Documentary about casting directors is one of 151 films trying to get voters’ attention by the end of the week
Robert Duvall has become the latest to chime in on behalf of “Casting By,” the Tom Donahue documentary about legendary casting director Marion Dougherty and the profession in which she flourished.
And with the help of recent AMPAS changes, and the support of folks like Duvall, Judd Apatow and Woody Allen, the film may be making noise at the right time in a brutally overcrowded Oscar documentary race.
The film is one of a record 151 docs competing for the attention of Oscar voters in the Best Documentary Feature category – and with ballots due at the end of this week for the 15-film shortlist expected to be announced in early December, “Casting By” has received a flurry of attention.
Apatow and Rebecca Miller have tweeted about the film, Allen wrote an open letter testifying to the importance of casting directors, and 21 top casting directors appeared at Q&As that followed seven weekend screenings of the film at the Arena Cinema in Hollywood.
Those screenings were something of a prelude both to the Oscar deadline and to Monday’s Artios Awards, the annual honors handed out by the casting community.
And in an exclusive interview with TheWrap, veteran actor Duvall called the film “very well done and thoughtful,” and heaped praise on the late Dougherty (right), who helped him land roles on TV series like “Naked City” in the 1960s.
(Photo of Duvall in “Naked City” at top.)
“She was a special person,” said Duvall. “I always remember that when I came in contact with her, she made you feel unique in that she had picked you, which meant you were doing a good job. I remember her warm face, giving you encouragement when you went in for the job that she’d set up for you to get.
“I always liked the lady very much, and it’s very nice that they did a documentary on her.”
The movie, which aired on HBO after an Oscar-qualifying run earlier in the year, is also in the forefront of another Academy-related fight: the battle to get Oscar recognition.
Casting directors won a major victory after the film’s completion but before its release, when the Academy announced the creation of a Casting Directors Branch last July 31. Members of the casting community, some of whom had been admitted to the Academy as members-at-large, had been lobbying for a branch for decades.
In October, members of the new branch – which at this point consists of entirely of former members-at-large who were shifted – elected David Rubin, Bernie Telsey and Lora Kennedy as their branch governors.
But the fight for an Oscar category figures to be a tough one. The Academy’s vocal partners at ABC certainly don’t want the 24 awards handed out at the Oscars expanded by yet another below-the-line category, and the Board of Governors hardly seems in a mood to buck ABC and increase the number of categories.
In addition, as “Casting By” points out, the Directors Guild of America and many individual directors object both to the implication that someone other than the director controls casting, and to the very use of the word director in the phrase casting director.
In the interview with TheWrap, he criticized then-DGA president Taylor Hackford for his stance against the phrase. “Maybe he’s right to a point,” he said, “but don’t be so f—ing emphatic about it.”
But while he lobbied for “Casting By,” casting directors probably shouldn’t expect him on the front lines in their fight for an Oscar category.
Asked whether he approved of the creation of a Casting Directors Branch, he said, “I think that’s good. Why not?”
And when asked if he supported an Oscar for casting, he added, “Maybe that’s a good idea, I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it.”