How do Hollywood movie producers and their casting directors pick the lead actors for their project?

There are many instances when Africans complain of Hollywood’s failure to recognise and or make use of African talent especially when they make movies a out Africa. Those in the industry feel that at least there should be an effort to develop African talent to tell African stories, instead of always parachuting Hollywood actos to take on those roles. We came across a question on Qoura:

How do Hollywood movie producers and their casting directors pick the lead actors for their project?

And one veteran film editor gave an insightful reponse:

By Christopher Kingery, Combat Veteran, Film Editor & Student of Life

It really depends on the size of the production and who is already involved. Not every Hollywood film is a big tent pole production. For the one’s that are, the film is likely high-profile enough that the producers and director can come up with a wish list of talent that they’ve seen/worked with before, and approach them about playing the key cast. In that case, who gets picked comes largely down to who is willing to work for what you can afford, and who is available and won’t have scheduling conflicts.

For smaller Hollywood productions, the director might still contact a star or two, especially if it’s somebody they already know, but often they’ll let the casting director know what they’re looking for. The casting director then does a casting call, usually contacting casting agencies or possibly directly contacting agents/managers that they know. For smaller parts, it’s not uncommon for the casting director and maybe a producer to make final decisions. For larger parts, especially roles that get top-billing, the casting director’s job is to weed out the one’s they know won’t fit what the director wants and do call-backs until the most promising actors have been widdled down to a manageable number (between 5 to 10, usually), at which point the director usually comes in.

Once the director is involved, the actor will likely read again, and if the director likes them, they’ll often get to do a screen test either opposite somebody else that’s already been cast or opposite one of the finalists for a different position. If the director doesn’t like the talent the casting director has picked, they’ll go back into tapes from prior readings to see if there’s something the director likes more.

Basically when casting key roles, the bigger a movie is, the more likely the director or casting director is to go either straight to the actor, or straight to a manager/agent who handles x number of actors. When that happens, call backs don’t happen as often, or possibly at all, because the talent pool you’re looking at is already much smaller. But most of the time, except for the biggest productions (and even then, only when the director has worked with the actor), the actor still has to at least screen test with others that have been/might be cast.


Additional insight: Sometimes producers will work with Sales agents or distributors or other marketing folk to see if anyone on their list is particularly desirable (or should be avoided) before they reach out to agents, managers, or agencies to send scripts out and see if there’s a possible match.

Some time’s there’s interest, sometimes you need to expand your list, sometimes people you reach out to will suggest other names, sometimes you need to get other casting directors involved.