Ep 28 | Lucy Bevan - Casting Director: The Batman, Belfast, Ready Player One

Credit: Warner Bros


Note: Please be aware this transcript is generated by AI, there will be small inconsistencies with the published podcast.

Lucy  00:00

So these artists would have to come and read the scripts out of the safe enact and here I am in my office next and who knew that Gotham City would come out of here?

Mike  00:10

Hello, and welcome to Red Carpet rookies. My name is Mike battle, a screenwriter and production team member working for Studios in London. Each episode, I bring you advice and stories from film and TV professionals to help educate and empower the next generation of filmmakers and crew. Thanks for joining me. Let's get started. Today's guest is another first for the show. And it's an exciting one, the fabled role of casting director. Beginning her career in production working on films such as Tim Roth to the war zone, she made the move to casting where she has flourished one of the world's most successful casting directors, working on projects, including Steven Spielberg's ReadyPlayer One, then, um, let there be Carnage and recently the much lauded MattReeves Batman. Along the way, she has developed a long standing relationship with Kenneth Brenner, having worked on nine projects together, as well as cultivating a key role as casting director for Disney or movies includingMaleficent, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast and Corella, our guest is Lucy Bevan. How're you doing today?

Lucy  01:09

Very well, thank you for that very kind introduction.

Mike  01:11

You're most welcome. Now, let's see, I asked all my guests the same first question. And that is, what did your parents do? And did it affect your career choices moving forward?

Lucy  01:20

My father was a barrister. He was a prosecuting QC mainly and ended up as a judge at the Old Bailey. My mum looked after us as children. And then she went on later, to become a sort of artists, she makes Christmas fairies.

Mike  01:39

Interesting. So I guess you had creativity from your mom, and a bit of a business side from your dad.

Lucy  01:44

My father really, really, really loved his job. He was very into it. And I think I got my kind of work ethic and love of my job from my dad, butI didn't have any connections at all in the film industry. In my family growing up,

Mike  01:59

that's amazing. Am I right? That it was et though amongst all of that, that set your path on filmmaking? Perhaps

Lucy  02:05

it was 100% easy to watch GT maybe I was about 10. And I was absolutely blown away by the movie, which is still in my top five. And in my top five. Not only is because it had a huge impact on me, because I think but It hink it's one of the most well cast movies ever made all of those kids that don't have friends on the bicycles. At the end, there was a beautifully cart film and I found it hugely moving. And I as a 10 year old. I think I realised then I didn't realise it. But as the film is really about divorce, and I thinkI didn't sort of undecided on which my parents were. And I think that that had an impact on me subliminally perhaps that's, you know, I know that's kind ofStephens intention. But it had you had a huge impact. I loved the film. And I just became really interested in films after that. And I love that to the future. I was really 80s Kind of, you know, absorbed all of that. But it wasn't until I got to university that I thought about any sort of career. Because it wasn't an option. I just loved films like other people, like everyone loves films.

Mike  03:07

Have you seen the video on YouTube where Steven is casting the young boy? And then at the end? He says you've got the job?

Lucy  03:14

Yes. With the casting director, obviously, he's improvising in that scene. It's a remarkable video. In fact, when Ken Brown has sent me the script of Belfast, and in lockdown and said, Do you think we can do this in six weeks ,or you cast it from start to finish? And in six weeks, I read it overnight. AndI rang him I said, the main part as a kid, and usually it takes a long time to find a kid I suggest shortly give it a go. And the first thing I did I sent him that Henry thomassie audition from YouTube and said this is the level of kid that we want. We want the kid to be this good. And we did do it in six weeks.

Mike  03:52

That's incredible. And dude was absolutely phenomenal. One questionI did want to ask about the Steven thing is that obviously with et as your favourite film ever, they're pretty much from getting you into it. You must have been pretty giddy so then worked with him on Ready Player One later.

Lucy  04:04

I really was I remember where he was sitting outside the NationalYouth National Theatre. When Leslie Feldman had a casting at DreamWorks called me and asked me if I would work on Ready Player One. And it was such an honour to be asked to work with Ellen Lewis, who was casting it out of America and she's done all of Scorsese's films and she's just phenomenal casting director.So that was a huge honour in itself and to be working with Steven Yeah, I didn't really pinch myself. And I said I've never been so prepared for meeting is when I flew out to LA to take the week off I think 88 rolls or so from UK and in Ready Player One because it was shot here. And I had to go out to LA to see Steven and show him all these auditions and I don't think I've ever been as well prepared for a meeting in my life insofar as on the aeroplane. I realised it was one film of his I hadn't seen and so I watched it on the plane on the way out to meet him just to make sure I was absolutely covered on all of his back as well as the A auditions I was taking with me to show him.

Mike  05:02

So to take it from being in Steven Spielberg's house in Hollywoodback to you having no collections in the UK to try and get your first job. You wrote letters to famed working title producers, Tim and Eric, but it didn't go your way initially did it? Well,

Lucy  05:16

I wrote when I was at university, and obviously this is before the internet, and I set up a theatre company with some friends. And I absolutely loved everything to do with it, particularly when it came to casting and we did a production of the Streetcar Named Desire. And I felt quite strongly about the casting. And that was the first time I felt strongly. And then we had BenedictCumberbatch in our head, a gobo. And the third year, he was a fresher, I was a third year. And I really enjoyed doing these plays. And I thought, right, I've got to leave, I need to have a job that I love, because I'm gonna be spending so much of my day doing it. What do I love film? What am I good at? I seem tobe good at this sort of organising. I was in one play myself. And I was absolutely terrible and terrified and had to be stoned to get through it. So that wasn't for me, but I sort of loved that kind of creative process. So I thought, well, I want to work in film and I seem to be good at this. So I got the BFI handbook. I think it was 1299. And I wrote to the 10 best producers that I knew of, in the back of the in the BFI handbook, handwritten letters,Tim and Eric at working title, certainly a Merchant Ivory I wrote to Mike Lee's producer, Ken loach's producer, I worked to 10 producers and I got about two or three letters back. And one of them was from working title. And I had the gumption I just turned up at their office and said, Could I speak to? I can't remember the name. Anyway, I wrote. So as to I turned up at working title, andI said, Can I speak to this lady, I'm looking for work as a runner, because that's the only knew the only way I knew to get in was to be a runner, which is when you run around Soho, delivering parcels and making tea. And I said, I really want to be a runner. And she was very kind and said, Alright, come in.And then she went through the knowledge with me and highlighted people who might be looking for a runner, one of whom was Sarah Radcliffe, I contacted andI got that job. And that was my first job. But I still think it might have been because my surname was Bevan. And they might have thought I was related to Tim.So they might have to be nice to me. But I'm not related to Tim. Anyway. But perhaps but yeah, I literally, I literally turned up. I don't necessarily recommend this now. But I literally just turn up and knock on the door if I can tie. So that's how I got going.

Mike  07:30

It's an interesting answer. Because I'd say most of the people I speak to who are at the top of the game, on this podcast, have similar stories.And it's a bit difficult, I think, for the youngsters to understand what to do, because I feel like things have changed a bit and you want to find that middle ground.

Lucy  07:48

Yeah. And it's a really different time, isn't it? And we'd like this as the internet now. There's so much more research you can do than we could when we were young. But my first offer Sarah Radcliffe, I was really smartly dressed. I had penny loafers and then a little crepe dress and my mum had got me this cardigan from a secondhand shop and I had tights and I was really I remember it vividly. And my first job was to lug a filing cabinet down five flights, very extreme Sarah's office. So I realised day one were trainers and she and I was so excited. And I was only to one and 50 pounds a week. And it was amazing. I loved it. I learned so much. Because I was making tea forSarah Radcliffe and the other Dixie Linda or the other great people in that office. And I just listened and learned. I was really delighted to have that job. I felt very lucky.

Mike  08:33

After you work with Sarah Radcliffe, you decided that casting was actually your calling. And you worked for the legendary casting director, Mary Selway who did Raiders of the Lost Ark and alien and Star Wars Return of theJedi. What did you learn from her?

Lucy  08:46

Oh, Mary was always so kind to people. She was kind to all the people in St. Margaret's where we work the people over the road that actors that came in the nice people in the shop. She was a very, very generous hearted person. And she was respectful to everybody. It didn't matter if you were the waiter who's serving you or the important producer you're talking to she was very, very kind woman. And she was really funny, and really glamorous. And she would always paint her nails as she was on the phone and I still do that. She was when it when it got really tense and things went wrong. That's when her sense of humour kicked in. And I think that was experience because when I whenMary died and I started off on my own, much younger than I would have done ifMary hadn't died. I was so stressed so much of the time because because of the productions you never know what's going to happen next. There's a different crisis on every production every day. There's something comes along that you're not expecting and I spent so much of my younger years casting incredibly stressed and as one gets older and more experience. You've got the benefit of that to keep you a bit kind of karma and to sort of see the humour in things.But I remember sitting opposite Mary and just thinking she was so cool the way she stays, you know, she retained her sense of humour and calm and in a crisis, because production, you know, casting is not easy. And things go wrong all the time,

Mike  10:17

that you tell you any memorable anecdotes from all of those movies she worked on 

Lucy  10:22

Yeah, I mean, we found the first list of ideas for alien, which were blokes because it was written for a male character, and then we found her list sensitive Gorny on it. But oh, my goodness, so many stories were to start,I was always so impressed that she'd cast with melonite. Because I think that is in my top five of all best cars, films ever. And I lucky enough to be working with Richard II, Grant daughter, Olivia now works with me. So that's a lovely kind of full circle. And if there's work that needs to be i 

Mike  10:51

when you became a casting director, yourself. It's a job that I think a lot of people have heard of in the element of choosing actors, but they probably don't realise you haven't worked in the industry. There's a lot more going on. There's scheduling, there's deals, there's Cannes, would you be able to kind of define it? For anyone who's a bit of a layperson?

Lucy  11:09

Well, I think there are sort of two really separate elements to casting and one of them is entirely creative, where you sit with a blank page, you send to scripts, you read the scripts, and you have ideas, and you bring those ideas to the director, and you collaborate with the director. And that's an entirely creative process. And then there's the more kind of business side of it, which is that you then have to get those actors to do it, and do their deals. And doing deals is really complicated. From the big from the big deals, and the big leading characters to the small deals of the day players who work, you know, a number of days over the schedule, or one day further down the line.Those are really different skill sets. And I enjoyed both of them. I enjoyed the creative and business side of it as well. But yeah, we work in you works in a mainly creatively with the director to realise his help realise his or her vision. And then you work with the producer to do the deals.

Mike  12:04

This is a slightly glib question. But does the notion of being discovered still exists like it did? And if it does, what does it look like these days? Is it a zoom call 

Lucy  12:15

I always think that's a sort of dodgy word, that discovery thing because people always exist in it before they're casting something. But in the case of Jude Hill, in Belfast, for example, we did a social media search for a kid with a Belfast accent. We didn't even say it was he didn't know he was auditioning for Belfast, when we auditioned him. We just did a a casting call through social media. So if you're looking for something specific, in that case, we're looking for something very specific. And boy with a Belfast accent, therefore had to be from Belfast, have a very specific age needed blue eyes needed, we wanted him to sort of look like a young kid. So we did a very specific search for that. We've also done a search recently for a blind character and ShawnLevy's Netflix show or the Light We Cannot See. And Aria, who we cast was a result of a social media, we came to her through social search through social media. So those people already exist, and they're there. But if you're looking for something really specific, you have to go and search for it. So that's how those things happen is that you go out, you do a search, and you dig deep, until you find what you need.

Mike  13:21

Amazing. I know that you're quite a large proponent of making your own work, which is something that works a lot these days with the Internet.Could you speak to that? Are we talking about YouTube? What does that mean for actors?

Lucy  13:30

That's a really great article, Eliot Warren, we cast in Batman and also in masters of the air and he created this incredible show. It's, it's like an urban peace or an iambic pentameter. And it's sort of like rap, but it'sAmbit pentameter, and he created it himself. And I remember Olivia grant showing it to me and thinking like God, he's amazing. And actually, we just cast him and Kristin Scott Thomas, this film as well. But he created that himself, and it existed on its own. And it was really amazing. And as a result through, you know, seeing that we've crossed with a number of things, what I mean, it's sort of about creating your own opportunities. Because if you sit around in life and wait,

Mike  14:12

it doesn't really work so much. You've got go knock on Tim Bevan's door.

Lucy  14:16

No, don't recommend that. Forgive me. No, but I think now that we're the point is with the internet that you can, you've got more accessible, you've got more more access to sort of getting your own ideas out there is a brilliant actor who was doing loads of things in lockdown who's just been casting call my agent called Harry Trevelyan, and he was doing amazing things a lot of time. We've just cast him with the parties and something but yeah, just about creating your own opportunities, creating your own work rather than sitting and waiting for the phone to ring.

Mike  14:48

Speaking of lockdown. Do you do a lot of casting and auditions onZoom these days? What does that look like? Well, yes,

Lucy  14:54

so we learned that through lockdown, so we were doing the tilde and back And when lockdown happened, we were seven weeks into filming Batman. So we were quite, we've done most of it, we hadn't done all of it done most of it. But we were just in the middle of casting Matilda, which was all in real life auditions with kids. And then we sort of transferred to Zoo we ended up,Alicia, you've got the part, we met on Zoom. So we're basically locked down meant that Zoom auditions became much more normal. And I think they're incredibly time efficient as a first round. They're great. Rather than people having to slow to my office and acting for a first round audition. I'm really happy to see people on Zoom, I think it works really well, that obviously you want to get them in the room when you're if it's a big party and further down the line, you've got to meet the director or whatever it is, then, of course you need to be in the room. But for those sort of first round meetings, I think it's a hugely time efficient, and we did all of Belfast auditions, all of the mon Zoom, start to finish in six weeks, including finding dude. So yeah, it's, it can work well.

Mike  16:03

Wow. Six weeks. That's amazing. I know you're not a huge fan of direction the nose advice. But the one question I will ask is, are there any no nose for people when they have auditions with you

Lucy  16:12

talk about traffic. Or, you know, if you're late people, you know, people are late. And it's fostering I'm not a big, I'm not a fan of lateness.But it happens, you know, stuff goes wrong, but someone coming in the room and telling me that traffic was I really not interested. Fair enough. It's really about you know, entering and leaving the room is really important, coming clean, know your lines, be ready to have some bring some thoughts with you bring two or three thoughts with you on whatever it is that you're doing, have some ideas, be ready to take direction and make adjustments and leave cleanly.And that's your time. That's the only time that's the time that you've got. So really, and use your nerves, because if you're nervous, that's completely understandable. I get nervous. I got nervous last night, I had to do a meeting on zoom with a director I haven't worked with before. For a project that I really hope I get. I'm so nervous before it. And that's useful. And you've got to harness them. But yeah, have some thoughts about the material you've got in front of you have some ideas, and then be nimble, be ready to take direction and make adjustments and give it your best shot. And don't spend that time talking about traffic.

Mike  17:12

No traffic. We've got that. You've worked on nine projects now withSir Ken Brown. Yes. What is it about your collaboration that works? And how is it working with him as an actor? Does that help the casting process?

Lucy  17:27

I love working with Ken It's so fun. He's so great with actors.He's so kind to them, He gives such great notes. And I really love when an actor comes in the room, and you work on some scenes and they leave and they learned something here you'll get some really specific notes. That mean that when an actor leaves the room, they learned something in the audition. And that's so great to watch people get better in the room. I love that because, you know, here he's so nimble at directing people and just making them better.And also, I had the really great experience twice with Ken now on Cinderella,Lily James came in for the part of a stepsister. And I was looking for a girl with blue eyes and blonde hair is a big property of a Disney and she came in with brown eyes, brown hair, brown fringe. She came into it for a stepsister.And I said, Take Cinderella sides go downstairs come back in half an hour. And that was the beginning of that process. And also on death on the Nile andMackey, who was a brilliant sex education came in for a smaller part and was so good that we got her back into pedalling. So twice now working with Ken, I've had an actress in for a smaller part and they've ended up with the lead. And that's really great. He's just gives people opportunities and he gets behind people and he sees their potential. And he's really good fun,

Mike  18:56

but does sound fun. Was it the same with Dustin Hoffman? Because obviously he was an actor as well. Did he teach them in the same way? What was his process?

Lucy  19:03

I still wouldn't meet any actors. Dustin was like I cannot meet an actor and not give them the job. You'll have to do it for me. He just wouldn't be wouldn't meet a single actor. I did all the auditions myself. That was a crazy job because it was about quartet was the film and it was about retired opera singers and musicians and a retirement home. And so I went around the country, getting people who had retired getting their instruments out and playing to me. I went all the way to deal in Kent which is by the coast and the first violinist of the Philharmonic had retired that and he thought I was joking on the phone when I got a contract and Dan got ahold of them. And he got his violin out. We got there and I filmed it and he played after I have to think of the piece I can't remember. But he played his violin and it was one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard this elderly retired man playing this music on his violin it was he ended up in the film. And every time Dustin sold audition that you It was saying that's the movie. That's the movie. But yeah, he didn't want it. He didn't want to meet people in person. He couldn't bear injecting people.

Mike  20:09

Wow. That's incredible, I guess. Yeah. As an actor, you know, you've he's been through such hard times. It is so hard to not given to other people, isn't it?

Lucy  20:16

Yeah. He always said he always used to say, after doing the graduate, he went back on the, whatever the American equivalent is of the gyroof the doll. And, you know, while they were in the cutting, were making me a star. He was about waiting tables. So he so he said, so he really knew that there was a long time that he had before he became successful.

Mike  20:37

Lucy, there's always one question I always have to ask for each person. And your one is I have to ask about the recent Batman. There's obviously been like an amazing reception to it. And I know you sort of double cast it, didn't you? What so what roles were you responsible for? And how did you approach it given that Gotham has been you know, the residents of Gotham have been on screen a lot recently. How did you make it your own?

Lucy  20:57

Well, there are two really good questions. So first of all, I'm thrilled with how Batman turned out. I'm absolutely delighted. Cindy Tolan had cast like this sort of seven leads, I think, what eight leads and then I cast the rest of UK because we were filming here. And Cindy turn in is fantastic.We've become friends. And I was so thrilled she won a BAFTA for West SideStory, so well deserved. She's an amazing woman. And so we got on very, very well. And she so she cast those sort of main parts, and I came on and did the rest. And the amazing thing was I wasn't allowed the script until I had a safe in the office. So we had to get a safe, which I thought was hilarious. So we had the safe in the office, and Olivia had the password. And she wouldn't give it to me because she didn't trust that I forget it or leave it out. And I cast all of that fun from my office and actin. So these actors would have to come and read the scripts out of the safe enact. And here I am in my office, who knew that Gotham City would come out of there. But Matt Reeves said to me whenI first met him, he said, Look, I'm nervous of shooting in the UK because it's got to sound like American that these actors are Corizon American. I said,Don't worry, don't worry, it's fine. We can make everyone's on American. And I truly think that we did, I think I think that the I'm so proud of I think the cast had a terrific job. And I just seen Chernobyl which Nina Gould and Rob stone cast, which I think is one of the most brilliant because things I've ever seen. And I was obsessed with Chernobyl. So I got Alex fans in Conor Neill. And they're both internet like, and I was I was determined, like whoever I was trying to cast and Batman, because I thought it was so good. Yeah, that's how we created Gotham City out of Acton in London.

Mike  22:28

And one question I have was a bit of a personal one, because I'm a writer myself, what do you look for when you read a script? So some writers, you read other people's work, and they do massive descriptions for characters, other people sometimes write nothing? How do you read a script? And what do you want from it to then cast from

Lucy  22:44

a different variety of projects like from, you know, Batman, andBelfast, and one year and Matilda, and a script is just gonna grab you, you've just got to be, you've just got to understand what the writer is trying to say.And I might not be the best person that casting some films if I didn't get them. But for me, I'm not sure I can give us specific answers that other than I just get grabbed in those first few pages, you know, if you're gonna get on with the scripts, and if you identify with those characters, if you think you can pass them. I remember years ago reading a script that had two prostitutes with a not very much dialogue, maybe a page or so of dialogue, and then they were pushed into a canal with a couple of bricks in their pockets. And that was the end of that when I thought this film is not for me, I can't cast this filmI sort of knew on by page 10 It wasn't for me. But it's yeah, I've just got the characters have just got to be ones that I can that jump out at me as long asI'm reading it.

Mike  23:39

Now Lucy, I wrap up on recovery Ricky's with a little quick fire, which is my own Ode to in the actor studio. Okay, so if you could just think of whatever comes off the top of your head and we'll do the one by one. Is that a guarantee? Okay. Now, the first one is what is one of the best pieces of advice you've ever been given?

Lucy  23:53

only be an actor if you absolutely cannot be married. So

Mike  23:57

very good. I like the attribution. Number two, do you have a favourite film?

Lucy  24:01

I think it's our Louise, as well as at number three 

Mike  24:05

what gives you a reason to get out of bed every day for a day of casting?

Lucy  24:07

the different challenges that you meet every day. And my FantasticFour women that I work with

Mike  24:16

one of her to work with us and she has been about 15 or something, didn't she?

Lucy  24:19

Yes, definitely. But when we met when she was 16 Actually, we met when I did a careers talk at her school and she came in at a week's work experience. And then she came back every holidays. And now she casts Belfast with me.

Mike  24:33

Awesome. Love that story. People love that one. Number four, which job in the industry would you do if you weren't doing yours? hair or makeup?early mornings?

Lucy  24:41

True, but so much skill? I love the hair and makeup department.

Mike  24:45

And my last question is always if you want an Oscar, who would you thank which I'm going to ask you, but could you also explain to the listeners why that's an annoying question to ask a casting director.

Lucy  24:55

I'm really grateful that you acknowledge that it's an annoying question because casting doesn't don't have an Oscar. I do think it's, I think that our contribution to film is as valuable as any other head of department.There are two for sound. Sound is mostly men, we are mostly women. I truly believe that casting is as important as all of the other heads of department andI really hope in my lifetime, that I see a fellow casting director, win anOscar. I really hope that that is something that opens up for us.

Mike  25:27

Thank you. And on that note, our time has come to a close thank you so much for your advice and stories gives you a window into the creative choices behind what put your favourite actors on screen. Thank you for listening to another episode of red carpet rookies to help us grow and be able to interview more amazing film and TV professionals. Please do subscribe and drop us a rating on the Apple podcast store on your iPhone or online if you're an Android user. If you're interested in regular updates, the best thing you can do is join our mailing list at red carpet rookies.com. Alternatively, find us on Instagram at Red Carpet rookies or on Twitter at RC rookies pod. I also tweet regularly about my own learnings in the business at Mike battle onTwitter. So please do come and say hi, thank you again for listening. We'll see you next time.