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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Knives Out, Jojo Rabbit and Marriage Story were among the feature films honored by the Casting Society of America at the 2020 Artios Awards on Thursday night.
The 35th annual ceremony honored excellence in casting across film, TV and theater at ceremonies in New York, Los Angeles and London, hosted by Michelle Buteau, Ron Funches and Jason Isaacs, respectively.
Other film honorees included Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (the Zeitgeist Award), The Last Black Man in San Francisco (low budget – comedy or drama) and, tied for best animation, The Lion King and Toy Story 4.
TV winners included The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (comedy series), Game of Thrones (drama series), When They See Us (limited series) and Queer Eye (reality series), with the pilot and first seasons of Pose and Russian Doll also recognized. Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear's "All in the Family" and "The Jeffersons" won for live TV performance, variety or sketch comedy, while To All The Boys I've Loved Before won for best non-theatrical film.
The Artios Awards also honored Geena Davis with the Lynn Stalmaster Award for Career Achievement, Audra McDonald with the Marion Dougherty New York Apple Award, Deborah Aquila with the Hoyt Bowers Award and Andrew Femenella with the Rosalie Joseph Humanitarian Award.
In London, at an event hosted in conjunction with the British Independent Film Awards, Working Title heads Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner were honored with the Artios Award for Creative Collaboration, Andy Pryor received the Excellence in Casting Award and Pippa Markham, Kate Buckley and Gillian Hawser received special recognition for their work in furthering casting honors with the creation of the BAFTA Casting Awards for TV and film.
Davis — who was cast in her first movie (a supporting role in Tootsie) by the award’s namesake, Stalmaster — praised casting directors for their hand in increasing diversity among film and television projects.
“I’m so grateful for everything you guys do, and especially for the work that you are doing toward inclusion. The needle is actually moving,” she said.
Davis also mentioned a study done by her organization, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which found that children’s programming reached gender parity among lead characters. “It gives me tremendous hope for what we can all accomplish moving forward.”
She continued, urging casting directors to acknowledge the power they have in choosing who is represented on screen: “I always suggest to studios that an easy way to reach parity is to just go through a script and change the first names of a bunch of characters, and suddenly you have some gender equality.”
In New York, McDonald joked in her Marion Dougherty Award acceptance speech, "I'm so grateful for each time that I'm cast in a show cause you know, rent and all that stuff. It doesn't matter if you've got six Tonys or zero, it's due every month."
"I'm also grateful to the casting directors who took a chance on me and the ones who thought they were looking for something different but then saw something valuable in me," she added.
McDonald continued by saying all the influential people at the awards on Thursday night should use the power they have to encourage people to take chances in their work and open their minds to different ways of looking at things.
"In doing so, we need to make sure that we're bringing everybody to the table — women, people of color, members of the LGBTQIA community," she concluded.
On the red carpet before the awards, McDonald told The Hollywood Reporter that casting directors are the ones on the front lines, the ones who go to showcases and find new, hidden talent and bring them in. She added that she respects them and the Casting Society so much and that she was beyond honored to be receiving her award, especially because New York is her home. It's all she ever wanted, McDonald said.
Michael Shannon and Brian Stokes Mitchell introduced the six-time Tony winner and shared their memories of working with the long-time actress. Shannon and McDonald starred alongside each other in the recent Broadway revival of Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune.
"I've never been on stage with someone where night after night, I'd look over at them and I would just think, 'Damn, I can't do that. I can't do what they're doing. Thank god they're doing that cause I can't," Shannon said of his work with McDonald in the two-character play.
The honorees in Los Angeles were joined by a host of actors who were ready to pay tribute to the people who had helped them land some of their most coveted roles.
“I grew up in a time when women like me weren’t necessarily thought of for a lot of roles,” actress Camryn Manheim told THR, “and if it weren’t for a few amazing casting directors who knew my power, knew my strength, knew that I could transform into these characters, I probably wouldn’t be here right now.”
Other attendees at the L.A. ceremony included Billie Lourd, Jared Harris and Marin Hinkle. Each shared stories about casting directors who helped them during the formative years of their career.
“When I got out of grad school, the whole thing seemed so daunting, and they hadn’t taught us anything really about auditioning,” Hinkle said on the red carpet before the ceremony. “It was the care and the inspiration of [casting directors], and the trust that they were gonna give us some time in the room to fail and actually make a lot of mistakes. It was [having] people who were there to say, ‘I see something in you, and I can tell you’re nervous, but I’m here to help guide.’”
On the carpet in New York, attendees said casting is the second most important thing in a project after the script.
"Can you imagine some of your favorite shows and plays and movies with different people in the room? They would be completely different, and some of the most iconic characters and ensembles of all time might not have come to be," Rachel Brosnahan told THR. "Casting directors are the too often unsung heroes of all the films and television we make."
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel casting directors, Cindy Tolan and her associates, took home the award for best casting in a comedy television series. Brosnahan said she was so grateful for her casting directors, who addressed the loss of Brian Tarantina in their acceptance speech.
"There are no assholes on our show," Brosnahan said. "We love each other, and we love working together, and we have chemistry that feels unparalleled. It's such a rare experience to feel like you have genuine chemistry with every single person in an ensemble, and that's our casting directors."
Brosnahan's Maisel co-stars, Luke Kirby and Tony Shalhoub, echoed her sentiment on the importance of casting directors and how they are they key to a TV, movie or play's success. Kirby and Shalhoub also pointed out that without Brosnahan, the show wouldn't be the same.
"Our casting director had this innate sense that [casting Rachel] was the right thing, sent her in to meet [showrunners] Amy and Dan [Palladino], and everything just clicked," Shalhoub told THR. "I'm convinced that without that, without Rachel, I'm not sure this show would have the strength and the gravitas and the following that it has."
In honor of casting directors' biggest night of the year, Casting Society of America New York president Bernie Telsey shared what he and other directors look for when they're casting someone for any particular role. He compared it to a blind date because the directors are looking for someone who they want to hear more from.
"You look for an actor to move you," Telsey told THR. "You're looking for someone who makes a choice, who feels connected to the character."
A full list of this year's Artios Awards winners follows.
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