The beauty of DVD’s is the ‘extra’s’ – we often get a backstage look at movies and tv shows and this often includes screentests and audition footage. The beauty of the internet is that a lot of this footage is now online so you can watch and learn from masters of your craft, see what they do which makes them stand out, the decisions they make – be them prepared or in the moment – and the wow factor which landed them the job.
Everyone has to audition at all points in their careers, however famous or skilled they might be.
I have picked some of my favourite audition tapes and stories to show you that sometimes all it takes is that one magical casting which can change your life.
Rachel McAdams in The Notebook
Rachel McAdams made the transition from ‘Mean Girls’ to grown-up drama with her performance in ‘The Notebook’. She was pretty much an unknown when she was called in for the role of Allie.
In this audition notice how she never stops listening and reacting and she has the guts to hold silence and react naturally. She works in harmony with Ryan Gosling throughout this scene, never against him.
Ryan Gosling was already cast as Noah and he auditioned with the actresses who were seen for the part of Allie. Speaking about McAdams in her audition Gosling said ‘She was really prepared, and really ready to try anything and unintimidated’
Gabourey Sidibe in Precious
In 2010 Gabourey Sidibe was cast in the life changing role Precious in the movie of the same name, the harrowing story of an obese teenager abused by her father.
Gabourey had only played three minor roles in college productions and was working as a receptionist to pay her way through the third year of her Psychology degree course when she auditioned for the role which was going to change her life.
The interesting part of this audition is that in real life Sidibe is larger than life, confident, funny and smart but she chose to use her psychology training and change her entire personality for the casting. Here is how the transformation was described in an interview in The Telegraph:
‘My psychology training gave me knowledge of what a victim looks like,’ she explains, and demonstrates by curbing her animated gestures and shrinking into herself, hunching her shoulders, taking up less space in the room, and pulling down the shutters on a face that had previously been so open and quick to smile. Her eyes look dead, her mouth sullen, and she looks ugly, overweight and alienated from a body that only seconds before she had seemed totally at ease with. Her voice deepens, gets gruffer, her accent changes radically and suddenly the articulate, attractive young woman I had been speaking to has turned into the lumpen, awkward Precious – a girl it is easy to ignore.
Chris Colfer in Glee
I’m including this screentest story because I really think this demonstrates how staying completely true to yourself can often help hugely at a casting.
Chris Colfer was an unknown who had just graduated and the Glee production office called him in to audition for the role of Artie.
Chris was not right for that role, but they loved who he was so much that they wrote a part specially for him and his personality.
Sometimes staying true to you will get you remembered and even if they don’t write you a role in this show chances are they will remember you for the next time.
This just shows how important that confident chit-chat before and after the casting can be.
Audrey Tatou in Amelie
Okay, here’s the truth – I dont speak a word of French but this audition tape has me mesmerised!
The part of Amelie was originally written for the British actress Emily Watson but her French was not strong enough and so Jeunet rewrote the script for a French actress and Tatou was the first to be seen for the role.
I am not sure where Audrey ends and Amelie begins but in this audition she is perfectly unique, quirky, fun, friendly and interesting – as well as being beautiful on camera – which helps!
Director’s want to work with actors who are interesting, who are confident enough to make their own choices on camera, and who have a sense of delight in what they do and in their craft. No one really wants to work with a diva who seems like they will need a lot of direction and hard work.
Audrey Tatou’s sense of fun is prevelant throughout this audition and I think landed her the role. Never let your nerves or other anxieties get in the way of sharing your delight at doing what you do best … ‘act’.
Stockard Channing in Superman
Sometimes the role just isn’t yours.
It happens all too often, its happened to me, its happened to you, and it even happens to big actors. You audition and audition for a part, you get seen time and time again and even get screentested with the lead actor and you then get a ‘no’
Stockard Channing auditioned for the role of Lois Lane in 1978 movie Superman and got down to the last two against unknown Canadian actress Margot Kidder. I love Stockard’s performance, she plays the role of Lois as tough, sassy and very funny.
Whatever the reason she didn’t get the role, it didn’t break her, she got up, brushed herself down and got on with the job of acting. Missing out on the part of Lois led her to be cast in the part of Rizzo in 1978’s Grease and she has continued to do acclaimed work in movies, TV and the stage, earning an Oscar nomination for “Six Degrees of Separation” and winning both an Emmy and a Tony award.