An intimate interview was conducted with CD Debra Zane who recently cast the hit movie BREAKING DAWN from the Twilight series based on the best selling novels by Stephanie Meyer. BREAKING DAWN is set to be released in theatres this November.
Can you provide a brief overview on how the casting process went?
DEBRA ZANE: The casting process on Breaking Dawn, Part One was not unusual in terms of the day-to-day work. It was more hectic because of the large fan base; because so many people were desperate to be a part of it. But the roles are so specifically drawn. We were able to release a Breakdown and we diligently selected actors for auditions. We did have a large team to report to (in addition to our director), so we would prepare audition links to email and the producing team and Bill and I would get on numerous conference calls to go through choices and creatively discuss all options.
How different is it to cast two films that are being shot back to back?
DEBRA ZANE: There wasn't anything special about casting two movies that were scheduled to shoot simultaneously. It only meant the cast was a bit larger than usual. Most of the actors I cast are in Part Two. Only a handful of actors I cast appear in both movies. The other difference was really for the actors who ended up working an extra long schedule. There was no returning to a specific location so once the cast and crew were assembled at a specific site, they would shoot anything and everything that needed to be filmed there for both movies.
When you’re doing location casting how much do you rely on regional casting directors?
DEBRA ZANE: I work very closely with the regional casting director (if the film shoots on location). I've worked with the Fincannons in the Southeast numerous times and we have compatible taste in actors. On BREAKING DAWN Part 1, I also worked with Stuart Aikins in Vancouver. He worked on casting the past TWILIGHT films, and was easy to collaborate with.
If you are casting a movie that was a book do you ever read the book for extra inspiration or just the script?
DEBRA ZANE: It always helps to read the book if a film is an adaptation. It's not so much about inspiration, it's more about capturing the tone. Stephenie Meyer was very helpful in steering us toward types she had in mind and we worked very closely with Bill Condon the director to make sure our cast all shared the correct qualities required for each role.
You’ve been casting films for over 20 years now, how much has changed?
DEBRA ZANE: Much has changed since I began working in casting. Obviously, the biggest change would be all of the advancements in technology. I remember when I was a casting assistant typing up sessions on a typewriter. "White-Out" was my best friend. I remember working as a casting assistant at 20th Century Fox. I used to walk to the administration building at 5:00 each day to wait to use the one and only fax machine in someone's office to fax 'sides' to agencies for actor's appointments. It was common for actors or agents or managers to swing by the casting office to drop off submissions or to pick up 'sides'. Again, this wasn't all that long ago! So to be able to send auditions in a link to a director who might be scouting in the jungles of Hawaii, or on location in Toronto, or on a plane and to hear back from them within an hour makes for a very different casting process. Videotaped auditions are commonplace, expected. Self-tapes get actors jobs all the time. It's really different. And probably better, too.
What is your favorite part of the casting process?
DEBRA ZANE: Easily my favorite part of the casting process is auditioning actors. Especially with beautifully written material. When the writing is good, all the auditions are a pleasure. Because good writing takes care of so much. It then becomes about isolating the very best actors, the ones most clearly appropriate for the roles. Some of my favorite actors have been referred to me by other actors -- friends of theirs who put in a good word because he or she doesn't have an agent yet.
In addition to serving as Casting Director for Breaking Dawn Parts 1 & 2, Debra's casting credits include critical and box office smashes like Men in Black, American Beauty, Ocean's Eleven, The Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and The Hunger Games (2012). A list of her full credits can be seen on her IMDB page.