Before I spill my beans, let me say I'm well aware that what I'm about to divulge is likely going to rattle the cages of our most vocal and articulate followers to date. I am referring of course to that resounding and passionate population who made it abundantly clear that casting anything other than all-Canadians on a Canadian film would be something close to a travesty. (see all 31 comments in response to September 28, 2009 post: What Do You Think?)
While we all agree that this country is full of crazy amounts of under-used talent, and that audiences will only cultivate a taste for something they're properly presented and consistently fed. And that Canadian filmmakers should, in theory, be able to cast 100% Canadian actors to help them tell their stories, the reality is that in many cases the financing, as well as the level of exposure, of the film is still very dependent on the casting having "Marquee" value.
While none of what was said here, or in my broader cinema/Canuckophile circles, has fallen on deaf ears - there's just one problem, the lead adult role in our film is for a woman : And to date, no Canadian WOMAN is considered enough of a marquee name for the powers-that-be. And yes, I fully recognize the chicken-and-egg irony in all of this.
But in this restless place between what should be and what is, I have, above all, to think of my film - what's best for the film, the story and the characters that inhabit it. Like any director, I primarily want to find the right actors to bring each one of my characters to life - to realize their fullest potential. To lift this story off the page and make it alive. And I also want this film - what amounts to a long labour of love for so many of us - to be seen by the greatest amount of people possible when it's finally all said and done.
So, while the all-Canadian door is not closed, I am obliged to fully explore the Marquee portal. Without further ado, then, here's what's been going on behind the scenes on the Casting Couch :
Last November, with the help of Heidi Levitt, we got our script into the hands of Rachel Griffiths (an Australian native with wide-open, frontier topography in her blood, Rachel is best known for her roles in the Oscar-nominated film, "Hilary and Jackie" and HBO's "Six Feet Under"). Word came back quite quickly that she really liked the script, and she suggested we speak. She and I had a stimulating, thoughtful, fun! phone conversation about the script, about me, about Marion, about her and about the next steps toward her accepting the role. I was elated and full of admiration for the actor, and also the woman who had just had her third child and was actually considering doing my film in her upcoming hiatus!
Finally, however, as much as she loved the project and our exchange, Rachel could not come to terms with the logistical realities of our multi-week, "remote shoot", three children under 6 and us needing an answer so far (in Hollywood terms) in advance of the shoot, that she regretfully and graciously had to pass.
After this news, we took some time to regroup and eventually submitted the project for Maggie Gyllenhaal's consideration right before Christmas. Maggie is admittedly on the very young side of Marion, but she has such an old-soul energy that makes her a very compelling, timeless actor. Our script was first read and greeted with enthusiasm by her manager. It was then sent on to Maggie. Early yesterday we learned that Maggie passed - explaining that she did not see herself playing the mother of a child hitting puberty.
Every time it's a little bit of a heartbreak, but ultimately I am really grateful to EVERY actor who has ever read, auditioned, considered, even passed on this project - because in doing so, every single one of them has given me something of themselves. Every one of them has caused me to stretch my mind, open my imagination a little bit more in order to encompass something they offer, something they represent. It is all a gift and an experience - for me, and I trust, for them as well. It's all part of the creative process.
And so, onward...