Lucy Bevan, who trained with casting director Mary Selway, has most recently cast the upcoming major studio productions: “Cruella” for Disney, “Death on the Nile” for Fox, and “Cats” for Universal as well as “The Good Liar” by Bill Condon with Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren. Further film credits include “Ready Player One” by Steven Spielberg, “Murder on the Orient Express,” “All Is True” and “Cinderella” by Kenneth Branagh, “Snowden” by Oliver Stone, “Beauty & The Beast” and “Mr Holmes” by Bill Condon, “Fury” by David Ayer, “The Hundred Foot Journey” by Lasse Hallström, “Maleficent” by Robert Stromberg, and “Before Midnight” and “Me & Orson Welles” by Richard Linklater. Lucy’s TV credits include “A Christmas Carol” and “Collateral” for BBC.
Tara Karajica talks to Lucy Bevan about her career as casting director, women in film and her next projects.
Can you talk about your background? How did you get into casting?
Lucy Bevan: I started working as a runner in production, and worked my way up from there.
How does one, actually, become a casting director?
L.B.: Mostly, you work as an assistant to a casting director, to learn the trade, rather like an apprenticeship. That is how most people start, and how I started. I was fortunate to be an assistant to a great casting director, Mary Selway.
How familiar do you have to be with an actor’s work? Do you see all of their and the directors’ films? And, you also have to see how they would work and fit together? It seems impossible!
L.B.: We go to the theater a lot, we watch a lot of films and TV shows and we meet actors for general meetings as well as auditioning them for specific projects. You can learn a lot from auditioning an actor; they may not be right for the role they are auditioning for, but they could be right for something else.
The casting process is different in the US and Europe. Can you elaborate on that?
L.B.: I mainly work out of London, and so I am not an authority on how things work in US and Europe.
How much do the agents interfere? Do they help or are they more like a barrier? How do you work with them?
L.B.: Agents can be great collaborators! Over the years, we build up good relationships with agents, and trust that they have good ideas to offer. There are some agents whose judgement I really value, and if they have taken on a new actor they recommend to meet, I will.
How much do you have to take into account the personal relationships (feuds) between directors and actors and actors and actors? This can be a problem in the casting… How do you avoid this? How do you work around the problems?
L.B.: I always try and cast good actors who are good people. One bad apple can infect a bowl of fruit; it’s the same with the cast for a film, TV show, or play. A director will have a better time if she or he is working with a cast of dedicated, professional, hard-working great actors.
According to you, how much of the magic of a film is thanks to a casting director – because a film would’ve been different were it another casting? How much of your work goes into this?
L.B.: I think good casting contributes to the success of a film as much as any other department. If the casting is right, the storytelling will be great, the world on screen will be real, and the audience will engage. One of my favorite films is The English Patient, which Michelle Guish cast. I think her contribution to that film is immense.
Talking about the under-appreciation of casting directors, in Sarajevo, there is the European Casting Director Award now, and it’s the first and only festival that does that and it’s in partnership with the ICDN and the CDG Awards in the UK, while in the U.S., there are the Emmy Awards for Outstanding Casting and the Artios Awards. Are there other initiatives?
L.B.: As of this year, there is now a BAFTA for Casting, which is very exciting. Our profession is being recognized and our contribution valued.
How do you, personally, work when you are casting? What is your process?
L.B.: You start with the script, read it very thoroughly, understand each role and then start collaborating with the director; understand their vision, so we can help bring each role to life.
What is the film you are proudest of for your work as a casting director?
L.B.: I am proud of Cinderella. I think we did a good job.
You are an advocate for color-blind casting. Can you elaborate on that?
L.B.: I think it’s important for an audience to see a world on screen that is reflective of the world we live in. This means more diversity, more disability, an equal amount of men and women on screen. I am constantly trying to push these things forward.
You also work in theater, and a lot with Kenneth Branagh. Can you talk about the difference between theater and film casting and working with Kenneth Branagh?
L.B.: I have worked with Kenneth Branagh on his theater season and five films. I enjoy auditioning with Kenneth because he gives such great direction, so you can see actors improving in the room. After much collaboration, there is a short hand that works well for both theater and film.
The situation of women in the film industry is a very hot topic today. What is your take on it and how is it in the U.K. now, according to you?
L.B.: I hope that young women now feel encouraged to participate and follow their dreams and ambitions. I do not feel that being a woman has held me back.
How many more active female casting directors are there in the U.K. right now? Do you work together?
L.B.: There are many female casting directors, and we are all supportive of each other. I am constantly inspired by the work of my peers.
What are the next films you are working on?
L.B.: I am currently working on a screen adaptation of the musical Matilda for Working Title, directed by Matthew Warchus.
Photo credit: Michael Wharley.
This interview was conducted in partnership with: