Have you ever gone on an audition, walked into the waiting room, and found 10 actors there who were nothing like you? All different types? “Soup to nuts” as it were? I’ve heard actors tell it this way—“Clearly they had no idea what they’re looking for. They had men, women, and six different ethnicities up for the same role!”
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. We’re being creative. When I get a project to cast, first I go through my database and come up with lists for each role. These lists are part wish lists, part reality lists (as in who we can realistically get), and part thinking outside the box and being creative.
I was casting the original “Footloose” movie, and the role of the father called for a charismatic, handsome, salt-and-pepper-haired, Paul Newman–esque preacher. I thought, yes, that’s good, but what about John Lithgow? I know, nothing like the character as written—but I had just seen him in “The World According to Garp” as a transsexual and Brian De Palma’s “Blow Out” playing a serial killer, and I thought, “This guy is brilliant! Wouldn’t it be cool to see him play something completely different?” The director, Herbert Ross, looked at me as if I were crazy. I begged him to let him audition. Lithgow read one scene with me, and Ross gave him the role in the room. I did the same thing with the Chris Penn role. It was written as a handsome jock football player. I had just cast Penn in “All the Right Moves,” and I was in love with his “bull in a china shop” quality. He auditioned, and they liked him so much for the role that they rewrote it to fit his unique qualities.
Don’t turn down an audition because you think you’re not right for it. If we think you’re right and are willing to give you a chance to audition, go for it. Remember, we know what’s going on behind the scenes creatively. If you give a good audition but are ultimately not right for the role, two things can happen—we may re-conceive the role for you, or we’ll remember you and bring you in for something else. Generally, go to any audition you get and knock it out of the park. I say generally, because there are exceptions to the rule. Sometimes you get an audition for a part you just can’t seem to crack, or you feel it’s something you’d never be able to do due to its sexual or violent content. Better to pass on the role. You don’t want to give a bad audition because we will definitely remember it—and we have long memories. Come in and make it your own. A director I know said, “Tell me something about the character that I don’t know.”
I have so many stories about actors coming in for a role, not getting it, and getting another role because they made such a huge impression on us. It’s good to know your “type,” but you need to know that there are a lot of casting directors and filmmakers out there who love to take chances and cast against type. As an actor it’s your job to interpret what’s on the page and put your stamp on it.
Known for her work in film and television, Casting Director Marci Liroff has worked with some of the most successful directors in the world such as Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Mark Waters, Christopher Nolan, Brad Bird, and Herbert Ross. While working at Fenton-Feinberg Casting, she, along with Mike Fenton, cast such films as “A Christmas Story," “Poltergeist," “E.T. – The Extra Terrestrial," “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," and “Blade Runner." After establishing her own casting company in 1983, Liroff cast “Footloose," “St. Elmo's Fire," “Pretty in Pink," “The Iron Giant," “The Spitfire Grill," “Untamed Heart," “Freaky Friday," “Mean Girls," “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past," “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” and the upcoming “The Sublime and Beautiful,” which she produced as well.
Liroff is also an acting coach, and her three-night Audition Bootcamp has empowered actors to view the audition process in a new light. The class spawned a DVD, which features the highlights of the Audition Bootcamp classes.