Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Casting Part I: The Lead

Darren and I wanted to start a series on the casting of the film. Each part in this series will focus on a different character and a different actor and how we ended up deciding to bring that actor on board the project. This, the first installment of said series, will be on our film's lead: Mr. Jeremy Strong.

Jeremy played the part of "Peter" in "Humboldt County" - our protagonist extraordinaire. It was a difficult part to cast because the character was deliberately under-written in the screenplay. The part of Peter called for an actor who could react to the often outlandish behavior of the other characters and, without saying much, bring the audience along for the ride.

It took us over nine months to cast the role. It was a grueling process and there were many times Darren and I were unsure we would be able to find the right person. We started by scouring the Los Angeles actor landscape. We brought in hundreds of actors to audition and, though a few were better than others, overall they just weren't right. Part of the problem was that Hollywood likes to populate its television and film projects with actors that do not resemble normal people. They are mostly too pretty, too put together and a little too...well, let's put it this way: they all have nice haircuts. Incidentally, this is yet another reason why Darren and I are such big fans of the American cinema from the 1970s. Finally, films began to show up on screen with actors like Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman that looked like how normal people look. I can relate to them. I have a hard time relating to Tom Cruise. I find it difficult to empathize with Tom Cruise in a movie when he's TOM CRUISE for god's sake. How troubled can his life really be? He's TOM CRUISE.

So anyway, after months of searching, our esteemed casting director Mr. John Jackson (ABOUT SCHMIDT, SIDEWAYS) was frustrated with us. There were doubts that Darren and I knew what we wanted. We knew, of course, we just hadn't seen it yet. Finally, after scouring the LA landscape we decided to look elsewhere: New York City. Surely there, away from the land of constant 72 degree days, we would find what we needed.

We called a few casting directors we knew and described what we were looking for. One such CD said to us: "Well, I'll send you ten names of actors I know but I can tell you now - I have your guy. His name's Jeremy Strong and he's never been in a film before." Suffice it to say, we were skeptical. Sure the kid was a Yale grad with a bunch of great theater under his belt, but we had turned down offers from big talent agencies in LA for "name" actors to the play the role. Would we be committing independent film suicide by hiring some unknown theater actor from New York?

We figured it couldn't hurt to watch the kid's audition, so we had him put himself on tape and send it over. The minute we saw the tape, we knew he was right. He displayed vulnerability, pathos, a deep sense of self and killer instincts. We flew him out to LA, had lunch with him at Tom Bergen's on Fairfax (a favorite haunt of ours for daytime meetings) and hired him immediately afterwards. When you meet someone as talented as Jeremy Strong - it kind of hits you over the face like a hammer. Although the experience bloodied our faces, we couldn't NOT hire him.

Jeremy, we are proud to say, is now flowering like a young newbile pup recently released upon the world. A couple of months ago he shot M. Night Shyamalan's new movie, "The Happening," opposite Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel which will be released into a gazillion theaters worldwide in the Summer of '08 and he is now in rehearsals for the lead role in "New Jerusalem" at the Classic Stage Company in New York. Opening night is January 13. Go see him. And say "hi" for us.



Anonymous said...

Is the picture with the " Joint " going to be the cover for movie . When will , Humboldt County be released ?

Danny, Director said...

The poster with Jeremy standing on the joint will be the poster we'll use when the movie plays at film festivals across the country. If/when we the film is bought by a distributor, they will most likely have their marketing people redo all of the cover art for the film. As for when "Humboldt County" will be'll have to stay tuned! I will say that we're going to premiere the film at a film festival in the Spring. Which one you ask? Can't tell ya yet! But soon, oh patient one...soon...

Anonymous said...

Just got a few questions....
Where can i attend film festival in Humboldt ? How much does it cost to hire a Good Casting Director to find a perfect actor ? When will preview of Humboldt County be up and running and where's your home base ....N.Y. St. L. or L.A. ? How much time do you spend there ? how did you get into being a Director ? Ever think about " Humboldt two " ?

Anonymous said...

Hey , Danny !!!!
Next character - actor and how you ended up bringing that person on board the project....i read the last one in its entirety .
Can you answer Matt's questions ?


Danny, Writer/Director said...

Hey Matt et al,

Let me answer your questions. First of all - hiring a good casting director. The answer, as with everything when making movies, is "it depends." How much you spend on everything is negotiable. What you are paying a CD for is access and taste. You want them to help you craft the vision you see in your head and to do that, they need to know actors, have access to them, and have similar ideas about what kind of movie you are trying to make. Now, you can find that in a CD who is just starting out if you get lucky. Our casting director was John Jackson who casted films like "About Schmidt" and "Sideways." For a man of that stature, you need to pay. However, in our case, I believe he loved the script so much he gave us a home-town discount.

In terms of the preview - I assume you are talking about the trailer for the film. Well - we're working on it. Likely, though it won't be ready for another month or so. However, before that we will have our main website up that will be filled with a bunch of fun stuff to check out and read up on regarding the film.

Also, I believe you had a question about our home base. It's LA. However, we love New York with a passion that is unrivaled and hope to move there as soon as we bloody can.

The how did we get to be directors is a question that requires a long answer. Maybe we'll post a blog on it. For now, let me just give you the short answer: dogged, undeniable, naive determination.

And finally, you asked about "Humboldt Two." This one has a short answer: no. We have discussed it as a joke but really have no plans whatsoever to do it. We've got too many other movies we want to make.

Thanks for all the great questions Matt!


Anonymous said...

Yeah , but I'll bet you'll have a "HUMBOLDT TWO" if the film makes over 100 million . ( You can say that again!!! )
Can you start on character #2 ?

Anonymous said...

Hi Danny !!1
You still have not told us how much it costs to hire a good casting director . Could you please ?

Danny, Writer/Director said...

I haven't told you how much it takes to hire a "good casting director" because there is no one price. You can find a good casting director (i.e. someone who is good at working with actors and has impeccable taste) for free. If you want someone who can call up any talent agency in town and get his phone call returned, that's a different story. Sorry, Annonymous, there just aint an easy number I can throw out at ya. Depends on what you need.

Anonymous said...

Wow ....Danny ,

Re; Casting Director fees

That was a purrrr - fect answer !!

Anonymous said...

How did you come across Bethany Pagliolo ? Didn't she play a part with you and Jerry Droz ? Was she a major player in the Movie - Humboldt County ? Are you going to use her again and is she doing other work portraying other roles ? I'd ask you how much she and " Peter " got paid but , i don't think you'd probally answer that question .....just none of my darn business . Big AL

Anonymous said...

Hi Danny !!!
Your undoubtably a great actor . How much of YOU is in the movie and what did you do ? Did you work with Bethany ?
With all those storms i hope your doing good & alive and well in California.

Anonymous said...

Hi Danny and SUPERDUDE !!!!

What happened to you ? This blog site has been really quiet without you . Please come back-

Your Fans

Danny, Writer/Director said...

Hey guys, thanks for your comments and kind words. Sorry, we're not able to respond to everyone as soon as we'd like...we're in the midst of writing our next movie so it's difficult sometimes. So bear with us!

Okay, let's see. There were a few questions about Bethany Pagliolo. She's an amazing actress we found in L.A. Honestly, we wanted to give her a bigger role in the film but just couldn't make it happen. I'm sure we'll use her again in future roles. She's an NYU grad who performed in the national tour of "Mamma Mia!" and has also been on the Sopranos. A huge talent to be sure.

In regards to my role, I have a supporting role in the film. Darren and I will do a casting blog on the subject at some point to give you guys more info.

Okay, cats. Thanks for writing and supporting the film!

Anonymous said...

Hi Danny !!!!

Jeremy Strong was a great pick by you as well as your suberb cast .Jeremy just isn't your typical Hollywood actor . He's a natural & from what I've seen will be a great asset to your incredible movie . I can't wait to hear how you came across the rest of the cast . You've done a super good job getting all this done .

Osia said...

Danny,Danny he's our Man !! He can do it like nobody can !!!
Your blog is really great . It gives us rookies in the biz some insight .

Your doing a fantastic job .

Anonymous said...


We miss you & wanted to let you know whenever you come back we'll read whatever you got to say so , hurry back as soon as you can . WE hope your doing well .

Danny, Writer/Director said...

Ha! Thanks guys! I missed you too!