Casting director Bill Shepard dies

Worked for Walt Disney Studios, director Mel Brooks

Bill Shepard, a casting director who worked for Walt Disney Studios and director Mel Brooks, died Sept. 20 of a heart attack at Sherman Oaks Hospital and Health Center. He was 79.

Shepard spent 17 years casting films and TV shows at Disney, then went on to work in a similar capacity on "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier" (1989) and such Brooks' comedies as "Spaceballs" (1987), "Robin Hood: Men in Tights" (1993) and "Dracula: Dead and Loving It" (1995).

Shepard was responsible for giving Michael J. Fox his first feature film role when he cast the young Canadian to star in Disney's 1980 film "Midnight Madness."

"Bill not only found stars and big players that helped make the pictures successful," Brooks said, "but he also was a genius at finding the right featured players and smaller character roles that gave my movies depth and reality. I could always rely on him to do a great job."

Following a stint as an usher at CBS Television City, Shepard began a 30-year career at Disney Studios. Starting in 1954 as a clerk in the editing department, he went on to work in publicity, then into roles as senior casting assistant and later casting director.

At Disney, Shepard was involved in casting such films as "Splash" (1984), Tim Burton's live-action directing debut, "Frankenweenie" (1984), "My Science Project" (1985), "Herbie Goes Bananas" (1980), "The Last Flight of Noah's Ark" (1980), "The Devil and Max Devlin" (1981) and "Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend" (1985).

His Disney TV credits include the telefilms "Tales of the Apple Dumpling Gang," "The Love Bug," "Beyond Witch Mountain," "The Adventures of Pollyanna" and the series "Zorro and Son."

After leaving Disney in 1984, Shepard served as casting director for Brooksfilms.
Shepard is survived by two daughters, Sheri Nerland and Robin Griffin; a sister, Sylvia Voglin; two nieces, Terri Tamblin, Lisa Keith; and four granddaughters, Kelsey and Courtney Nerland and Summer and Crystal Griffin.

Contributions in his name can be made to the City of Hope, the Motion Picture & Television Fund or the Make-A-Wish Foundation.