CASTING DIRECTORS REACT TO FINALLY GETTING THEIR OWN OSCAR’S CATEGORY
Well, it was about time, wasn’t it? On Thursday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences finally did what industry professionals have been asking for decades: it created a new award category for casting.
“Casting directors play an essential role in filmmaking,” said Academy CEO Bill Kramer and Academy President Janet Yang in a joint statement. “And as the Academy evolves, we are proud to add casting to the disciplines that we recognize and celebrate, we congratulate our Casting Directors Branch members on this exciting milestone and for their commitment and diligence throughout this process.”
“On behalf of the members of the Casting Directors Branch, we’d like to thank the Board of Governors, the Awards Committee and Academy leadership for their support. This award is a deserved acknowledgment of our casting directors’ exceptional talents and a testament to the dedicated efforts of our branch,” said Academy Casting Directors Branch governors Richard Hicks, Kim Taylor-Coleman and Debra Zane. The Casting Directors Branch was created in July 2013 and currently has close to 160 members.
When the Academy combined the two best sound mixing and editing categories in 2020 (to the Best Sound category) and lowered the number of awards on the telecast from 24 to 23, the clamoring became louder to honor casting directors with their fellow department heads and bring the total back to an even two dozen.
Curiously, one of the major impediments to the move was from the Directors’ branch of the Academy, which was concerned about the word “director” in a casting director’s title. Unlike the director of photography, who is also known as a cinematographer, the establishment of a casting category for the Academy Awards faced objections.
The news was met with a predictable amount of joy from casting directors, with A Quiet Place and its sequel’s Jodi Angstreich proclaiming, “It’s a big friggin’ deal!” Lara Mayfield, who has been David Fincher’s exclusive casting director for more than two decades, said, “I am so happy! I am also grateful to the many people who worked tirelessly on our behalf, especially David Rubin.”
Rubin served three consecutive terms as AMPAS president, from 2019 to 2022, before he was succeeded by Yang. It was well-known how much work he did behind the scenes to make this happen.
Other casting directors were thrilled that their work will finally be paid the respect it deserves, with Kahleen Crawford, whose recent films include Living, The Lost Daughter and All of Us Strangers, saying, “To have the contribution of casting directors finally recognized and celebrated by the Academy is an important moment. It’s not only casting directors and their teams who have been waiting and campaigning for this – so many directors, producers, actors and other screen professionals have passionately lent their voices in support. It’s incredibly exciting to know that from 2025 our work will be recognized at the Oscars in the way so many of our creative colleagues’ work is and the way it deserves to be.”
Allison Estrin, whose credits include the Indies Mass and Goodnight Mommy, tied it to the work they do and those actors who get recognition, saying, “For almost a hundred years the casting community has been immensely proud as the Academy has honored some of the greatest performances ever captured on film. We’re now extremely excited that our contribution to those films is also being acknowledged.”
Other casting directors pointed to how this will change the way the craft is perceived, both inside and outside the industry. Gohar Gazazyan, who has worked on such successful TV shows as The Walking Dead franchise and Julia, pointed out, “Recognition for casting directors’ contributions to film is long overdue. An Oscar will finally spotlight the work of casting directors and in doing so, will help people better understand and appreciate the Artists who assemble the casts of their beloved movies.”
“A great Casting Director has more than just a deep knowledge of actors,” she continued, “they have incredible instincts about what an actor is capable of doing if given the opportunity. They are engineers of great ensembles, carefully putting each piece of the puzzle together to shape the telling of our favorite stories. It’s an essential collaboration in filmmaking and it deserves to be recognized. This Oscar means so much to our community. We are all so grateful and thrilled that this day has finally come!”
Likewise, Mark Bennett, whose work includes It Follows, Zero Dark Thirty, and C’mon C’mon, echoed the thought, saying, “This will hopefully get more people thinking about what goes into casting, a craft that traditionally hasn’t gotten much attention.”
Bennett also offered a reminder about the nature of filmmaking and the team effort that makes it happen, adding, “Any time a department is rewarded this way, it’s a reminder of the collaborative nature of filmmaking, that every film is made by hundreds of artists and craftspeople, which is good for the appreciation of filmmaking more generally.”
Maribeth Fox, whose work includes Lion and Carol, had a decidedly practical take on the news, which she called, “exciting” and added, “It’s not the statue or the fanfare that we are looking forward to, but a wider acknowledgment of our collaborative art form in the filmmaking process. It will truly be an honor just to be nominated.”
Even amidst the celebration, there was the recognition of those who came before and whose work perhaps might have been noted by the Academy, had they been given the chance.
Barbara McCarthy, whose work includes The Spectacular Now and Five Feet Apart, said, “I’m grateful that the Academy has finally recognized the contribution that casting directors make towards each film having a talented and cohesive cast that brings every character to life with depth and authenticity,” but added, “I’m deeply sorry that our trailblazing casting directors, Marion Doherty and Lynn Stallmaster aren’t here to celebrate this historic moment with us.”
With this major change, it leaves open the door for another. Perhaps we’ll see an Oscars category for stunt performers in the near future.