Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Actors and the Alchemist

The Actors and the Alchemist
by Francis Joseph A. Cruz

Beatrice Kruger, casting director for Tom Tykwer’s The International (2009) and Anton Corbijn’s The American (2010), sat among actors from countries like Belgium, Iran and Nigeria. She looked at everybody’s faces with very curious eyes. “When you are a casting director, you are fixed on a face.”

“Casting is a lot like alchemy. You not only find the right actor for the right role, but you also have to find the right actor for the right director,” she aptly defined her profession. Asked how it is working with both directors and actors, she mentioned that “most directors, I would say, have not been to an acting school. If they haven’t, they don’t know what actors are like. If they don’t know that, they don’t know how to stimulate the actor to get into the role.”

Regarding working with directors who require non-actors, she cautioned that “while it is very exciting, what people tend to forget is that there is natural talent, but it is one in a thousand. If one wants to work with non-actors, one has to be prepared to spend time, and therefore money, to find them. Someone from the street who is great fun and perfect there, can freeze the minute he or she is in front of the camera.”

She then intimated that she was very much involved with discovering young talent. “I always was. And of course, there is a big satisfaction when you discover somebody. It’s no big deal to recommend to a director or producer a famous actor. You can always do that. You don’t need a casting director.”

Whether or not her sympathies are with the actors since she was previously an actress, she answered, “Well, I feel with them. But I am on the other side of the table. My analysis is with the director, is for the picture, is for the product. I sympathise with the actors, of course, since I was also an actress before. But also with their laziness, their wrong egos.”

Asked if there is any difference between working as an actress and a casting director, she recounted her experience working in Krzyzstof Zanussi’s Black Sun (2007), where she was forced to play a minor role when the actress chosen suddenly backed out. She then imparted that “if I would’ve fucked up that part, my ego would have been broken for five minutes … but not seriously, since I had a profession as a casting director which I am very happy about. But for an actor who does nothing else, he can die. His career depends on it.”

Kruger, to most viewers, remains just a name in the credits. But to directors and hundreds of aspiring actors and actresses, she is an indispensible alchemist.

(First published here. Read more in the Berlinale Talent Press website)

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