The tal­ent spot­ter

Ir­ish­woman Ros Hub­bard is one of the world’s best-known cast­ing direc­tors, hav­ing worked on ev­ery­thing from The Com­mit­ments to Lord of The Rings, and dis­cov­ered Jonathan Rhys Mey­ers and Colin Farrell. She tells Michael Dwyer the se­crets of cast­ing a movie

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film -

FTER MORE than 20 years as a Hol­ly­wood cast­ing di­rec­tor, Ros Hub­bard is set to be­come a familiar face on the RTÉ2 se­ries

on a three­mem­ber jury as­sess­ing the prospects of ris­ing and as­pi­rant ac­tors. In marked con­trast to the judg­ing pan­els on and

this jury is un­usu­ally be­nign and con­sid­er­ate.

“There are no hu­mil­i­a­tions,” she says. “It’s much more like the real world. In the real world, you don’t hu­mil­i­ate peo­ple. You’re re­spect­ful and po­lite.”

Next Fri­day, she will be shar­ing her in­sights and ex­pe­ri­ence with an au­di­ence of 12- to 19-year-olds in a mas­ter­class at the new Cinemagic fes­ti­val in Dublin. “I’ve been given such a wide range, but I’ll con­cen­trate on au­di­tion tech­nique,” she says. “It’s the gap in the ed­u­ca­tion of ac­tors. Most don’t know that, from the minute they walk into an au­di­tion, they’re on as soon as they ap­pear.”

Are to­day’s young ac­tors more con­fi­dent than ear­lier gen­er­a­tions? “Oh, yes,” she says, “and some think they’re bet­ter than older ac­tors. Act­ing is in­stinct, and it’s God-given to be­gin with. All you can do is hone up that in­stinct. Look at Saoirse Ro­nan at her age.” And she cites Jonathan Rhys Mey­ers, who was in his mid-teens when she dis­cov­ered him in a Cork pool hall while cast­ing the David Put­tnam pro­duc­tion

“I talked to the man who ran the pool hall and he said there was this great kid who comes down from But­te­vant and that I should meet him. I could see the con­vic­tion in the man’s face. He was right. Jonny was amaz­ing. He didn’t get the job, whether it was that ev­ery­one was afraid of his star qual­ity, or that he didn’t quite fit the part be­cause of that star qual­ity. It shines off Jonny.” She gave Colin Farrell his first TV role in and his movie de­but in

“Again, the star qual­ity shines off Colin the minute he walks in the door. Even if he’s just say­ing, ‘How’re you, Ros?’ it’s there, it’s ra­di­ant. I think his star­dom has sur­prised him more than any­body.”

She was born Ros Cox in Ranelagh, Dublin, a few streets away from Mau­reen O’Hara’s birth­place. “Af­ter my Leav­ing Cer­tifi­cate, I went to Cal­i­for­nia, where I worked in in­sur­ance,” she says, “but I couldn’t wait to get back to Ire­land be­cause I missed the so­cial life. I worked at Betty Whe­lan’s model agency, and then I opened a model agency with two other ladies. Some peo­ple were cast­ing com­mer­cials and asked me about our mod­els.That’s when it be­gan to dawn on me that my gift in life was to able to spot tal­ent or choose suit­ably for a role.”

She opened her own cast­ing agency, and met and mar­ried John Hub­bard, an English­man work­ing in ad­ver­tis­ing. “He came to Dublin for six months as a copy­writer with Ken­nys, and stayed for six years. I went back to Lon­don with him and had my kids, Amy and Dan. There was one Christ­mas when he was very busy and he asked me to help with cast­ing some ads. I did 13 ads that Christ­mas week with one child on my hip and the other crawl­ing on the floor.

“It got around that I was quite good and I be­gan to get quite a lot of work. From there on, I cast com­mer­cials and then I was of­fered the TV se­ries

Soon af­ter­wards, in 1986, Ros landed her first fea­ture film, with Den­nis Hop­per and Michael J Pol­lard.

“At this stage, John had be­gun to get dis­en­chanted with ad­ver­tis­ing and he asked me if we could sur­vive if he joined me in cast­ing. We have a great re­la­tion­ship, and he brought an­other very good slant. Be­ing used to pitch­ing and pre­sent­ing in ad­ver­tis­ing, John knew how to talk a good game with Los An­ge­les and with pro­duc­ers.”

The Hub­bards had not cast any movies in Ire­land, al­though Ros had cast var­i­ous com­mer­cials here, be­fore Alan Parker asked them to work on (1991).

“When we met Alan, we found this great com­mu­nion be­tween us,” she says. “There was an im­me­di­ate con­nec­tion.” They ar­ranged an open cast­ing call at Dublin’s Man­sion House, which drew more than 5,000 ap­pli­cants.

“There were four of us at the front desk. We filmed ev­ery sin­gle per­son that came past us. Any­one who was good or in­ter­est­ing was sent inside to Alan. Then we looked at each other’s tapes and called back a few hun­dred. We weren’t just cast­ing the 12 lead­ing roles, but all the many peo­ple who had roles in the film, no mat­ter how small.”

Af­ter work­ing with Parker again on (1996), the Hub­bards were back in Ire­land and cast­ing “That was turned down by our com­pany be­cause John read it and said it wasn’t our kind of thing” Ros says. “But I had a look at the script. I was roar­ing laugh­ing and I told John we had to do it.

“We got it back. Der­mot [Morgan] was at­tached to it al­ready, and they were talk­ing to Frank Kelly, and Der­mot had men­tioned Ardal [O’Han­lon]. But we did the rest of the cast­ing, start­ing with Pauline McLynn as Mrs Doyle.” Work­ing with Parker again on

(1999) pre­sented the Hub­bards with the chal­lenge of cast­ing three boys as au­thor Frank McCourt at dif­fer­ent ages in his life.

Mean­while, John had dis­cov­ered Kate Winslet as a school­girl and rec­om­mended her to Peter Jack­son for his

break­through movie af­ter a few low-bud­get hor­ror movies the Hub­bards had cast. They went on to work with Jack­son on

and and will join him again next year on which he’s pro­duc­ing, and which he’s di­rect­ing.

Are the Hub­bards sub­jected to a lot of pres­sure from pushy agents who can’t take no for an an­swer?

“Oh, yes, and they take it per­son­ally when you dis­agree and you feel one of their ac­tors isn’t right for a role. If it’s a big Hol­ly­wood stu­dio film, you’re re­ally un­der pres­sure from the big­gest agen­cies in Los An­ge­les, as well as the man­agers, but we have good di­a­logue with Hol­ly­wood.”

There has been talk about in­au­gu­rat­ing an Os­car for cast­ing direc­tors, but no progress so far. “There should be one,” Ros says. “The work that goes into cast­ing is colos­sal, and it is creative. Why should we be the only de­part­ment that doesn’t get recog­nised in the Os­cars? We should have one just for be­ing nice and cop­ing with the fear at the be­gin­ning of all pro­duc­tions!”

Ros Hub­bard

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