Lynn Stalmaster, Hollywood’s ‘Master Caster,’ Dies at 93
Lynn Stallmaster, a sensitive and soulful casting director who changed the careers of hundreds of actors, including John Stavolta, Jeff Bridges and Christopher Reeve, died on February 12 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 93.
The cause was heart failure, his son Lincoln said.
Billy Wilder, Robert Wise, Hal Ashby, Mike Nichols, Sydney Pollack and Norman Jewison all relied on Mr. Stallmaster’s deep ability to understand a character’s inner life and match thousands of actors in his mental Rolodex. This chemical process as Tom Donahue, behind the filmmaker 2012 documentary “Casting by” about the craft, Put, raised Mr. Stallmaster’s work to a high art.
“Lynn had a wonderful gift,” Mr. Jewison said, adding that both the director and producer of films such as “In the Heat of the Night” and “The Fiddler on the Roof” were cast by Mr. Stallmaster. Mr. Jewison was the first filmmaker to give his film credit to the casting director when he listed Mr. Stallmaster on “The Thomas Crown Affair”, released in 1968.
“I was always encouraging him to find people who were excited,” Mr. Jewson said. “For the Fiddler on the Roof, ‘I had to find actors who could speak Russian. Lynn found him in San Francisco, where there was a large Russian community. None of them were actors. He was very simple. And He was very good at reading with actors. He could keep them calm and safe. “
Once a shy teenager who trained as an actor and was in the trenches of auditions in the 1950s, working on television and radio, Mr. Stallmaster came to terms with the actor’s experience and became a raging man Became Advocate, who met him after meeting him. John Travolta, an 18-year-old, pushed her to get the role that eventually went to Randy Quaid in the movie “The Last Detail,” the Hell Ashby starring in 1973, starring Jack Nicholson.
It was a fierce heat between the actors, Mr. Travolta recalled in a phone interview, but Mr. Quade’s physical appearance was more sensitive to the character, as did Mr. Ashby and Mr. Stallmaster. In a middle phone call to Travolata, who was praising him. Work.
At the time, Mr. Travolta was doing theater and advertising in New York, but Mr. Stallmaster believed him enough that he injured him for two years. When a role appeared for a character on a comedy television pilot set in Brooklyn High School, Mr. Stallmaster pressed for the lead part in the Broadway show and returned to Los Angeles. Hearing.
He got that part – which turned out to be a career-making turn as Vinny Barbarino, the ragged punk mange in a show that could find its place in television history: “Welcome Back, Kotter.”
“He was quite determined,” Mr. Travalta said of Mr. Stallmaster. “He did not let them consider anyone else. After ‘The Last Detail’ he told me: ‘Don’t worry. This will happen.'”
Mr. Stallmaster had a hand in countless other careers.
He asked Mike Nichols to take on a young Dustin Hoffman in “The Graduate”. Laver Burton was in college when Mr. Stallmaster cast him as the lead role in the hit television series “Roots” in 1977.
Gina Davis trained as an actress, but was working as a model when Mr. Stallmaster played a small role in Sidney Pollack’s 1982 romantic comedy “Pollocky”, played by Mr. Hoffman. This was her first audition, and the role would be her first film.
After seeing Christopher Reeve in a play with Kathryn Hepburn, Mr. Stallmaster suggested her for a small part in “Gray Lady Down” (1978), Mr. Reeve’s first film role, and then successfully in “Superman” Advocated to lead them. , “Was released the same year.
“Lynn understood the actor’s process and the actor’s plight,” said David Rubin, a fellow casting director and president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. (Mr. Stallmaster was his former boss and mentor.) Mr. Stallmaster’s career, he said, “being successful in Hollywood and being a masculine is not mutually exclusive.”
In 2016, Mr. Stallmaster is the first – and so far, only – casting director to receive an honorary Academy Award for his work. At the Oscars ceremony, Mr. Bridge remembered How Mr. Stallmaster began his career in the early 1970s. At the time, Mr. Bridges was in his early 20s and was trying to figure out if he wanted to make a living in the business, when Mr. Stallmaster gave him the John Frankheimer 1973 film “The Iceman’s Cometh” based on Eugene Took part in O’Neill play.
“It’s some heavy stuff,” Mr. Bridge recalled thinking, as he told the award audience. “It scared the hell out of me. I did not want to tell you this, to tell you the truth. I didn’t think I could remove it. “
But he did, and the experience – terrifying, but also delightful, he said – made him realize that he could make a living in acting. “Mr. Pullus said,” shaking me head for getting on the road, “Thank you, man, thank you.” Lynn Stellmaster is Master Coster. “
Lynn Arlen Stallmaster was born on November 17, 1927 in Omaha, Neb. His father, Irwin Stallmaster, was a judge of the Nebraska Supreme Court; His mother, Estelle (Lapidus) Stallmaster, was a housewife. Lynn had severe asthma, and when he was 12 years old the family moved to Los Angeles for its temperate climate.
He became interested in theater and radio as a student at Beverly Hills High School, and after serving in the military, received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of California School of Theater, Film and Television in Los Angeles.
Mr. Stallmaster had roles in a few films, including “Flying Leathernecks”, a 1951 photo of John Wayne and a day job as a production assistant for Gross-Cresson, a company that began television in the early 1950s. Used to make films for When its casting director retired, he was promoted to a job and soon opened an agency of his own.
In the documentary “Casting” he said, “I will spend the day meeting new actors, all these great new talents.” He was working on “Gunsmoke” and other hit television shows in 1956, when Robert Wise, the director who produced “West Side Story” and “The Sound of Music”, called him “I Want to Live”, a 1958 film Asked for Susan Hayward was sentenced to death by a prostitute based on the Barbara Graham story.
Mr. Wise wanted actors who looked like real characters in Graham’s life. It was Mr. Stallmaster’s big break, he recalled, as he found new faces to cast out the cast, giving the film a “truth, truth” that the director wanted to achieve.
Her marriage to Lee Alexander ended in divorce, as did an early, brief marriage. In addition to his son, Lincoln, Mr. Stallmaster is survived by his daughter, Lara Bebower; Two grandchildren; And his brother, Hall.
Mr. Stalmaster’s kindness was as much an element of his art as his matchmaking ability, Mr. Rubin said. Mr. Rubin said that he was no pushover, and he was very firm, “firm in his creative approach,” Mr. Rubin said, “but very skilled at convincing others that this was indeed his idea.”