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"Casting By"
Program in Theater presents the award-winning documentary about the casting profession

The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Theater at Princeton University will present a screening of the award-winning documentary Casting By, chronicling filmmaking’s unsung hero, the casting director, on March 10 at 4:30 p.m. in the James M. Stewart ’32 Theater at 185 Nassau St. The screening will be hosted by Professor Brian Herrera as part of his course on “Casting: History, Theory and Practice”; he will lead a conversation about the film following the screening. The event is free and open to the public.

The film, by Tom Donahue, is a celebration of the casting profession tracing the last half-century of Hollywood history. The casting director is the only opening single card film credit that does not receive its own Academy Award nomination. However, as Martin Scorsese states at the start of the film, “More than 90 percent of directing a picture is the right casting.”  Donahue combines extensive archival material and exclusive interviews with A-list actors and directors, including Glenn Close, Robert Duvall, Jeff Bridges, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Jon Voight, John Lithgow, Bette Midler and John Travolta to tell the story of Hollywood’s most invisible and unheralded profession.

The documentary focuses on casting pioneer Marion Dougherty, an iconoclast recognized for her exquisite taste, tenacity and gut instincts who brought a new kind of actor to the screen that would mark the end of the old studio system and help to usher in the “New Hollywood” through her casting of landmark films like Midnight Cowboy, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Bonnie and Clyde. She is also noted as having plucked several now-iconic actors out of obscurity including James Dean, Warren Beatty, Robert Redford, Christopher Walken and Glenn Close, giving them their first break in front of the camera. Dougherty became head of casting at Paramount Pictures in the 1970s before a long career at Warner Brothers. The film notes that casting director Lynn Stalmaster similarly broke new ground casting films like The Graduate and Deliverance. These casting directors broke away from traditional typecasting and brought new kinds of leading men and women to the screen, among them Dustin Hoffman, Bette Midler, Robert Duvall, and Gene Hackman.

“It’s easy to forget that every character begins life as just words on a page,” notes Donahue, “It takes the collaborations of a great casting director to make that character magnificent and the film unforgettable.”

The documentary was presented at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, the 2012 New York Film Festival, and the 2013 Los Angeles Film Festival, and won the Audience Award at the 2013 Sebastapol Film Festival, and has been broadcast by HBO. In the July 25, 2013 cover story on the film, BackStage magazine wrote, "The film features what is arguably the greatest assemblage of talking-head star power in any documentary ever made.” Indiewire called the film “Tremendously enlightening…an absolute pleasure,” and The New York Times deemed it, “Fascinating.”

Herrera, an assistant professor of theater at the Lewis Center will facilitate an audience conversation about the film and the topic of casting.  His scholarly work examines the formation of gender, sexual and racial identities in and through U.S. popular performance and has been published in many journals, including Theatre Journal, Modern Drama, and The Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism.  He is currently at work on two book projects, Latin Numbers: Playing Latino in Twentieth Century Popular Performance and Casting: A History.


Link to photo:
Photo Caption:  Legendary Hollywood casting director Marion Dougherty, subject of a documentary on the unsung role of the casting director.
Photo Credit:  Still from the film

Related Information

Official "Casting By" website 
HBO Documentaries 



Event Information


Monday, March 10, 2014

4:30 PM

James M. Stewart '32 Theater at 185 Nassau Street



Legendary Hollywood casting director Marion Dougherty, subject of a documentary on the unsung role of the casting director.

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