Casting Director Bonnie Timmerman on Looking Deeper

March 2, 2018

Casting director/producer Bonnie Timmermann has an understated manner about her, but she’s certainly a powerhouse. Throughout her forty-year career, she’s cast about 100 films including Heat, Black Hawk Down, Armageddon, Amadeus, Glengarry Glen Ross, Carlito’s Way, Trading Places–and the list goes on. With her open heart and hard work, she’s plucked up countless talents who would go on to great fame including Saoirse Ronan, Meryl Streep, Christopher Walken, Glenn Close, John Lithgow, Bruce Willis, Liam Neeson, and Scarlett Johansson, among so many others.

Timmermann has talked about the way her mind works as she tries to connect talent to roles. “A lot of times, I’ll carry actors in my head while I’m reading a script,” she says. While her casting process is instinctual, and she relies heavily on her visual sense as well as her imagination.

“I kind of view the casting job almost as if I’m painting a picture … When the right actor comes in, the room sort of changes color. You know it. You know it.”

She describes how she’s always on the lookout for ways an actor will fit into the industry. “In terms of casting, there’ll be times where I’ll be sitting opposite an actor, and I’ll see a big screen behind this actor or actress. And I’ll imagine them on the screen right while they’re sitting in front of me. And I’ll just get the sense that they will be in the movie somehow–or in a  movie,” she says.

Timmermann recently sat down for an interview with Forbes where she went a bit deeper as to what she looks for in talent. “As a casting director, if I’m going to put my camera on you, I’m going to look to see what is inside the person as opposed to the physical. The camera reads what we go through in our lives. And I hope that I am like a camera, that I can read the interior.”

Reflecting on her path to becoming a casting director, Timmerman sheds some light on how she seeks actors with characteristics that are distinct and layered:

“Trust your instincts. When I cast radio plays for the BBC and National Public Radio, I went to the theater, closed my eyes and listened to the voices. Working in radio and theater prepared me for film and television. When I cast for television, I didn’t want to use the same people that you often see on TV. We have many qualities to us. Some of us don’t have good skin. Some of us are heavy. Some are skinny. I love people who have unique faces and think differently. I look for that. I don’t just look for just the standard I-am-beautiful kind of person. I look for character inside and out. It’s not about what we look like on the outside. It’s what we project.”

Certainly, Timmerman is quick to reach out to others, to build relationships, and forge creative bonds. Very much a risk taker in this regard, she encourages others by saying,

“Do what is in your heart. If you don’t ask, you don’t receive. You need to get out and try. It doesn’t matter what the result is. The most important thing is that you tried.”