Casting Director Nina Gold Shares Casting Insights

January 29, 2018

You’d be hard-pressed to miss Nina Gold’s work; the multi-award-winning casting director has hand selected spot-on actors for numerous productions over the past decades. Examples of her work include The King’s Speech, Les Miserables, The Imitation Game, Paddington, and The Martian; but, Gold is best known for selecting talent for the HBO series Game of Thrones in addition to the movies Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Nina recently spoke about her intriguing career with Harper’s Bazaar and specifically about actors who she’s proud to have plucked from obscurity. About Daisy Ridley, Gold told the magazine:

“I remember when Daisy first walked through the door. She’d taken the precaution of wearing her hair in two buns on either side of her head like Princess Leia. We fell in love with her straight away. We’d seen hundreds of thousands of people, but she was totally perfect, and we couldn’t get her out of our heads. It was her energy, she just had something. We then realized that we’d auditioned her on the feisty parts, but could she do the deep, troubled emotions? We asked her to perform the moment when Kylo Ren is trying to get the thoughts out of her mind and she had me crying my eyes out. It was the perfect fit.”

Other talents who Gold swells with pride about discovering are the young actors she cast in Game of Thrones–those she’d watched go from unknown, budding talent to celebrated stars over the course of years during elongated productions. One of these youngsters was Maisie Williams who plays the tomboyish Arya Stark in Game of Thrones. “I had to take into consideration that the show could go on for years . . . Ultimately, it comes down to intuition and trusting your instinct,” she told Harper’s.

Nina is the kind of casting director aspiring actors dream of. Indeed, she searches “everywhere” when seeking talent; finding Boyega at the age of 18 came only when she spent many months meeting teenagers who were interested in acting, and not necessarily professional actors, from an assortment of drama groups and schools. She saw “gazillions” of people for the role of Finn in Star Wars. Once Gold finds potential talent in the world who appear to fit the part, she puts them through workshops to see who exactly takes to the work of an actor both in terms of talent and enthusiasm. “I meet actors and it’s my job to help develop their talent,” she says. Gold is known to take risks and not go for the obvious choice.

“I love discovering unknown actors. It’s very exciting, although it can be risky. You can’t predict if the person you think is going to be great really will be. But doesn’t it get boring if you always play it safe and use the same old names? Personally, I’m not interested in casting the most perfectly beautiful woman or someone who ticks all the boxes of what a person is ‘supposed’ to look like. I’m much more interested in character before beauty and an interesting charisma that’s not based on looks. More often than not the risk pays off. I have to say, it’s a pretty good feeling to go to the cinema and watch a film that I’ve cast. I cry a lot!”

Gold may make casting look easy, but she insists it is not. She describes the work as incredibly hard, requiring lots of patience, a good memory, and trust in one’s own instincts. “It’s all quite hard,” she says.