 2) its advocacy for the Academy to create a category for casting directors—they are the only figures with main title credits to not receive Oscars. Donahue's exploration of this grievous oversight includes interviews with Taylor Hackford, whose insistence that not only should casting directors not receive kudos for a job that overlaps with that of the director—like pretty much every job on a movie—but that they don't even deserve to have the term “director” in their job title, proving that the Love Ranch director is not only a mediocre filmmaker but an asshole, too.
Thu, Oct 24 – Tue, Oct 29
Metro Cinema at the Garneau