Mike Fenton, the casting director behind hits like “Back to the Future,” “E.T.,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “The Godfather: Part II,” died this week, the Casting Society of America confirmed on Friday. He was 85.
“Casting Society of America is saddened about the death of co-founder Mike Fenton. His remarkable accomplishments and incredible work in elevating the awareness and appreciation of the craft of casting defines his legacy in the entertainment industry,” CSA co-presidents Russell Boast and Rich Mento told TheWrap in a statement on Friday. “CSA extends its love and support to his cherished family and friends.”
Steven Spielberg said that working with Fenton was “like working in a candy store” because “he made casting a blast.”
“His fervent support of actors was the stuff of legend, and after landing a part, any actor’s smile was rarely as wide as Mike’s,” the “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” director said in a statement. “He didn’t just support actors, he launched crusades. And he was a pretty good actor himself, as he would always read off-camera dialogue to create energy and mojo for the person reading for the part.”
“Mike helped me get over every moment of indecision when I had three good options and couldn’t choose. He was as responsible for some actors getting their big breaks in my films as me,” Spielberg added. “Much like the actors for whom he advocated, Mike loved his role — and those around him loved him so much, and I will miss him dearly.”
An industry veteran with hundreds of credits under his belt, Fenton died from natural causes at his home in L.A., according to his son, Mick.
Born in 1935 in Los Angeles as Ronald Michael Fenton, Fenton joined Paramount as a casting director in 1963 after working in the mailroom of the Music Corporation of America and as an agent at the Ashley-Steiner Agency. In 1971, he launched his own casting agency with Fred Roos in 1982 (and later partnered with Jane Feinberg and Judy Taylor. He went on to co-found the Casting Society of America.
Other film credits include “American Graffiti,” “Chinatown,” “Young Frankenstein,” “Norma Rae,” the 1982 “Blade Runner,” “A Christmas Story,” “Poltergeist,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Footloose” and “Aliens.”
Fenton is survived by his wife Irene, son Mick, daughter-in-law Alison and two grandchildren.