I started the casting process with my normal casting director – he has a great sense of character and ability. Truly, the heart of this film lay in the characters – a great cast was a must-have. Because we were shooting in Minnesota there were a couple people I had in mind as possibilities – but there were also some roles I would need to cast in Minnesota where I didn’t have any one in mind. That’s why I reached out to my Minnesota casting director at the same time. Between these two very talented individuals who know their pools and understand character, I knew we’d end up in a good spot.
On the initial casting tapes there were a few guys that seemed like possibilities. But there was something about Lyle. Chad noticed it right away, too. I spent some time watching his audition over and over… And then I decided it would be best to have lunch with him. There’s something about a casting room that always throws me when I’m trying to cast something with a pulse, something with heart. Actors are people and rather than have them spout lines from the script or dial their performance into different places to discover their range I like to sit down and have a conversation.
What am I looking for? A lot of things… I want to know how I feel when I’m with them. Are they interesting? Do they have a life to pull from? Do they have an understanding of their craft? What do they bring to the picture? What is it about the character/material that interests them? Does it feel like I could help them with their performance? Do they have good questions? Are they challenging me? And do we respect each other?
That last one is pretty important – I run my sets in a way where there’s little stress. We do our work, we collaborate, we share ideas, and we all get excited about making something together. Actors who feel like they can exist in this style of ecosystem are hugely important to me. Great ideas can come from anywhere/anyone – but it’s about creating an environment where this exchange is possible.
My lunch with Lyle was astounding. We met at his restaurant in Hollywood – he co-owns it with a number of other folks, but Richard Roundtree and Robert Forster are amongst his crew. Legends. It was a relaxed environment with great food. What caught me about Lyle immediately was his charm – the way he warmed up a room and immediately felt like an old friend.
During our conversation I could tell there was an intensity lurking inside him that could emerge whenever necessary. As we talked about the character towards the end of our over two hour conversation he caught me off-guard in the way he could pop right in and out of character. When I asked him what attracted him to the project he said something along the lines of how he often plays the happy side of Lew, but he’s never really been able to explore the dark internal life of a guy like that. He knew Lew. He was Lew.
Mikandrew emailed me out of the blue. When I first received his email I was considering a couple other actors, but there was something about Mikandrew’s intensity that struck me immediately. We talked over email and he ended up sending me a couple dry reads of the character that had a certain quietness to them that the other actor’s takes lacked. Something about that struck me in a genuine way – there was real honesty to it.
So we had coffee over near Mar Vista and talked for almost three hours. I knew he could manage the anger – but I wanted to see what he was like in person. I was immediately struck by him. He knew what he wanted and was willing to do the work to get there.
We had our Linus and Lew.
The rest of the roles were cast in Minnesota – which was always my plan. There were some names I had in my head from the moment Chad sent me the final script, but then there were other roles I didn’t have a clue about. I knew what we needed and even though I shoot in Minnesota quite often, I wasn’t familiar with enough of the talent to know who was right for each role. Fortunately, Lynn Blumenthal understood what we were going for and nailed the casting.