Still no casting award in Italy: An open letter from the ICDN
Photo by Eolo Perfido
The ceremony for the Italian Film Academy’s David di Donatello Awards took place on May 8, 2020. Italian casting directors have been fighting to be included in the award categories for years, sadly to no avail – even though extremely prestigious awards such as the BAFTAs now have a Best Casting category. Five films and ten directors were nominated for a David. But throughout all the interviews that took place during the ceremony, broadcast online, not one of them had single word of thanks to the casting directors who had contributed to the success of the winning films.
Casting is an integral part of the creative filmmaking process. Martin Scorsese even advises young directors that “casting is 85% to 90% of the picture.” We casting directors attach name actors during development, a process which often decides whether or not a given project is even made. Sometimes we engage in long and arduous talent searches, auditioning thousands of young hopefuls in search of new actors who can (and do) become the stars of tomorrow: a recent Italian example is HBO’s My Brilliant Friend, the success of which depending heavily on finding the two young girls from Naples around whom the story revolved. In fact, ICDN member Laura Muccino and Sara Casani auditioned nearly 10,000 girls to find their two female leads at two different ages – leading ladies who would go on to define the aesthetic of that series so deeply.
Casting can even change the shape of cinematic history: it was legendary casting director Marion Dougherty who pushed to cast Danny Glover across from Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon, even though the part was written for a white male. She also put Robin Williams into his first dramatic role in Garp, seeing something in him that went deeper than his comedy. Knowing the film industry’s penchant for playing it safe, we imagine that Marion had to go up against powerful forces in order to achieve casting like that in her day.
Even on a project without big stars or a mass audition process, we search tirelessly to find those actors who can best fulfill the storytelling, reflect the aesthetics of the director and help the producer to ensure that the project is commercially viable.
But why are the awards entities so reluctant to include Best Casting, when everyone from sound editors to hair-and-makeup artists get Oscars?
Honestly, it puzzles even us. We do complete our work before a film starts production – so sometimes it seems that everyone simply forgets about us by the time it’s all over. Many believe that it’s because the profession has always been associated with women, and therefore systematically undervalued. Perhaps it’s due to the secretive nature of the casting process itself. We surely don’t reveal to actors: Do you have any idea how hard I had to fight to get you into that role?
Whatever the reason, what shocked us so much about the Italian Academy Awards ceremony was that there was not even one single “thank you” for us. Not from the producers, whose film’s very existence may have had something to do with us. Not from the directors, for whom we work so hard to secure the cast they need – and want. And not from the actors, who you would think might be the most aware of how exactly they got onto that stage.
In the continued absence of recognition from the Italian film industry, the International Casting Directors Network would like to give resounding (if virtual) applause to the casting directors of the films that were nominated for David awards in the categories of Best Film, Best Director and Best First-Time Director:
Francesca Borromeo: Il Traditore, Il primo Re, Ricordi, Il campione
Maurilio Mangano: Il Traditore
Francesco Vedovati: Pinocchio
Stefania De Santis: Martin Eden
Marco Matteo Donat-Cattin: Bangla
Chiara Polizzi: La paranza dei bambini
Costanza Boccardi: 5 è il numero perfetto
Chiara Natalucci: Il campione
Davide Zurolo: L’immortale
Thank you for your hard work and substantial contribution to the winning films. We strongly urge the Italian Film Academy to join the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in including a casting category for its most prestigious award, the BAFTA.
Lilia Trapani Hartmann
June 2020, updated August 2020.