How 'Argo' Got Just the Right Actors
A winner of the Casting Society of America's top honor, the Artios Award, explains her process.
The Academy refuses to give an Oscar for casting, but the Casting Society of America will honor 107 nominees during its own annual bicoastal kudos fest, the Artios Awards, on Oct. 29 at the Beverly Hilton and New York's XL Nightclub. Ben Affleck, Lora Kennedy and Harvey Fierstein will respectively collect the Career Achievement, Hoyt Bowers and New York Apple awards.
Kennedy, the casting director on Affleck's Argo, says her often-overlooked craft clearly is awards-worthy. "Obviously, I didn't cast Ben, but I cast the other 130 people in the movie," she says. Kennedy made Affleck look good by helping him hire Scoot McNairy, Tate Donovan, Rory Cochrane, Clea DuVall and Christopher Denham as refugees from Iran's 1979 hostage crisis. "Ben can't pick the right people if I don't show him the right people," says Kennedy.
Kennedy, who brought Jeremy Renner to Affleck's The Town and Sandra Bullock to Wrestling Ernest Hemingway, has a different process with each director. "Ben likes to see lots of choices, so I saw thousands of people," she notes. "I'd say, 'Remember that thing that we'd done when we did that thing on The Town?'
"Zack Snyder [Man of Steel] just likes to know the best choices. After we hired Susan Sarandon on Speed Racer, I knew the Wachowskis would put her in any of their movies if there were a role for her." Sarandon is in their Cloud Atlas, as is Hugh Grant, in six nasty roles. Kennedy recalls: "I said, 'I know this sounds weird, but Hugh Grant would never get asked to play something like this, so let's ask him.' He took one look and said, 'I'm in.' "
Kennedy says casting isn't getting any easier. "The amount of stuff I need to know now! I have to know the Latin market, the U.K., Australia, the Swedish market." She tracks actors via IMDb (which another casting director used to find Robert Pattinson for Twilight) but uses "a bunch of websites. I'm not going to give up all my secrets." Her bottom-line rule is that every role counts in a movie. "It's like planning the perfect dinner," says Kennedy. "You have all different kinds of people, and they all bring something interesting to the party."
ARGO CAST BRIEF:
- Scoot McNairy: “Scoot is starting to get roles,” says Kennedy. “He’s going to be around for a long time.”
- Clea DuVall: “Ben and I put Clea’s picture up on the first day of casting. We never looked at another choice for the role.”
- Christopher Denham: “Christopher is a physical match for the real guy, but it was accidental. He was the best actor.”