Every story creates an artistic expression from which an emotion rises to invoke change within its audience. That emotional pulse brings a rhythm to the screen based on the look, feel and actions of the characters. Rarely does the director have the opportunity to hand pick his cast based on his analysis of the screenplay, but when it happens…Everyone is positively impacted by it.
Most films are not made with a dream team cast, however, directors do have the opportunity to mix and match the actors to find a new formula that can also bring about an emotional change factor, albeit a variation from the original intent. The alternative can some times generate a greater impact, while at other times it will fall short.
In the independent world of Tried & True, our developers picked a dream team that would perfectly contour the film to meet our original commitment. But, with the changes made in the screenplay’s focus and the shifting of the love story to the B-plotline, what was an earlier rejected not-so-dream cast has once again been placed back on the table for consideration.
Actors Rejected Then Re-Selected
I feel for the actors that get rejected by a director during the audition process. Each has earned their right to win a role, but none of them can know how the perceived character traits might instantly be adjusted when a lead unexpectedly changes – Forcing the recasting of supporting characters.
In Tried & True, Antonio Marcellus is an Italian mobster who hires our hero’s father to bring about his 24th exoneration. He is impeccably dressed with the latest fashion, loaded down with expensive jewelry and sports a jet-black ponytail. Al Pacino was our first choice based on whom we selected as our hero. Since our lead never got to contract, we shifted to a new lead, which forced a new mobster. We then looked at Mark Strong, but our lead changed again and we considered yet another actor.
In the meantime, we were simultaneously considering Gary Oldman, Kevin Costner and Mark Strong for the role of Alten Stafford, our hero’s father. These men are all excellent actors with managers that can protect them from this yoyo approach, which continues to change until all leads are signed. In our case, we have three leads that must first be perfectly balanced in screen strength for the story to work.
The shifting of schedules, changes in budget and higher offers that remove talent from the negotiation table create the yoyo effect – All because the director wants the best possible combination. Thankfully the rejected actors know that a change in fit caused the rejection, not their skill. Still, I feel for actors who fit and then don’t because the lead was changed, especially if they become a fit again once yet another lead signs.
Supporting Cast Supports, Not Outshines
The other element that can lead to a not-so-dream cast comes about when a supporting actor is hired that outshines the lead. While this sometimes sneaks up on a director due to an oversight in auditions, it becomes obvious to everyone once the film hits the silver screen.
A friend of mine was hired to play a lead in a drama. Her greatest performance was captured in a scene that would have been ideal for her next reel, but a supporting character overshadowed her. Had she included it in her reel, she would have lost all credibility as an actor. Unfortunately, the director focused so much on the supporting characters that the leads were undermined, the story wavered and the film flopped.
Its incidences like those that cause the rejected actors to be thankful they weren’t cast. Everyone loses when a supporting character outshines a lead and only the director has the control to make sure it doesn’t happen. This can also be the time when it becomes painfully obvious when a director has hired a friend or a relative to play a role they aren’t suited for.
I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter how much you want to work with a certain actor, the story should drive the talent selection process. And, those actors who are patient and great at what they do, will eventually find ideal roles from directors fulfilling their story requirements over their desires.
As for Tried & True, the latest script changes have forced us to relook at the leads, and therefore the entire cast. Some characters will probably survive the change like Detective Yeager who I’d like to fill with a specific theater character actor. Other roles will continue to change until the last lead actor is signed.