"I'm Not There" to receive first Altman casting award

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Casting directors have long lobbied to be recognized at the Academy Awards with an Oscar category of their own. It hasn't happened yet, but the forward-thinking Spirit Awards took a step in that direction with the creation this year of the Robert Altman Award.

The honor, named for the visionary director who died in 2006 and was known for weaving ensemble casts into intricate stories, seeks to highlight a film that echoes Altman's sweeping style. It will be given to the film's cast, director and -- a first for the Spirit Awards -- the casting director.

"They have a huge responsibility -- especially in independent films -- and no one really takes the time to honor them," says Dawn Hudson, executive director of Film Independent, which bestows the awards.

Because the Altman honor calls for an exceptional independent film with an ensemble cast, the prize will only be awarded when a film fits the criteria. The first award will go to the Weinstein Co.'s "I'm Not There," the diverse cast of which includes Cate Blanchett, Christian Bale, Heath Ledger and Richard Gere each playing Bob Dylan-esque characters.

"'I'm Not There' so obviously fits the bill," Hudson says. "It's an amazing cast playing the part."

The award will be presented Saturday to the ensemble, director Todd Haynes and the film's casting director, Laura Rosenthal.   
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