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netribution > features > interview with mary selway > page two

The people employing me should understand my tastes, and that very rarely happens. People just think: "Oh, she’s got a lot of good credits, she’d be fine for that film". I’m actually better at some films than I am at others. You can have a negative power, where you can say to agents: "No, they’re not right, I am not bringing in that actor". What I say, in that situation, if I don’t think an actor is right for the film is "I don’t think this guy is right, a lot of people like him, but he doesn’t appeal to me" because it’s all subjective. You have to be fair, and open minded, and it’s really hard, because the problem is there are thousands and thousands of actors and the drama schools push out more and more and more actors. If you speak to any casting director, and they’re honest, they’ll say the primary emotion you feel is guilt, because you cannot know all of them. It is an absolute impossibility. They say the top agents have the hold on the top talent. In a sense they do, but there are always the emerging actors who haven’t got to the top agents yet. You have to be aware of those. It’s a full time job to keep up with all that. There is this thing where you read a part for "fat ugly bloke" and you think "Oh, there’s that bloke that I saw do ‘fat ugly bloke’" and you can repeat easily, but what you should do is find that guy, but find other ones as well. Sometimes there is an inverted snobbery that the director doesn’t want him because other directors have used him and that’s silly if he’s the best person. But it shouldn’t be just because he always plays those parts. It should be who is the best person. You are not to be lazy. As for the title ‘Casting Director’, that’s rubbish. I don’t know what I direct. I direct in here, in my little office with my video camera and I get actors to do a scene, but the director directs the movie. I hate the term Casting Agent. I loathe that. An agent represents actors, guides their career, gets them work and takes ten percent of their salary. I get paid via a production company to sign the best actors. What am I an agent for? People constantly nowadays call you a Casting Agent, and I hate that even more than Casting Director. I would prefer simply: Casting Person or Casting. Unisex Casting Person.If you’re a writer or a director, or you’re involved creatively in film, it usually takes a very long time for your work to come to fruition. In here you see somebody that you think, "Oh, they would be great for that role", and they come in to meet the director and the director goes "Oh, that’s great, great" and they get the job. That’s fantastic, because you’ve done something for the actor that is to do with their career. It’s a terrifically fulfilling thing when that happens. The worst thing is having to deal with all the bullshit that you get from agents and everybody, and the unbelievable boring, stupid amount of gossip told to you as fact. That drives me insane.

I know. You look in Contacts and it’s ridiculous. It isn’t the case in America, so much. I don’t know why it is over here. I think it’s because women a better at dealing with emotion in many different forms, and are very articulate about emotion to actors. Women are less confrontational for directors and so better at guiding them. They’re not competitive in the same way as men, and casting should be uncompetitive and lacking in ego and I don’t know if I could actually put my hand on my heart and say that’s true of a lot of casting directors. You have to become very simpatico with the director and I think that women are able to do that in a very non-threatening, guiding gentler way.

Watch lots and lots of films, European, American and English films, and go to the theatre. I don’t mean West End Theatre, I mean go to fringe theatre, small theatre all that sort of thing. So when they come to me, or another casting director and say "I would love to work in casting" they have a knowledge to start from. The problem with casting is that anybody can do it, but to do it really well is very, very difficult. Anybody can have the knowledge, but it’s how you apply that knowledge. Some people can work for years and not have it, and it’s hard to tell them they haven’t got it.

As Casting Director

Maybe Baby (2000)
Clandestine Marriage, The (1999)
Onegin (1999)
Notting Hill (1999)
Talk of Angels (1998)
Dancing at Lughnasa (1998)
Lost in Space (1998)
Dangerous Beauty (1998)
FairyTale: A True Story (1997)
"Cold Lazarus" (1996) (mini) (TV Series)
Ghost and the Darkness, The (1996)
Emma (1996)
Restoration (1995)
First Knight (1995)
Circle of Friends (1995)
Eleven Men Against Eleven (1995) (TV)
Black Beauty (1994)
Death and the Maiden (1994)
White Hunter, Black Heart (1990)
Comfort of Strangers, The (1990)
Nuns on the Run (1990)
Russia House, The (1990)
Georg Elser - Einer aus Deutschland (1989)
Dry White Season, A (1989)
Hawks (1989)
Gorillas in the Mist (1988)
Stormy Monday (1988)
Castaway (1987)
Prayer for the Dying, A (1987)
Hope and Glory (1987)
Trouble with Spies, The (1987)
White Mischief (1987)
Withnail and I (1987)
Half Moon Street (1986)
Absolute Beginners (1986)
Gothic (1986)
Sky Bandits (1986)
Defence of the Realm (1985)
Out of Africa (1985)
Top Secret! (1984)
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Beyond the Limit (1983)
Return of the Jedi (1983)
Gorky Park (1983)
Nelly's Version (1983)
Victor/Victoria (1982)
Five Days One Summer (1982)
Outland (1981)
Excalibur (1981)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Hanover Street (1979)
Tess (1979)
Agatha (1979)
Dracula (1979)
First Great Train Robbery, The (1979)
Cuba (1979)
Shout, The (1978)
Squeeze, The (1977)
Ritz, The (1976)
Robin and Marian (1976)
Romantic Englishwoman, The (1975)
Juggernaut (1974)
Unman, Wittering and Zigo (1971)
Night Digger, The (1971)

As 'Casting'
Un divan à New York (1996) (casting: London)
"Scarlett" (1994) (mini) (TV Series) (casting: UK)
Accidental Tourist, The (1988) (casting: London)
Aliens (1986) (casting: UK)
Whoops Apocalypse (1986) (casting: UK)
Ladyhawke (1985) (casting: London)
Eureka (1982) (casting: UK)
Flash Gordon (1980) (casting: U.K.)
Alien (1979) (casting: UK)
Superman (1978) (casting: English)
Rollerball (1975) (casting: London)
If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium (1969) (casting: UK)

As producer
Wuthering Heights (1992)
Dry White Season, A (1989) (associate)

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