The days of casting calls in hotel rooms are over, Hollywood casting directors say, thanks in large part to Harvey Weinstein, James Toback, and every other Hollywood power player accused of trying to turn private script readings into sex.
Several casting directors who spoke to TheWrap said any remnants of the casting-couch system will catch scrutiny in post-Harvey Hollywood. The question is whether the industry will walk the walk as it promises an end to harassment and abuse.
“I’m looking forward to a seismic shift wherein all humans in this business, and all walks of life, are given a safe space to work. I seriously doubt that there will be private meetingcs in hotel rooms anymore,” said Marci Liroff, a casting director who has worked on films like “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “Twilight Zone: The Movie,” “Footloose,” “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” “Freaky Friday,” “Mean Girls” and “Gothika.”
“Gone are the days where auditions and meetings will be happening in any hotel room,” agreed Matthew Lessall, President of the Casting Society of America.
He said it remains to be seen “redetermined” how the industry handles “one-on-one situations” between actors and decision-makers.
Alec Baldwin recently told the Los Angeles Times that “you will almost never see an unchaperoned casting session again. Ever. Everybody’s going to want to have somebody in the room with them to make sure nothing questionable is going to happen.”
Sarah-May Levy, casting director, producer and CEO of Sayven Entertainment & Big Apple Casting, says she’s always had an assistant in the room with her — for her own safety.
“I always hire a casting assistant to be in the casting room with me, not only to help me with the work but also to be a witness in case something happens,” she told TheWrap. “Yes, some actors do flirt aggressively with casting directors…. I am very aware that some production people use their status, but let me tell you that some actresses use their charm too.”
Lessall offered another advantage of witnesses being present.
“What happens if an actor feels disgruntled by the process and takes it out on the casting director?” he said. “Ultimately, all legitimate casting professionals are there to ensure that the audition space is a safe space, but will individual casting directors be thinking about changing some of the ways they may handle auditions in the future?”
One possible solution, he said, is asking actors to tape themselves for their auditions — recording and sending their own work. Self-taping is becoming more and more prevalent, but it has its drawbacks, too: It can keep creators from making human connections.
“Many of the success stories in casting come from that in-person pre-read,” Lessall said.
Doug Haley, who currently serves as a casting associate on Netflix’s “The Real Rob,” doesn’t think the current system will change very much — because it’s so essential.
“It’s a process that’s been around forever and if someone does something wrong, they get reprimanded for it or they get fired for it,” Haley told TheWrap. “If you take the personal element away from casting, which is really getting to work with an actor and try and understand them as a person and their core essence, what is the point of the job even? If we’re going to tune the whole system into self-tapes, it dehumanizes the entire system, which is all about humanity.”
Lessall agreed: “The audition room is an emotional and vulnerable space for the actor because they are literally putting their emotions on the line. A beautiful audition in person can mean seeing the most private and sensitive emotions come to light. This is a privilege for a casting director, to be there, in that moment with the actor.”
Just not in a hotel room.