Do famous (or infamous) actors have to audition for their roles?

Like, did Jack Nicholson have to audition to be the joker? Or would the producer just phone his agent and see if they could set it up.

Like wise for someone like Tommy Lee Jones - if a movie calls for a cantankerous, no-nonsense sheriff, or a GI man, does Tommy Lee Jones need to audition or can he just express an interest and if they want to go that way he’s in?

I guess I’m trying to imagine Jack, or Tommy or Julia or Brad or Angelina actually having to read lines in a casting call and failing.

My understanding is that the more famous an actor becomes the less they have to audition. They’re basically a known quantity. You pretty much know what an actor like Tommy Lee Jones is going to do in a role.

There might be occasional exceptions if an actor is trying something a type of role that’s outside of his or her usual range. But (again my understanding) auditions like this are very clandestine. Nobody wants to say that a well-known actor was turned down for a role.

Famous actors only have to audition if the role is far beyond what they normally do, or if their career is stagnating. Marlon Brando, for instance, did a screen test to play Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather because he had a reputation of being difficult and his career had hit a lull. The test was used by Coppola to lobby to give Brando the role. Paramount was dead set against him until they saw the test.

From what I have read, a famous actor is cast, not just because their acting skills fit the role, but because their fame will bring people into the theater. So they not only do not have to audition, but are often courted to take a role by the film’s producer. That’s what gives them the clout to negotiate those sweet, multi-million dollar paydays for themselves. That’s why disgraced actors who are still famous (think Lindsay Lohan) can still get roles in some films … they can at least bring eyeballs to the theater, if only those of the morbidly curious.

Tom Cruise wanted to do Jerry Maguire and he apparently auditioned for it as he had not been thought for the role.

In live theatre this is called “stunt casting,” and it has kept some shows alive far past their expiration dates. Yes, Chicago, I am looking at you.

Sometimes it works, but often it doesn’t.

Also, frequently having a name actor attached is how you get financing for the project. If you’re a producer trying to put it all together you’re not really going to put Tom Cruise through a screen test or open casting call because, frankly, if he’s willing to do it you’ll take him. With him the movie is almost cure to get made, without him you have years of begging people to give you money for this movie you have starring an unknown from Toledo.

It does happen all kinds of ways. Generally, though, the producers send scripts to (bankable) actors’ agents, rather than the actors approaching the producers, simply because the script usually comes before the buzz. In other words, in most cases, Tommy Lee Jones won’t know there’s anything to express an interest in until fairly late in the development process. Previous posters have mentioned examples that didn’t work that way, and there are lots more, often to do with famous/respected directors or writers or occasionally production companies.

That’s just how it works for bankable actors, though. Anyone whose Q score isn’t high enough to impress an investor, for whatever reason, may be asked to audition.

And then there’s a fair number of actors who aren’t famous but don’t have to audition much, simply because they’ve worked enough and directors or producers know them personally and think they have the talent and work ethic. I think this happens more often in TV than in movies. Auditioning is kind of a pain in the ass for everyone, so if the part is small or if the director already has someone in mind, everyone is motivated to skip it.

I have an acquaintance who used to get cast in all kinds of medium-to-large “prosthetic forehead” roles in the Star Trek franchise; he’s a great guy, a versatile actor with a great sense of humor, and even the makeup people liked having him around, so he was recycled a lot. Similarly, several other union actors I met in the 90s showed up in small roles in every sitcom of the era a few times, not because they were the only talented actors in LA, but because the assistant producer knew they could be counted on to learn their lines on time every time and be pleasant on long shooting days, etc.

Yep. This, right here, is often the “rock and a hard place” situation for a movie - you can’t get the movie made without Big Star X attached, but Big Star X might not actually be the best person for the job.

It’s what leads to movies like “Scott Pilgrim,” in which every component except the lead actor is pitch-perfect, but said lead actor is just wrong for the role. Every other actor in the film had to be cast for the role, but Michael Cera was the reason the studio was willing to foot the bill, even though he was horribly miscast as Scott.

I could not agree with this more.

Nice piece of information! I don’t think that the famous actors have to audition for their respective roles.

Regards,

Rishi Agarwal - Auditionfox

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