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The Role of a Casting Director

What does a casting director do on a feature film or television series? It?s not an uncommon question to be asked in the film/television world, and the answer is very simple – a casting director has one of the most important and busiest jobs on a production.

Technically the casting director decides which actors are going to be used before a film goes into actual production but it’s not quite as simple as it sounds. First of all the casting director has to sit down and go over the script. Often a screenwriter will also write a character description for each character featured in the screenplay, it is up to the casting director to try and find actors who fit exactly what the screenwriter and director are looking for.

Sometimes the character description may call for something that makes the casting director’s job a while lot easier. Say for example the screenwriter creates a character that is morbidly obese, then the casting director will have to contact any number of talent agencies to see if they have any actors on their books that fit the description. But at other times the screenplay may just describe a character with a brief description eg. A small blonde girl aged eight years old. The poor casting director will then have to hold auditions in order to find someone that not only fits the role but is good enough to be in a feature film.

The casting director also has work very closely with the film/show’s actual director, and sometimes it is not always a “friendly working relationship”. For example when the Oscar winning film Titanic was in pre-production the studio’s casting agent wanted Matthew McConaughey to play the lead role of Jack, but director James Cameron was bought on the idea of Leonardo DiCaprio playing the role and would not back down. It is also believed that the casting director on Titanic also had Christian Bale audition for the same role.

Often on a major film the casting agent will also have to try and work out which actor will not only do the film justice but also manage to attract enough people to go and see the film to make it a box office success. This is not always an easy thing to work out – again using Titanic as an example when the casting process was going ahead for the role of Cal Hockley those called in to audition are believed to have included Michael Biehn, Rob Lowe, Rupert Everett, Peter Greene and Pierce Brosnan. At the time however it was decided that Billy Zane’s popularity meant that he got the job over the others.

What makes a casting director’s job even harder is the fact that film critics are never afraid to make mention if they believe a role was badly cast, as was the case with the recent release Alex Cross.