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Awkward Auditions

December 16, 2016

The uplifting musical love story La La Land pulled in seven Golden Globe nominations earlier this week. The film is up for consideration for best picture, best director, and best actor and actress awards for its stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. The story follows the journey of two aspiring performers in Los Angeles. At one point, Stone’s character auditions for a small film role before a casting director who takes a phone call in the middle of her read.

During an interview, Gosling revealed that this scenario actually once happened to him during an audition. “Yeah, where I had to cry and this lady took a call in the middle of it. And then just told me to go on, ‘Pick up where I left off.’ That was part of what was great about making this film was [writer-director Damien Chazelle] encouraged us to bring our experiences to these characters,” Gosling recalled. Stone likewise relayed her own set of audition stories to Chazelle. Taking notes, he soon found a way to weave these experiences into the movie that’s being described as an “ode to those who dream of making it big.”

If there’s one thing for sure, when actors enter the audition room, it’s that they have to be ready for just about anything. Among the many actors who have shared their unexpected and awkward audition-room tales is Broadway’s Tracie Thoms. Here she describes something that just seemed to take over her as she auditioned before Quentin Tarantino for Death Proof.

And Color Purple star Heather Headley recounts the time casting seemed to pay her no notice as she sang her heart out with stunning brilliance.

Another singing audition came from CBS’ Two Broke Girls actress Beth Behrs. She recalls a bit of an embarrassing audition in which she sang with a mismatched style before casting. In return, she received feedback that opened her eyes as far as which kind of roles to pursue in her career.

And lastly, the next time you hear the Aflac duck in a commercial, you might think of Will & Grace actor Sean Hayes who did not land the role of the silly duck.

Have you ever had an absurd or awkward incident along these lines while auditioning? Please share!

 

 

 

Was It Wrong to Cast Emma Stone in ‘Aloha’?

June 5, 2015

The casting of Emma Stone as Captain Allison Ng in the romantic comedy-drama Aloha has triggered widespread outrage. According to IMDb, Emma Stone’s ethnicity is Swedish, English, German, Scottish, and Irish; however, the character she plays in the movie is a combination of Swedish, Native Hawaiian, and Chinese. Many vehemently argue that the actress chosen to portray a partly Asian character–and one who strongly identifies with her Hawaiian heritage–should be at least to some degree Pacific Islander and/or Asian. After all, there are plenty of actresses out there to fit the ethnic description, and research has shown in increasing desire of audiences to see various ethnicities represented in film that more closely match the population in which we live. Indeed, some have pointed out that besides Dennis “Bumpy” Kanahele, a Native Hawaiian sovereignty activist, and Kenya-born Edi Gathegi, the primary cast is completely white–demonstrating a missed opportunity to reflect the actual ethnic makeup of the Hawaiian islands. Other starring actors include Bradley Cooper, Rachael McAdams, Bill Murray, and Alec Baldwin. According to Guy Aoki of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans, most of the local Hawaiian characters in Aloha are not given names. “You see Spiritual Elder Number One, Spiritual Elder Number Two, Cashier, Hula Instructor, Hula Girl One, Hula Girl Two to Hula Girl Twelve. How substantial are those parts going to be?” he told the Huffington Post.

The film’s writer, producer, and director, Cameron Crowe has issued an apology for his casting choice. Crowe posted on his website a response including the following:

“Thank you so much for all the impassioned comments regarding the casting of the wonderful Emma Stone in the part of Allison Ng. I have heard your words and your disappointment, and I offer you a heart-felt apology to all who felt this was an odd or misguided casting choice. As far back as 2007, Captain Allison Ng was written to be a super-proud ¼ Hawaiian who was frustrated that, by all outward appearances, she looked nothing like one. A half-Chinese father was meant to show the surprising mix of cultures often prevalent in Hawaii.  Extremely proud of her unlikely heritage, she feels personally compelled to over-explain every chance she gets. The character was based on a real-life, red-headed local who did just that.

“Whether that story point felt hurtful or humorous has been, of course, the topic of much discussion. However I am so proud that in the same movie, we employed many Asian-American, Native-Hawaiian and Pacific-Islanders, both before and behind the camera… including Dennis “Bumpy” Kanahele, and his village, and many other locals who worked closely in our crew and with our script to help ensure authenticity.”

Taking responsibility for the controversy, he says he appreciates the open dialogue, and expresses a determination to tell stories containing more ethnic diversity as clearly people are yearning for them.

At the time of casting, Emma Stone was a booming box-office draw for Sony Pictures’ Amazing Spider-Man franchise (which has a domestic gross of $202,853,933 to date), and she was ready to commit to Aloha. There are many people who feel Cameron should not have to apologize for exercising creative license, as all filmmakers do, to create a movie he wrote, produced, and directed; this includes casting whomever he saw fit for the lead role. Acting, by nature, is pretending, so it’s not unreasonable to believe Emma Stone could portray someone who “looked nothing like” a portion of her heritage distinctive of the character of Ng. Countless films have been made that take casting risks like director Josh Trank choosing Michael B. Jordan as The Human Torch, and John Waters casting drag queen Devine to play Tracy Turnblad’s mother in Hairspray. And some ask shouldn’t Cameron have every right to cast whomever he believes will lead to the best chance of success for his film?

Aloha has brought in thirteen-million dollars to date against its 37-million dollar budget. What are your thoughts about the controversy? Should Sony Pictures and Cameron Crowe have overlooked Stone and made sure to book an actress with Pacific Islander and/or Chinese descent to star in the film?

Change Your Hair, Get More Auditions?

September 3, 2012

“I’m not offended by all the dumb-blonde jokes because I know that I’m not dumb.  I also know I’m not blonde.” –Dolly Parton


Emma Stone

Starting out in the industry as a teen, a blonde Emma Stone became fed up by a lack of auditions for serious, worthwhile female characters. Apparently, her agent had typecast her for ditzy roles like cheerleaders, and other vacuous stereotypes. But Emma was no dumb bunny; she strategically dyed her hair dark brown in hopes of landing choice movie roles with heart, soul, and intelligence. Indeed, within one week she landed her first serious acting gig!

“I don’t know if anyone necessarily underestimated me as a blonde–I think I just had a crappy agent…People are closed-minded, man! Like a different hair colour changes everything!” Stone asserted.

 

Emma Watson

Emma Watson was up against some stiff competition for the role of computer hacker Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, including Carey Mulligan, Ellen Page, Natalie Portman, and Kristen Stewart. Because Lisbeth represents an intriguing complex female character, and the actress chosen to portray her would be signed to star in 3 films, it was one of the most coveted roles in Hollywood. Watson chopped off her long locks in exchange for a pixie cut and auditioned for the cyber heroine. Immediately, the media began reporting she’d cut her hair to more closely resemble the Goth-style, misfit character with spiky hair. Although Watson’s representatives denied she’d lanced her locks for the role, many sites didn’t necessarily buy it. Of course, Rooney Mara landed the part of Lisbeth after all. But in the wake of cutting her hair, Watson did say she planned to grow it back stating, “If I want to keep acting, then it’s more flexible for me to have it longer for different roles.”

Let’s face it, hair is a big deal in our culture. When Jessica Alba recently debuted a new blonde hairdo for her Sin City 2 stripper role, how many people felt compelled to click on the link to see her new look? My guess is…plenty! And of course, Miley Cyrus’ short, blond crop is making more headlines than the presidential race. Whatever hairstyle you decide to go with in your career ventures, just know casting directors, like the rest of us, are looking closely to see your new looks as well. If you have a Casting Frontier profile, casting directors are staying on top of your new skills, new roles, new reel–and, yes, your new do. Knowing your headshot is your first impression, hair style carries a lot of influence in regards to the types you’re hoping to portray. Will changing your hair get you more auditions?  It might. Give it some thought.