Casting – History Features

Main Article Content

Ilia Asitashvili


The art of acting often exposes the negative results of casting. This won’t take place if we act accordingly to the meanings of the following questions whilst making a choice: Who is the character? Where and when do they live? What kind of past did they have and where do they come from? What do they want and why? Defining the final results of casting is an important but overlooked, less analyzed step in Georgian cinema. In the history of film around the world, the principles of casting are linked with finding one or several traits of a character in a drama actor according to physical features. This is a broad and difficult process from casting to voiceover.

 In Robert Bresson’s book „Notes on Cinematography“ the author often compares professional and amateur actors. Bresson worked with non-professional actors and explained it in his way, François Truffaut in his „Le Plaisir des Yeux“ offers his personal experience to professionals. Also, in „Hitchcock\Truffaut“, which he wrote in 1966, we can read the analysis of Hitchcock’s famous quote: „Really the novelist has the best casting since he doesn’t have to cope with the actors and all the rest“. Sidney Lumet in the book „Making Movies“ talks a lot about the actors’ behavior and motivation.

 One of the most important works about interacting with actors is “Bialon about Filmmaking” written by Georgian director, playwright, and painter, Rezo Esadze. One of the chapters is named “Film and Theatre Actor – Similarities and Differences While Working on a Role”. Here, seeing the example of the author’s own experience, we get some clarity about the practical results of casting.

Video lectures from different directors and actors on (Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Werner Herzog, Spike Lee, Ron Howard, Samuel L. Jackson, Helen Mirren, Kevin Spacey, Jodie Foster, Natalie Portman) tell us about the specifics and difficulties of casting.

To portray negative traits, artists from the B.C era and actors would look for simple mimic qualities which would be seen in an actor of similar characteristics. Resemblance could also have been achieved with features common in animals. This is a rather easy and quite famous method that directly serves to create straightforward characteristics and moods.

 Later, paintings and literature managed to gain experience in other, alternative ways of „describing“ the artistic portrait and mood. What is the meaning of a character who was being looked for according to their traits by the cinema during its entire history and the art of uncovering the typical qualities and features gathered in a professional actor? This is a unity of a few thousand psychological and distinctive details, nuances dependent on each other that are being searched by professionals who want to achieve different goals.

Andre Bazin, a researcher of cinema, an author of several theoretical works, and an analyst wrote in his research called „The Myth of Total Cinema“, that film is an idealistic creation. The beginnings of its existence lived in a human’s mind, the imagination of centuries identified the idea of cinema and its starting point with a unified reflection of reality.[1]

The process continued and became more fascinating as professional actors entered the spotlight of film. The cinematic characters of Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks contained different standards of visual traits. Chaplin’s little tramp created a new characteristic that didn’t exist before. Whilst a new stream of cold faces which seem to have no emotion during different eras of cinema’s development is associated with a wish to run away from standards and it was wanted by almost all directors.

The stage of looking for a character’s images is quite an interesting process.

Still, no matter how symbolic or metaphorical is a character’s personality, it still looks for the main support point even during casting. To be specific, the authors of the film are looking for it, a unity of feelings that will persuade, and convince the viewer in the fact that what they see is real and does exist.

The existence of several traits in one character means finding and realizing a specific type of resource in the performer from the beginning. When speaking about such collective faces, we must mention an important issue which is cinema and reality. It means that every form and way of portraying the truth must be interesting and of course, honest.

According to different opinions by French theoretics, a cinematic creation depends on three different components – the viewer, the author, and reality.[2] The viewer perceives the choice of the author – the author chooses and reality allows the recognition of resources hidden in both the character and the performer.

Based on the nature of cinema, a portrait discovered by the painter, a director, and of course, the screenwriter needs a vision and it’s not necessary to use it as an exact portrayal of reality during casting.

The cinematic avant-garde of the 1920s’ changed and weakened such approach towards the search for easily understandable quirks of an artistic profile. Such movements as surrealism and German expressionism changed the practice of choosing the performer – minimal emotional expression in appearance replaced expressive characters and on the contrary, bold strokes in mimics and looks gained meaning.

After some time, unexpected strokes existing in behavior got lost in the standards and traits of appearance of entertaining cinema in the 1940s’.

 It is not necessary to approach the artistic process of searching and finding the artist, or performer with this measure, but one thing is clear from Nietzsche’s view: a worldview, no matter what it’s like, how primitive even, must be visible in the portrait of the character at least by a simple sign. Just like a mark of their conscience – no matter what it’s like, it must be seen in external traits in the first stage of expressing the character.


[1] Kuchukhidze, „Screen and Time“, Tbilisi, 2009. Page 45.

[2] Kuchukhidze, There, page 35.

Casting, Actor, Type, Psychological Face, Skills, Characteristics
Published: Mar 6, 2023

Article Details

Film Studies