'Game of Thrones' Casting Director Shares Her Most Memorable Hollywood Discoveries

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Nina Gold

Nina Gold — who is being honored with the Hoyt Bowers Award at the CSA Artios Awards — discusses landing Daisy Ridley and John Boyega their breakout roles in 'The Force Awakens' and why 'The Crown' was her toughest project to cast: "I didn't want to get it wrong."

Even though she routinely works with A-listers — Brad Pitt, Amy Adams and Tom Hardy among them — Nina Gold prefers to cast projects with unknowns. "It's so exciting watching them develop and have some fresh ideas," she says. And it's how she discovered Daisy Ridley and John Boyega for J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Force Awakens as well as pretty much everyone on Game of Thrones (she considers Emilia Clarke her most memorable recent discovery, as Clarke "came pretty fresh from drama school," she says). "I feel like a proud parent to lots of the wonderful actors in Game of Thrones," she adds.

Such work is why the Casting Society of America is bestowing its Hoyt Bowers Award on the legendary casting director, whose honor will be presented by Abrams at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Jan. 19. Other diamonds in the rough? "In the days before Michael Fassbender was Michael Fassbender, he'd come in for various parts, and it was really obvious to me that he was a star," says Gold, who has seen her share of celebrities. Still, she admits, "I found it hard to keep my cool when I met Meryl Streep."

The toughest real-life person she's ever cast was a young Queen Elizabeth in Netflix's hit drama The Crown, a role that went to Claire Foy. "I didn't want to get it wrong and kill my chances of getting a damehood," Gold jokes. "The Force Awakens was tough for the sheer weight of responsibility. It also was a favorite project for the sheer thrill of playing a part in shaping the future of an iconic piece of movie history and working with J.J. in a very collaborative manner."

Gold takes issue with certain types of casting calls. "I personally don't only want to see characters who are young and gorgeous and at the height of their beauty," she says. "I like to see stories where there is more variety and people aren't perfect or homogenous."

And if this casting legend ever had to cast someone to play her in a movie, who'd be her pick? "Melanie Lynskey to play the young me," she says.

A version of this story first appeared in the Jan. 27 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.