Friday, June 23, 2006

On Casting

There are a great many unwritten rules and regulations in Hollywood regarding who does what. The producer, for instance, does not get to set off squibs no matter how much he really, really wants to. It just doesn't happen. Equally, key grips are expressly forbidden from ever setting foot on the sacred domain of foley artists, and screenwriters don't get to say who's in the movie.

Well, as a certain man you may have heard of called JESUS CHRIST once said: "Rules were made to be broken!"

There's absolutely nothing to stop you making "suggestions" as to who should play a certain role in your screenplay. Let that casting agent piss and whine! Who cares what they have to say? The union? Ha!

Consider this unused extract from the first draft of a movie you may recognise...

EXT. BRIDGE. NIGHT

It is raining. Elliot Ness stares despondently at the river far below. An Irish American beat cop saunters up to him, his strong Scottish features calling to mind an older version of the first James Bond, or that guy in the diaper from Zardoz. His thick brogue rolls over our ears with fuzzy warm familiarity.

MALONE
Now then, now then. Whatsh all thish?

You've probably noticed that David Mamet slipped in a cheeky little casting suggestion there. Of course, it proved far too subtle for studio types - Mamet actually had to send them an angry memo that simply said "JUST FUCKING CAST FUCKING CONNERY, YOU FUCKS" after he heard that the producers were already in talks with Lily Tomlin for the role.

No, there's no benefit in being timid about this sort of thing. If you've carefully built a part around the mannerisms of a certain actor, then don't be coy. It saves time, and shows that you've thought things through. Producers probably love that. If you don't feel confident enough to tailor your lead role around the mannerisms of one unreachable star, then start small - slip in a little cameo.

Take a look at this extract from CHIRORAPTOR (Tagline: He fixes your back, then you're a snack) and see how easy it is to write a recognisable face seamlessly into a screenplay.

INT. SAINT OUTRAGE HOSPITAL. SUPPERTIME.

The cafeteria lies in ruins. Body parts are strewn everywhere. Blood drips from the ceiling. The ceiling!

MIKE SNAPS
Jesus goddamit. The repulso-fences didn't hold. They didn't hold!

FATHER MURPHY DASH
It's bad, sir. It's so very bad. Sergeant Quims is dead, there's no sign of the Fiesta Sisters and the supporting wall has collapsed. I'm afraid we're trapped. Also, there's poisonous gas.

MIKE SNAPS
Goddamit seven ways to Superbowl Sunday. It can't end like this.
(beat)
Unless...the reactor core. We can blow our way out!

WILLIAM DANIELS
I strongly advise against that course of action, Michael.

MIKE SNAPS
I know what you think, William Daniels. I suppose you have a better idea?

WILLIAM DANIELS
There is an option that only has a 32% chance of abject failure, Michael.

MIKE SNAPS
Shit it all to hell, it'll have to do. Is Chiroraptor still in the area?

WILLIAM DANIELS
Scanning now. Chiroraptor is currently in the day room of the children's ward.

MIKE SNAPS
Get me up there NOW!

WILLIAM DANIELS
Very well. Prepare to turbo boost, Michael.

MIKE climbs on the shoulders of WILLIAM DANIELS and together they leap over the crumbling ruins of the hospital walls in slow motion.

CHIRORAPTOR
SKRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Just be certain that, like me, you choose someone famous enough to register as an actual cameo, and not just a guy with a really, really small role. Think this bold approach doesn't work? Well, I've got a signed KITT desk calendar that says different. Oh yeah.

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