Everyone has seen the results of a badly cast film, but few understand how it came about. Some will guess that the director and producer first brought together their friends and second salted in a few relatives. But most miscast films come about because a lack of attention and direction was given to the casting director.
The real problem develops the moment a director thinks tactically instead of strategically when considering how they match stars to characters.
My first mismatched casting direction came about when I was producing a series for the Wisconsin Television Network. I had selected the two main stars based on their looks and neglected to consider the creativity they might or might not bring to the table. The result was overly simple characters that never matured – sending the series to an early demise after the first season.
The strategic approach takes more courage and gives unlimited possibilities to every episode. It necessitates a director who knows his story better than anyone else and requires actors to fully understand their character.
After matching the physical makeup of the character and actor, the director needs to know he can trust the actor to listen attentively and stay on course. If those elements are in place there are three things to consider in finding the right actor for the role.
- Ability to Translate Concept to Action: The cinema is a visual medium that requires movement on screen – The reason it’s called “motion” pictures. An actor who can read the script text and turn the moment into a series of actions worth exploring becomes a great asset to the director.
- Collaboration through Suggestion: Rarely does an actor understand the full ramifications of a character choice to the overall story, but he does bring great character insights to each moment. It therefore takes a collaborative process of the actor suggesting possibilities and trusting that the director will know if the ideas fit or hinder other story elements.
- Finding Context in Subtext: Many films are laced with subtext and symbolism to guide the audience’s subconscious. Actors who are able to find the subtext and create actions within those organic context parameters become invaluable to the director.
With the above elements in place, the depth of character and the number of paradoxical character explorations becomes unlimited. The juxtaposition of the potential character inserted into the parameters of the story can bring about the most fascinating results – Keeping the audience pinned to the screen until the epilog.