Casting directors, the largely unsung heroes of the film and TV business, enjoy a warm, deserving close-up in the highly watchable documentary "Casting By," in theaters for a quick run before its HBO premiere next month.
Directed by Tom Donahue, the movie, jampacked with evocative film clips, archival footage and interviews with a who's who of actors and filmmakers (Clint Eastwood, Robert Redford, Woody Allen, Glenn Close, Al Pacino, Martin Scorsese and Bette Midler are but a few) makes a compelling case for a Hollywood-gone-by when gut instincts, risk-taking and a dark-horse mentality could trump corporate meddling and box office slavishness.
At the heart of the doc is the grand dame of casting, the late Marion Dougherty (she died in 2011), whose more than 50-year contribution to show business — from the early days of TV to stints as head of feature casting for Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. — begat an A-list campaign in 1991 to award her with an honorary Oscar (it failed). The savvy, forthright Dougherty memorably weighs in here (Donahue spoke to her for this film in 2007), along with the many other casting talents she nurtured along the way, including Lynn Stalmaster, Juliet Taylor, Ellen Lewis and Wallis Nicita.
Hearing how bold, creative casting choices propelled the success of such landmark pictures as "The Graduate," "Midnight Cowboy" and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" proves a vivid reminder of the hand-in-glove importance of right actor/right role — and the indispensability of those casting mavens who helped make movie history. Good stuff.
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes.
Playing: At Laemmle's NoHo 7, North Hollywood.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun