TCM host Jacqueline Stewart photographed on the TCM set on Tuesday & Wednesday, August 20-21, 2019 in Atlanta, Ga.  Photo by John Nowak
ManOfTheCenturyMovie Film A new podcast from the Academy Museum revels in Hollywood casting coups and untapped trivia

A new podcast from the Academy Museum revels in Hollywood casting coups and untapped trivia

TCM host Jacqueline Stewart photographed on the TCM set on Tuesday & Wednesday, August 20-21, 2019 in Atlanta, Ga.  Photo by John Nowak

Casting is one of Hollywood’s hidden arts, and beginning June 15, the second season of the Academy Museum’s podcast, “Close Up on Casting,” hosted by museum director and president Jacqueline Stewart, delves into the art and l Hollywood’s often misunderstood influence fusion.

The audio series draws its inspiration from the museum’s galleries, Stewart said during a recent small press briefing and podcast preview for the Hitchcock-focused episode “Rebecca.” He saw that his curators had more research and information to share than could be displayed in the audience’s favorite Performance Gallery, filled with actor Polaroid premieres, audition tapes and casting directors’ notes, and it deserves to be expanded. The typed list of actresses being considered for the production of producer David O. Selznick’s “Rebecca” (1940), for example, is invaluable, with often sarcastic and misogynistic descriptions for each name.

“It was really interesting to see visitors imagine different possibilities for some of their favorite movies,” Stewart said in the podcast introduction. “There is an essential casting story behind every Oscar winner, and we’re going to shed some light on the history of this profession. We will be working from the classic Hollywood studio era to the present. And with every movie and story, we’ll ask who gets the part? How does this choice happen? And what does it mean for a film for an actor and for the audience? You will hear from directors, Academy museum curators, film historians, producers and, of course, casting directors.

The ten episodes include interviews with casting directors and scholars, including Sarah Finn, Eric Goldberg, Kimberly Hardin, Mary Hidalgo, Lora Kennedy, Laurie Parker and David Rubin, as well as usually inaccessible archive audio. “It was an incredible opportunity to talk to the casting directors and the people who work with them to learn more about the history of that discipline, that profession, that has been marginalized and undervalued,” Stewart said. “It’s not the work we normally think about, although so instrumental in the things we love most about movies, like the interactions between the actors.”

“Rebecca”Courtesy of the Everett Collection

In the first podcast of ‘Rebecca’ season 2, we learn that when Laurence Olivier’s girlfriend, ‘Gone with the Wind’ star Vivien Leigh didn’t make the cut as Maxim de Winter’s new wife, she treated the actress who landed the role, Joan Fontaine, with icy condescension. “He and a lot of other actors thought she didn’t have it in her,” historian Patricia White told Stewart. “That made the acting experience for this rather inexperienced young woman quite difficult on set.”

This only served to enhance her performance as a shy intruder. “We’re not really sure as viewers what he thinks of her, or even why he married her,” Stewart said. Fontaine earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress and the film won Best Picture.

While Stewart was preparing the podcast, she learned how the studio system worked before the casting directors arrived. “I knew there was this powerbrokering that happened in the studios, when these big-man men were in charge of things,” she said. “I didn’t realize how disdainful they could be towards the women involved. And that this was one way the artistic possibilities for not only female, but also male actors were circumscribed by the factory system that was Hollywood at the time.

This helps explain the rebellion of an actress like Olivia de Havilland, who sued the studio over the ways her career was unfairly controlled by restrictive contracts. “The evolution of casting as a profession has meant there have been more nuanced and sensitive ways of thinking about the possibilities for women, for sure,” Stewart said. “It’s not perfect, but it’s a major transformational process over time.”

The brawl over casting a black actress in the live-action “The Little Mermaid” inspired Stewart and her podcast team to “think a lot about how casting can help people imagine all kinds of different possibilities,” she said. said. “And it’s a very powerful tool. It can limit, like: I can’t be a doctor, I can’t be a mermaid. Or: I can write, I can be president, or someone who looks like me can do X, Y, or Z. So those are some of the issues we definitely talk about with contemporary casting directors.

Among other stories set to feature in the 10-episode season is “Typecasting and the Studio System: The Case of Noble Johnson,” who was “the first black movie star,” Stewart said. “He played a wide variety of racial roles, because he had looks that pretty much any person of color could play. And Hollywood had a way of doing that with actors during that time. But he also founded an independent black film company called the Lincoln Motion Picture Company. So he was making these indie films about the black cast. And he was working on Westerns for Universal on the other side.

One episode examines the casting of strangers. Casting director Kimberly Hardin worked with John Singleton on “Boyz ‘n the Hood.” “He brought us Tyrese, for example,” Stewart said. “Kim Coleman, another prominent casting director, talks about the current practice of chasing people at the mall. What does it take to be able to spot that kind of talent? How do you develop that kind of skill over time?

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“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”Sony Pictures Animation

An episode about the casting of animated films like “Aladdin” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” delves into “the qualities of voice acting and animation and why stand-up comedians can do really well,” Stewart said. “and pick someone who’s going to be relevant two or three years later, because the production process takes so much time to animate.

Finally, casting is about defense. “Casting directors talk about bringing in people that directors wouldn’t normally think of,” Stewart said. “Sometimes they go to the mat for talent that they feel very strong about that they would never get in the door unless they were doing that defense job.”

The first season of the podcast, “And the Oscar Goes to…” went behind the scenes at several Academy Awards ceremonies, including “The Brave One,” which explored the history of the Oscar campaign during the blacklist, “and how many movie professionals couldn’t use their names,” Stewart said. “Even when they won Oscars, like Dalton Trumbo.” And Halle Berry looked back on her historic Best Actress Oscar win “She reflected on what that didn’t mean for her career,” Stewart said.

Listeners can find the ten-episode series on the Academy Museum and LAist Studios websites, as well as Apple Podcasts, Spotify and other podcast platforms.

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