Click here to read reviewer Marie D. Jones' take on A Star Is Found.
Janet Hershenson and Jane Jenkins, freelance casting directors who joined forces in 1970 to form The Casting Company, have enjoyed great success in this predominately female career. In a transient field, they retain their own offices and staff; most move on after a project wraps, but The Casting Company maintains their office space from one film to another.
Dedicated to “work hard to fill the smaller parts, granting them the same meticulous attention that we’d give major roles,” Hirshenson and Jenkins describe the life of a casting director in their cleverly balanced book, the particular challenges and rewards of their career.
The text reads like a blast from the past, referencing stars and celebrities of yesteryear as well as newcomers, the main attraction being the authors’ gossipy tone. Buried in the detritus of yesterday’s films and TV shows (Suzy Coelho, wife of Sonny Bono; Walter Matthau; Ralph Waite, “Pa” on The Waltons), more recent films bring the book up to date: the new James Bond (Daniel Craig) and The Da Vinci Code.
With their insider’s peek into the inner workings of the movie business, the authors speak of the challenge of casting roles as imagined by moviemakers, using an extensive client list and movie credits to frame their tales: The Princess Bride, Something’s Gotta Give, The Perfect Storm, Stand By Me, Ghost, Apollo 13.
Directors they have worked with include Ron Howard, Wolfgang Peterson, Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, Rob Reiner, Tim Burton and John Hughes. In filling parts, they often use well-known actors or stars on their way up the ladder, but frequently they are driven to extended searches for the perfect match for a particular role.
Of all the familiar names, many are found at the beginning of their careers, later going on to enjoy fame and fortune. One chapter speaks to the special difficulties of child actors, balancing age with skills while deflecting too-eager parents from interfering in the process. These women are committed from start to finish, tackling whatever difficulties come with the territory.
Anecdotally, Janet and Jane explore every aspect of this unique career from the Call to final Casting and, hopefully, a successful project, the pages filled with behind-the-scenes details. Sharing the spotlight in the text, the ladies use a chatty style as they discuss their freelance careers, citing familiar films and actors they have cast in roles, from unknowns to stars.
This is a quick and interesting read, names dropped throughout to keep the reader hoping for a juicy bit of gossip. Unfortunately, the authors are too professional to let slip any secrets, providing just enough information to keep it interesting.