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I’ve seen approximately 25,000 auditions in the past 30 years. I don’t remember all of them; not even close. But I remember the worst…and the best, even 30 years later! Let’s take a look at the very best of the best and what made them so memorable.

Michael Shamus Wiles is one of those journeymen actors who everyone recognizes when they see him in a film or show, but only those of us in Hollywood know his name. He is an amazing actor I have hired multiple times over the years, and he is as nice as he is talented. He read for me once on a Tobe Hooper film and gave one of the best auditions I have ever seen.

The sides were straightforward authority, but Michael chose to make his sheriff a quirky, creepy guy. Not comical, just…off. The film is called Mortuary. Check him out as the sheriff and you’ll see what I mean.

Jennifer Garner read for me a couple of times pre-Alias. She was the total package. She was gorgeous and talented and one of the nicest people you could ever meet in an audition. Her reads were smart, and she knew how to bring herself into a character. I never got to hire her but there was never any question her success was a matter of when and not if. She never failed to show us a character that you could have sent to the set the next day.

Angelo Di Mascio is another actor that just blew the room away when he came in and read for us. Ari Emanuel called me up back when he was still running Endeavour, prior to the merge with William Morris and said this guy was great. He did not disappoint.

It was an action film and the sides called for his character to be explosively angry the whole time. Angelo instead chose to deliver the scene at a low volume and treat his enemies as if they were children. No one else made a choice anything like his so no matter what, he stood out. In a good way. The producer was impressed with his choice and hired him on the spot, which is a rarity even when they love your read.

You might know William Sanderson better by his character’s name on Newhart. “I’m Larry. This is my brother Darryll and this is my other brother Darryll.” Bill was Larry. He was also memorable in Bladerunner, Deadwood and True Blood. I brought him in for a meeting years ago. Just a meeting. I did not need him to read for us. He wanted to. He was amazing. The director and producer loved his talent and humility. He booked it on the spot.

Bruce Gray was always one of my favorite actors before his passing in 2017. He never failed to be brilliant. He was cerebral and funny and just as good in an audition as he was on the set. I had called him in to audition for a romantic comedy and since we had already worked together, he surprised me the night before his audition with a distressed phone call. He told me he wasn’t sure he was coming in for his audition.

I asked him if he liked the script and he assured me that he did. He was having a hard time with the character and he didn’t want to embarrass me in front of my director and producers with a mediocre read. We talked for ten minutes and I assured him he was on track with his choice. The next day he came in and gave a tremendous performance that booked him the job. He had trusted himself, and me, and gone with his first instincts for the role. Once he got out of his own way, he was free to do the work.

What do these auditions have in common? A few things. Every one involved risk. Nobody came in and just read it exactly the way it was written. They didn’t change lines. They added texture and dimension. They made it their own.

They were all nice people in the room. You wanted to keep auditioning and hiring them.

They all understood it wasn’t about that one audition. They had perspective. None of these people came in desperate to book that day. They all came in to book the room.

Most of them booked! All of them booked the room and I’m pretty sure Jennifer Garner moved on after not booking my little action film.


Mark Sikes began his casting career in 1992 for Academy Award-winning filmmaker Roger Corman. In the past 25 years, he has cast over 100 films as well as television series, commercials and web series. He has cast projects for Tobe Hooper and Luke Greenfield and many others. In the past few years Mark has also produced four feature films.

Based in Los Angeles, Mark has cast films for many markets including the United Kingdom, Peru, the Philippines and Russia. Domestically, he has cast films that shot all over the country in Texas, Ohio, Massachusetts, Virginia and multiple projects in Colorado.

He currently teaches three weekly on-camera, audition technique classes in West Los Angeles.  Follow Mark on Twitter @castnguy.