If you’ve ever wondered what goes into the process of casting your favorite movie, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Museum has a podcast for you. Season two of The Academy Museum Podcast by LAist Studios, subtitled “Close Up on Casting,” will premiere on June 15 and be available wherever you get your podcasts, and will center on the often overlooked part of pre-production where actors are matched to roles. You can find the podcast right here:
The mission of the official podcast is to focus on “critical but misunderstood aspects of filmmaking,” and serve as a companion for various galleries within the Los Angeles-based museum. In fact, the Museum’s Director and President Jacqueline Stewart who hosts the show revealed that the podcast’s themes are chosen by both the museum curator’s research and what they overhear guests of the museum talking about most. Stewart and her team found that visitors spent a significant amount of time in the room that housed historic details related to the casting process.
Stewart and the podcast will speak to the film industry’s history with casting — dating back to the studio system in which studio heads handled casting based on deals with stars, and journeying through time to present day, in which the Casting Director is an esteemed part of the production team. The podcast will discuss who gets the part and how that affects the overall film by talking to directors, actors, casting directors, and more.
“It was one of the places where I had a gap in my own knowledge,” Stewart told the press in a sneak peek event at the Academy Museum last week. “It’s a practice that has been marginalized and underappreciated. Casting is so instrumental in the things we love most about film.” Notably, casting is one of the major film disciplines that isn’t recognized by the Academy Awards — according to Stewart, many casting directors believe that, because the casting process happens so early in pre-production, it becomes invisible in production and is often attributed to the film’s director. This erasure is another reason why Stewart wanted to shine a light on the discipline for the podcast’s second season.
The season will begin with a dissection of the 1940 Alfred Hitchcock thriller Rebecca, talking to historians about the behind-the-scenes drama that landed Joan Fontaine in the lead role despite off-color comments about her appearance and screen presence. Stewart’s deep dive is also aided by archival notes between Hitchcock and studio heads that laid bare the men’s feelings about the other women up for the role. Stewart noted that researching this episode opened her eyes to “how disdainful [studios] could be and that there were clear records of their behavior,” which inevitably affected the creative output of that time period.
These studio notes and many other artifacts from the casting process — including polaroids of younger versions of your favorite actors, screen tests from well-known faces for major motion pictures, and casting director’s notes from auditions on index cards — are on display in the museum and reinforce the synergy between the podcast and the in-person galleries.
Stewart also confirmed that each season of the podcast is meant to act as a companion piece for the museum itself. Season one delved into the rich history of what The Academy is best known for — the Oscars award ceremony — telling the stories of some of the most famous (and infamous) moments in the show’s 90+ year history with guests like Halle Berry, Whoopi Goldberg, Sacheen Littlefeather and more. Episodes in season two will cover conversations about Noble Johnson, the first Black movie star who founded his own production company, how to cast for animation, casting against type, how to cast for a franchise and understanding what a “hero” looks like, and even how casting directors can spot a potential star in the middle of a mall.
The podcast is meant to not only be a companion to the gallery at the museum, but to also reach people who don’t have the ability to visit the museum firsthand. So if you’re not local to LA but still want to experience the magic of film history and learn the background of how your favorite film came together, tune in to The Academy Museum Podcast’s second season on June 15. Episodes will be released every Thursday.