Legendary Hollywood Casting Director Shares Tips for Aspiring Actors

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Casting director Bonnie Zimmermann shares tips for aspiring actors.

Casting director Bonnie Zimmerman is known for casting some of the biggest actors including Meryl Streep, Liam Neeson, Glenn Close, Bruce Willis and dozens of other huge names as well. In an interview with Forbes, Timmermann spoke about what she looks for in actors, and how she puts her self on the line to represent actors who went on to have a tremendously successful career.

Timmermann reveals that she tries to see beneath what the actor presents. She explains, “As a casting director if I’m going to put my camera on you, I’m going to look to see what is inside the person as opposed to the physical. The camera reads what we go through in our lives. And I hope that I am like a camera, that I can read the interior.”

Like many casting directors, Timmermann has worked a long time in the film industry. She elaborates on what brought her to this point and reveals she has grown as a casting director alongside the talent she scouted.

She explains “Do what is in your heart. If you don’t ask you don’t receive. You need to get out and try. It doesn’t matter what the result is. The most important thing is that you tried.

Know that you can create the life you want. When I was a kid I was a musician. I wasn’t that good, so I wanted to do something else. By luck, I got a job casting at the Phoenix Theater. There was very little money!  However, several plays that I cast were televised. Five years later the actors in them became big stars, including Meryl Streep and Glenn Close. When I worked in the theater I also cast Buried Child, Sam Shepard’s first play, which won the Pulitzer Prize. From my work in theater directors and producers, including Francis Ford Coppola and Michael Mann, approached me about casting films.

Trust your instincts. When I cast radio plays for the BBC and National Public Radio. I went to the theater, closed my eyes and listened to the voices. Working in radio and theater prepared me for film and television. When I cast for television, I didn’t want to use the same people that you often see on TV. We have many qualities to us. Some of us don’t have good skin. Some of us are heavy. Some are skinny. I love people who have unique faces and think differently. I look for that. I don’t just look for just the standard I-am-beautiful kind of person. I look for character inside and out. It’s not about what we look like on the outside. It’s what we project.

Dive into what you want. I’m not afraid of drowning or what the result will be. I never worry about it in the beginning. I just jump into the pool. And I don’t swim. Of course, it’s terrifying to be rejected. No one wants to be rejected. But if people reject you then that means it’s not the right fit for you.


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