David Rubin Elected President of Film Academy

Rubin, who succeeds John Bailey, is the first casting director to ascend to the presidency.
George Pimentel/FilmMagic
David Rubin

David Rubin, the Emmy-winning casting director, has been elected the 35th president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, succeeding John Bailey, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Rubin is the first casting director to ascend to the presidency.

The vote took place on Tuesday night. Rubin was nominated by a fellow member of the organization's 54-person board of governors. All nominees were then placed on an electronic ballot, with most governors participating from inside the board room on the seventh floor of the Academy's Wilshire Blvd. headquarters, and others remotely via a conferencing system. PwC presided over the process.

Rubin was first elected to the board in 2013 as one of the original three representatives of the newly formed casting directors branch, which he had fought to establish; he was re-elected in 2016 and in 2019. Meanwhile, in 2016, he was chosen by the board to serve as its secretary, a position to which he was re-elected in 2017 and 2018.

Few board members have been more active in Academy affairs than Rubin, who has chaired its membership and administration committee for years, fighting for diversity among the Academy's membership and leadership, just as he has in the casting world; and who produced the 2016 and 2017 Governors Awards, successfully lobbying his fellow board members, ahead of the former, to make his mentor, Lynn Stalmaster, the first casting director ever to receive an honorary Oscar. (Rubin toasted Stalmaster at the ceremony.)

In 2017, Rubin mounted his first bid for the presidency, coming up short not against Laura Dern, who had been expected to oppose him (but ultimately declined a nomination and threw her support behind Rubin), but rather against Bailey, who had not been among the rumored candidates.

The Academy presidency comes up for grabs every year. A president is able to serve up to three consecutive one-year terms, provided they do not, in the process, hit the maximum of nine consecutive years on the board, at which point they "term out" and must step away from the board for at least one year, as was the case for Bailey this election cycle.

Other officer positions also came up for a vote on Tuesday. Re-elected were makeup artist Lois Burwell as first vice president; marketing vet Sid Ganis as vice president (chair, Museum Committee); writer Larry Karaszewski as vice president (chair, Preservation and History Committee); and Fox Searchlight co-chief Nancy Utley as vice president (chair, Education and Outreach Committee). Additionally, the Oscar-winning producer Mark Johnson was the board's pick for treasurer (chair, Finance Committee), the job previously held by Paramount chief Jim Gianopulos, and producer Bonnie Arnold was tapped to succeed Rubin as secretary (chair, Membership and Governance Committee).

The election of Rubin as president will undoubtedly be cheered by his fellow members of "below-the-line" branches, whose visibility on the Academy Awards telecast has often been threatened, most recently earlier this year when the board voted to present four Oscars recognizing below-the-line work during commercial breaks. The board, facing harsh industry backlash, ultimately backed away from the plan, but the on-air presentation of awards such as these is likely to remain under threat as the Academy's broadcasting partner, ABC, exerts pressure to deliver strong ratings for the telecast.

There has never been an Oscar for best casting director, but it seems conceivable that one could be established during Rubin's presidency.

Rubin's most public-facing role will likely be in connection with the launch of the long-gestating Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Over-budget, repeatedly delayed and hindered by personnel changes (as recently as Monday when its director, Kerry Brougher, departed the project), construction is finally nearing completion and the project is expected to open in early 2020.

Rubin broke into the entertainment business in New York in the late seventies. He started as a lowly production assistant on Saturday Night Live during the final run of its original cast. At a time when 30 Rock was abuzz was that the show would not be brought back, Rubin met NBC's head of casting and accepted an offer to become his assistant. He eventually struck out on his own, casting films that went on to great acclaim, such as Silkwood (1983) and eventual best picture Oscar winner Amadeus (1984). And then he moved to Los Angeles to serve as Stalmaster's associate for several years.

Since opening his own west coast office, Rubin has cast more than 100 films, including many that went on to great success, such as Fried Green Tomatoes (1991), My Cousin Vinny (1992), The Firm (1993), Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), Get Shorty (1995), eventual best picture Oscar winner The English Patient (1996), Men in Black (1997) and My Best Friend's Wedding (1997).

Following a brief interlude, from 1998 through 2004, as a producing partner of English Patient helmer Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack at Mirage Enterprises, he resumed his casting work with the likes of Cold Mountain (2003), Lars and the Real Girl (2007), Hairspray (2007), Gravity (2013), Wild (2014), Trumbo (2015) and Rules Don't Apply (2016).

He has also increasingly taken on work in television, particularly with HBO, winning casting Emmys for his contributions to the network's Game Change in 2012 and Big Little Lies in 2017. This year, he is nominated for another Emmy, for Sharp Objects.

In 2002, the Casting Society of America presented Rubin with its career achievement award.