This casting director likes you for your idiosyncrasies

The first thing that casting director David Rubin does when he reads a screenplay is to forget the writer’s character descriptions. Instead, he’s on the lookout for an actor’s authenticity, as well as diversity. Rubin offers his Brief But Spectacular take on what he sees as the most illuminating auditions.

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    Now to another in our Brief But Spectacular series, where we ask interesting people to share their passions.

    Tonight, casting director David Rubin, who's more than a hundred film credits.

  • DAVID RUBIN, Casting Director:

    The most important thing for an actor to bring to the table is themselves, their own idiosyncrasy. And so many actors get preoccupied with what they think the filmmaker is looking for. And, frankly, what we're looking for is them.

    One of my first jobs was working on the production staff of "Saturday Night Live." I was a lowly production assistant. It was the last two seasons of the original cast, John Belushi, and Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, Jane Curtin. It was insane.

    During my last season, it was actually announced that the show would not continue. So, we all kind of scrambled for work. And I happened to meet the head of casting at NBC. She was looking for an assistant. She hired me. It was kismet.

    When I first read a screenplay, there are sometimes very specific descriptions of the characters. And the first thing that I do is forget those descriptions, because writers write very specifically, not for the casting director or not for the director, but for the studio executive or the financier.

    When you read in a script "doctor 40s," the temptation on the part of the filmmaker might be just to assume that it was a white male in their 40s or 50s. Why couldn't it be an Asian person in their 30s? Why couldn't it be a little person? Why couldn't it be a Latino?

    Gender diversity, racial diversity, all of those things come into play in a conversation with a filmmaker when you are bringing in different approaches to a particular character.

    There are several pioneers in casting that opened the doors to the process in general. And this really happened after the demise of the studio system, when studios no longer had actors under contract. They needed people who were going to direct the casting process.

    Lynn Stalmaster was the first independent casting director in motion pictures, who cast films like "West Side Story" and "The Graduate." They had searched far and wide before Dustin Hoffman, from relative obscurity, got that role.

    Marion Dougherty in New York was doing the same groundbreaking work. It was about casting people for their idiosyncrasy.

    The thing that keeps this job fresh is the variety. I have cast over a hundred motion pictures. When I look at my resume, I get a little tired.

    Just like an actor doesn't want to be typecast, I don't want to be typecast in casting. So, on the wall of my office, there's a poster of "The English Patient" very near a poster of "Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay."

    There are some times when an actor comes in, and they give what they think is a botched audition, they go off on their lines, something goes wrong in the scene. And often those are the most illuminating additions to me, those kind of organic moments where an actor connects with a character, even though they may not even realize that they are doing it.

    My name is David Rubin, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on casting.

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