Roundtable: Why Do These Casting Directors Get No Respect?

Five women who put the stars in a slew of this year's hot awards-season projects open up about actors' auditions and why Oscar won't acknowledge them.

EUSTON: I've been doing mostly TV for the past few years. The turnover is very quick, so Web access has been unbelievable. I started out as a casting assistant on Law & Order and had to type all my memos on a typewriter and fax sides [the pages of a script an actor reads in an audition]. If you wanted a script, you had to pick it up. You called every single agent about the appointments. Now assistants can do it all through email -- send a script, sides, anything.

ROSENTHAL: It's great.

EUSTON: But they don't learn!

DICERTO: You'll tell an assistant, "Can you call the agent and go over ideas for this character?" and they go to the computer. I'm like, "No, pick up the phone!" (Laughter.)

ROSENTHAL: Some things aren't right to do over email.

DICERTO: Especially for Woody's films. We don't put out a breakdown [a description of the roles released to agents and managers], so the first chat with the agent is vital.

TAYLOR: You have to get the nuance across.

LEWIS: This is something that a lot of TV executives and studios specifically don't understand. Casting directors are under so much pressure to do things so quickly that it's become more about volume than the creative process. I think those executives should try to cast something at some point. We should switch places!

What do you prefer that actors never do in auditions?

EUSTON: Touch you. Handshaking is fine, I always do it. It's like, "Hey, how are you?" But I was an assistant in L.A. once and reading [lines] with this guy, and the director asked, "Could you sit and read next to him?" And it was a scene with a gun and he held it up to my head. Getting that close was the freakiest thing.

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TAYLOR: There were many years actors got physical.

DICERTO: I had an actor pull me onto his lap once.

ROSENTHAL: They get naked. (Laughter.)

LEWIS: I was once offered $3,000 from an actor [during an audition] so he could meet the director. I said that wasn't the way to do it. I later heard that he actually had a gun with him that day, which also wasn't a great idea.

OK, we need to know who this person was.

LEWIS: All I'll say is it was while casting Goodfellas … and yes, he's in the movie. (Laughter.)

TAYLOR: One thing that's upsetting is when you meet an actor you're really taken with, then they come in the day of the audition and have done a dramatic change to themselves, like wearing a huge amount of makeup because they thought the part required it. It freaks you out.

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