3 Casting Teams We Think Should Be Up for an Oscar
Many consider the Academy Awards the most prestigious awards show out there, but in our humble opinion, it’s severely lacking one thing. That is, amongst its various categories recognizing different areas of the industry, there is apparently no space for casting. You might wonder how that can be true, considering it would be very hard to have a movie without a cast. And yet, despite much lobbying to change what might at first appear to be some sort of gross oversight, the lack of a casting category remains in place for the Oscars year after year. While holding onto hope that things will eventually change, we’re here in the meantime to give you three casting teams we think should be up for an Oscar.
- Denise Chamian, Nikki Barrett, Beth Day (Associate Casting Director), and Liz Ludwitzke (Associate Casting Director) for Elvis
Can we talk about the pressure of finding the right person to depict an icon like Elvis Presley — especially when some previous performances portraying the late “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” were criticized by members of the Presley family — in a biopic from the likes of Baz Luhrmann? The casting team behind 2022’s Elvis certainly had their work cut out for them. Denise Chamian shared with Variety that Lurhmann had Ansel Elgort, Miles Teller, and Harry Styles on his list of actors he thought could handle such a weighty role. “I had a list of my own people,” the casting director recalled. “When we got to Austin, I said, ‘This is your Elvis.’” Chamian’s faith in the actor who was less known — at the time — paid off. Butler’s portrayal of the King from when he was 19 to 42 not only garnered the actor his first-ever Oscar nomination — it also won him the praise of Elvis’ former wife Priscilla Presley.
Luhrmann shared with Entertainment Tonight how she reached out to him in an email with highly positive feedback. “Every wink, every move [of Butler as Elvis] — if my husband was here, he would say, ‘Hot damn, you are me!’” she told the filmmaker. As for the portrayal of Priscilla Presley, herself, in the film, that role went to Olivia DeJonge. The casting team behind Elvis had to deliver in many other instances on the high-stakes task of casting characters based on real people, whether that was Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker, Kelvin Harrison Jr. as B.B. King, Richard Roxburgh as Vernon Presley, or Kodi Smit-McPhee as Jimmie Rodgers. All things considered, we think the work of casting such a stylized biopic as Luhrmann’s Elvis definitely warrants Oscar recognition. The feature is also currently up for the coveted Best Picture award, an achievement that would seemingly be impossible without its cast.
- Sarah Finn and Djinous Rowling (Associate Casting Director) for Everything Everywhere All at Once
Before we get to the sheer sweep-up of Oscar nominations that Everything Everywhere All at Once has managed — garnering more nods than any other movie for this year’s Academy Awards — we have to talk about the absolute originality of said film. The 2022 sci-fi comedy/drama from Daniel Kwan and Daniel Schneinert speaks to intergenerational trauma, the idea of family, and the immigrant experience. There’s plenty of action along the way in the multiverse-hopping story, as well as moments when the characters are literally just two rocks talking via subtitles. It’s enough to try and completely take in everything happening in the film upon a first watch — we’d recommend multiple screenings to catch all its nuance — let alone to fully grasp such a complex, layered piece of its kind when it was still only on the page. But in the words of a TikTok trend from yesteryear, the casting team behind the unique project “understood the assignment” and were able to cast Everything Everywhere All at Once so that it could come into existence in all its glory.
Screen legend Michelle Yeoh leads as Evelyn Wang, matriarch of the film’s central family. The performance earned her a Best Actress nod, and her co-star Ke Huy Quan is in the running for Best Supporting Actor thanks to his turn as Evelyn’s husband Waymond. The onscreen Wang family is rounded out by their daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) and Evelyn’s father Gong Gong (James Hong). For her performance, which also includes a significantly altered version of her character in other universes throughout the film, Hsu is up for Best Supporting Actress. And Jamie Lee Curtis is another nominee in the same category, thanks to her work as IRS auditor Deirdre Beaubeirdre. With such a cast, it’s no wonder the film is also up for Best Picture. We just wish Sarah Finn and Djinous Rowling could add to the stacked list of Oscar nominations Everything Everywhere All at Once racked up this year via their own nomination for casting it.
- Natalie Lyon, Kevin Reher, and Kate Hansen-Birnbaum (Associate Casting Director) for Turning Red
According to Variety, the elevator pitch for Domee Shi’s feature directorial debut Turning Red was “a Chinese Canadian tween undergoes magical puberty and turns into a giant red panda.” And what a phenomenon of an animated film it turned out to be. The feature is both culturally specific and yet universally relatable with its themes of the awkwardness of the coming-of-age experience and of generational clashes within the family unit. Bringing to life such a project required a talented roster of actors to voice the roles, including the likes of Sandra Oh, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Wai Ching Ho, and James Hong. But it was the discovery of newcomer Rosalie Chiang that led to the casting of the film’s lead, Mei.
Casting Networks had the opportunity to sit down with casting directors Natalie Lyon and Kevin Reher, who shared that it generally takes between four and seven years to make a Pixar film. The process for Turning Red was no exception, which included securing “temporary vocals” for roles as they developed, before all the characters were finalized and official castings were made. Lyon and Reher disclosed that Chiang was a local actress who was originally brought in as a temporary voice for Mei. “With kids, it’s rare that they’ll make it through the process to the final film, purely because their voices often change during the years it takes to make the movie,” Lyon noted. “But, in Rosalie’s case, it worked!” Reher added his feelings about getting to officially cast Chiang in the lead role. “It is always the coolest thing in that situation when you get to tell the person doing temporary vocals that they have actually booked the part.” With a breakthrough leading performance and a stacked supporting cast, it’s no surprise that Turning Red is amongst the five titles nominated for Best Animated Feature at this year’s Academy Awards. How wild would it be if the people responsible for the film’s cast also had the chance to be recognized at the same awards show?
It’s important to note that Chamian, Barrett, Day, Ludwitzke, Finn, Rowling, Lyon, Reher and Hansen-Birnbaum are just a small sampling — in no particular order — of the casting directors we think should be up for a win at this year’s Academy Awards. They’re behind the casts of three different nominated films, and for context, there are ten features recognized in this year’s Best Picture category, alone. Not to be a broken record here, but does anyone else think it’s impossible to even get to the stage of picking Best Picture nominees without the work of their casting directors? Right? So, here’s hoping that one day in the very near future, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will decide that creating space for a casting category at the Oscars is, in fact, quite necessary.
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