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Casting directors: How movies like 'Batman v Superman' came together

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Two casting directors explain how they chose the stars for "Man of Steel," "Hairspray," "Wonder Woman," "Cloud Atlas," "Game Change" and more.

Casting directors Lora Kennedy and David Rubin have put together some of the biggest movies around, including "Superman Returns," "Man of Steel," "Hairspray," "Wonder Woman," "Cloud Atlas," "Game Change" and "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice."

"I think casting directors are psychologists and matchmakers and astute readers of scripted material," Rubin said. "They are sensitive to both the actor's process and the director's process."

"And we're caretakers," Kennedy said. "The actors come in with a certain amount of nerves and anxieties and dreams and hopes and wishes, and directors come in with anxiety and dreams and hopes and wishes, and we have to calm them down. We have to get them focused."

Rubin added: "A director once said to me that the two most important things in filmmaking are the script and the cast — and everything else is transportation."

"Superman Returns" and "Man of Steel"

"We had gone through a series of trying to reboot it with a bunch of different directors, and then we finally settled on a director [Bryan Singer] and an actor [Brandon Routh]," Kennedy said. "And that film got made, and he was really lovely, but we had also tested Henry at that time."

That would be Henry Cavill, who'd go on to star in "Man of Steel."

"And [Brandon Routh] was fantastic, but the film just didn't work as well as they had hoped, so we rebooted it seven years later, and Henry was still around," Kennedy said. "And so I said to him, 'Let's try this one more time, you and me. Come in, let's you and me read this one more time, let's give it one more shot.' And he was it. And we just submitted him to the directors and the producers, and luckily Chris Nolan was producing, Zack Snyder was directing, and everybody was in agreement that Henry was the guy. And it took Henry and I seven, eight years to make that happen, but I knew it."


"There's really no list of young, overweight teenage movie stars," Rubin said. That presented a challenge in casting for "Hairspray," due to the star's appearance being central to the show.

"We knew we had to open the doors and see many, many people. But one of the first auditions we saw was a videotape from a girl who was working in an ice cream shop on Long Island, and it was extraordinary. And yet it was so early on in our process that we couldn't have that eureka moment," Rubin said, "and what resulted was we had open calls all around the country, and everybody second-guessed this fantastic reading from the very beginning of our casting process. It took six months of long lines, of hopeful teenage girls all around the country singing their hearts out, and ultimately we ended up pointing to this video that we'd received very early on from Nikki Blonsky, who carried the film on her shoulders."


What impact does race have when it comes to casting? Rubin says that race in a screenplay is something he tries to ignore when it comes to casting.

"One of the first things I do when reading a script is cross out the character descriptions," Rubin said. "The writers of a screenplay write very detailed descriptions of each character for a very specific purpose — because they write that screenplay for studio executives. They want a studio executive to envision what this movie is and then write a beautiful check to make the film. As casting directors, we ignore those descriptions and focus only on how does this character impact the story, and that can happen from many, many perspectives, from many genders, many races, many types."

"Wonder Woman"

Kennedy says that they sought an actress with a European feel, both at Zack Snyder's request and out of an attempt to appease fans.

"Because the legend of Wonder Woman is that she's from Greece, and the fan base needs these kinds of things to be paid attention to," Kennedy said. "We had seen Gal [Gadot] in the 'Fast and Furious' series and really loved her, and then we met her. And she's absolutely fantastic. She's 5'10", she's a supermodel, and she was in the Israeli army."

Kennedy said those attributes, combined with having no fear, made Gadot the right wondrous woman for the role, though it came as part of a worldwide search.

"Cloud Atlas"

Lana and Andy Wachowskis used an extremely international and diverse cast in their complicated sci-fi film, "Cloud Atlas." Kennedy said casting the movie took two years, including getting Tom Hanks attached to play a wide variety of roles.

"It wasn't about ethnic lines, it was about the soul lines of the character, and how they were embodied in different people," Kennedy said. "And so it was very hard for people to understand. But wherein Caucasian actors played Asian, Asian played Caucasian, and it was just a big mashup of humanity."

"Game Change"

Rubin worked on casting for two political projects: "Recount" and "Game Change." He says that authenticity in a film based on a true story is important, but you don't want to be beholden to an impersonation.

"Julianne [Moore] had certain trepidations about [playing Sarah Palin], which are reasonable, and she did a tremendous amount of research and got very obsessive about the cadence, the voice, the movement and all of that," Rubin said. "And then, very cleverly, when it came time to shoot, [she] forgot about all of that and just played it as herself." 

Backlash for Ben Affleck as Batman

When the announcement that Ben Affleck would play Batman in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" (and beyond) was made, it led to a huge amount of backlash online — more than Kennedy and the rest of the team expected, she said.

"I think Ben handled it really well, but I think it was hard on him. I don't think, at any time, people can't expect that to not have an effect on these actors. It doesn't matter if it's Ben or anybody. All this negativity, and this anonymous hating that goes on on these websites is really out of control."

Kennedy added that audiences need to reserve judgment until they actually see what's being made, and that she's bothered by people showing hate toward casting decisions and movies in general before it's even made.

"No one knows what kind of Batman we're making," Kennedy said. "No one knows the character of Batman in this particular movie. It's not Christian [Bale]. It's a new Batman, and Ben is a new Batman, and he has a new take on it, and he's worked very hard at this, and he has committed himself to it, and I think people are really going to be surprised." 

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer

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