Casting Insights from ‘The Hobbit’ Casting Director Amy Hubbard

May 26, 2018

London-based casting director Amy Hubbard, best known for her work on The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, the Showtime series Homeland, and the History Channel’s miniseries Hatfields & McCoys, considers herself to be part of a casting dynasty. After all, she’s the daughter of casting parents and is actually the fourth in her family to be in the field. During interviews with Spotlight and the British Independent Film Awards’ Insider Review, the award-winning casting director revealed insights about her process of selecting talent.

Hubbard’s favorite part of casting

Describing her breakdown process, Hubbard says she starts by finding a star or stars to ensure that a project will be able to attract sufficient investors to the film. Once that’s established, her favorite parts to cast are the small roles in which the actors have only one or two lines–or maybe no lines at all but which require a great physical reaction. “Those actors have got to be so talented to come in and be a nurse or be a teacher or a policeman or whatever the role is, and in one line, you’ve got to buy that you’re in a hospital or you’re a mother who’s just been told your son’s dead. The things you see actors do for one line in a film or television is extraordinary, so they’re my favorite.”

Drawing out the best from performers

During auditions, Hubbard admits she’s “very blunt” with the talent. She explains, “I think most people, most casters, stay quiet in the room with actors, and they’d rather not say anything until the director is there. But it’s naturalizing. On everything I work on, no matter what it is, we want natural … you’re looking for that certain base palette of someone being 100-percent credible when having a conversation.” When asked what kind of tricks she uses to bring out the best performances from actors, Hubbard says,  “I don’t have tricks. I have my honesty which, so far, goes down well. I feel that people are very grateful because if you’re honest with them, they can actually adjust their performance and have a chance at getting the job.”

Checking in after the shoot

Post-production, Hubbard makes sure to reach out to agents, producers, and the director to see how her actors conducted themselves while on set and checking to see if they were prepared for the part. Of importance to Hubbard is whether the actors arrive on time, and she likes to get a sense of their general level of professionalism. “I do want to know for future reference,” she says. Indeed, in the cases in which Hubbard has needed to recast, it’s largely due to unprofessionalism on set. “[Behavior] is a huge element of acting now. You’re very judged if you’re not on time with a great attitude.” She contrasts the current expectations with those of the past when more negative behaviors were tolerated such as drug addiction. Nowadays, she insists, “You have to be polite. You have to be somebody that people want to have around.” She recalls her work on the three-part film series The Hobbit, saying, “That’s years of working together in a small community in New Zealand.”

Hubbard thinks the strong emphasis on professionalism can be attributed to more programs being made along with tight budgets and schedules. Fair-minded, Hubbard also checks in with the actors she casts to make sure they feel they were treated respectfully and whether they were properly tended to while on set because she wants to make sure she’s only working with teams that are on the up and up. It’s a two-way street; these days it’s no longer tolerated for directors to be overbearing with the talent as well. Hubbard calls those lax days of on-set behavior, “A thing of the past.”