ALTERNATIVE APPROACHES TO CASTING
The most basic alternative to conventional casting is to use nonprofessionals. Some directors believe that only through untrained faces can social reality and human truth be captured on film. The Italian neorealist films of directors such as Vittorio De Sica (1901–1974) and Roberto Rossellini (1906–1977) are the best-known exemplars of this type of casting. Such approaches did not begin with neorealism, however. Soviet directors of the 1920s, such as Sergei Eisenstein (1898–1948) and Vsevolod Pudovkin (1893–1953), cast their films' collective protagonists along the principle of typage, a way of casting "faces in the crowd." Not quite stereotyping, typage is the depiction of sailors, officers, or factory workers in summary images that evoke every sailor or worker. The Soviet filmmakers wanted players who could perform actions simply and artlessly and would thus serve their functions as "cells" in the cinematic "organism."
This use of the actor as formalist material differs markedly from the humanism of a director like De Sica, a film actor himself, who thought that nonprofessionals could better convey a realism that would move audiences. De Sica and Rossellini, as had the Soviets, discovered their casts by announcing open casting calls, which drew members of the public to audition. They also instructed assistants to keep their eyes open for people who might have a look that the filmmakers were seeking. Interestingly, the casting of children in American movies today is done through a similar combination of open calls and happenstance. When casting children for major roles, Debra Zane says, "you have to do searches, you're looking at as many six-year-olds as you can find, and then you see a child in the mall and you ask the mom, 'Can I talk to you for a moment?"' (Gillespie, Casting Qs , p. 371).
Another kind of casting that employs nonprofessionals is the "acting as modeling" favored by Robert Bresson (1901–1999). Like other directors who prefer to use non-actors, Bresson sought to eliminate learned, practiced expressions and gestures. However, Bresson saw acting itself as belonging to the theater, not film. For such films as Un condamné à mort éschappé ( A Man Escaped , 1956), Pickpocket (1959), and Une femme douce ( A Gentle Woman , 1969), Bresson's models were trained to be themselves while saying words they have memorized by repetition, like automatons (another term Bresson often used), rather than learned by internalization, as an actor would do. Therefore the spectator projects emotion onto the models based on their words and actions, rather than sharing an emotion that the actor projects. Bresson's models were often brought to him by friends who believed the potential models had the presence and personality that the director would then paint onto film with his camera. This is not to say that anyone could be in a Bresson film. Indeed, most of his characters are young and attractive, but Bresson looked for a quality that the camera will pick up, rather than qualities that an actor can create for the camera to photograph.
Georgakas, Dan, and Kevin Rabelais. "Fifty Years of Casting: An Interview with Marion Dougherty. Cineaste 25, no. 2 (2000). 26–32.
Gillespie, Bonnie. Casting Qs: A Collection of Casting Director Interviews. Hollywood, CA: Cricket Feet Publishing, 2003.
Kondazian, Karen. The Actor's Encyclopedia of Casting Directors. Hollywood, CA: Lone Eagle Publishing, 1999.
Kurtes, Hettie Lynne. "Casting Characters." American Film 15, no. 10 (July 1990): 38–44.
Mell, Eila. Casting Might-Have-Beens . Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2005.
Quandt, James. Robert Bresson . Toronto: Toronto International Film Festival Group, 1998.