Matt began his seminar as he always does by kidding, “I’m Matthew Barry. I’m originally from New York. Like many of you, I started out in the theatre. My Father is a Broadway playwright, P.J Barry. If you go to Samuel French [Bookstore], he’s got a whole row of published plays. I encourage you to buy them because he needs the money. [laughter] When I was about five years old, he ran a theatre company (Hudson Guild Theatre Company) in New York [City] and my school was right down the block from the theatre company, so instead of going home after school, I just sat in the theatre and did my homework and watched my Dad direct actors.
"That was my introduction into the theatre world so at eight years old I said, “I want to do that!” At eight, I was Off-Broadway in a show at the Roundabout Theatre and by thirteen, I was on Broadway in a really bad Broadway show. At the same time, I got cast in a TV series for CBS called Ivan The Terrible. It was. [laughter] It didn’t last long. Then my ‘claim to fame’ when I was cast at fifteen in the starring role of Academy Award winning director Bernardo Bertolucci’s film Luna with Jill Clayburgh. It garnered me all sorts of fame and accolades and my head swelled like that. (holding his hands out surrounding his head) I quickly realized that there is no handle for Hollywood or fame, so I got into a lot of trouble… but had a lot of fun! [laughter]”
Matt continued, “I came out to Los Angeles and started working in television and did other feature films and I started to get bored. I was on the set of a really bad TV show one day and was like, ‘I’ve got to do something else.’ I enrolled in the UCLA Program of Film and quickly realized that I knew everything that they were teaching me, so I begged Barry Levinson who was a big director at the time, for a job. He was working on a new film called Toys with Robin Williams. I’m dating myself! He gave me a job in casting.
"I want to work on the set. I want to learn everything there is to know about production. I want to produce. That was…gosh… eighteen years ago. Holy mackerel! That was eighteen years ago and I’ve loved every single moment! Being from the ‘actors’ side’, you sympathize and you know how hard it is. You know that sitting out in the lobby waiting to be called in (as an actor) you’re looking around the lobby at the four big-breasted blondes and you’re the skinny brunette, you’re going, ‘What am I doing here?’ [laughter] and meanwhile inside, the casting director is going, ‘If I see one more big breasted blonde, I’m going to blow my head off’. Then you walk in going ‘I shouldn’t be here….’ And I’m saying, ‘No please!!!!’ ”
Matt went on to say, “I’ve had a great advantage because my career shot up very quickly and I pissed off a lot other casting directors because here was this snotty actor all of the sudden coming into their world and yeah, I know what I’m doing and I’m good at it. I think my big break was doing the Rush Hour films and that afforded me to go all over the world looking for talent. That’s what we all do. That’s what casting directors do. Look for talent. There’s nothing in the world like finding new talent.” He then looked at the young performers seated in the front row and said, “Young adults! Paying attention? There will be a quiz later on.” and he and they chuckled.
Matt continued, “If you look up the films, I’ve broken many, many, many, many careers. Academy Award winners. I usually bring my book of the first pictures and resumes but the last time I did it, they stole half of them. If you have my Halle Berry one, please bring it back. But we all start out somewhere and . . . the one thing I want to say to you is that everything about you walks into our offices. Everything you feel in your heart walks into the office and so you have to believe in yourself. You’ve got to wake up in the morning, you’ve got to look in the mirror and believe whole-heartedly that ‘Yes. I can.’ I don’t mean to sound like a motivational speaker but it’s very, very true. Everything about you… your aura, your energy, EVERYTHING walks into that room and we can tell. We’re weird people, us casting directors. We’re like jackals. We can smell it. [laughter] ‘Okay…let’s see what they’ve got.’ There is nothing greater than having some surprises! Every single film… and I’ve been doing this eighteen years …on every single film there’s somebody who walks into my office and I think, ‘They’re wrong for the part’ and lo-and-behold, they blow me away and I go ‘Wow! Now that’s great because I’m always going to remember you.’ Again, casting directors are like that. We are always going to remember you.”
Matt then mentioned, “If you look at who just won the Emmy recently… Margo Martindale has been around forever. We all know Margo. All of the sudden, you start to get into that circle. We all talk about you. You have to understand something. Casting directors are just as competitive with each other. If they’ve hired you, what do they know that I don’t? I do this all the time. My partner and I go back and forth when looking at pictures and resumes and I’m saying, ‘Wait a minute. What does Lisa Beach know that I don’t know? What does Jane Jenkins know that I don’t know? Wait a minute….Debra Zane hired her? Okay….let her come in and see what she’s got. “
Matt said, “Again, you start to work. Tracy just booked an AFI film today. This is after booking The Middle. Work begets work. It’s an energy. You do an episode of The Middle and all of the sudden, you’ve got that swagger. [laughter] You laugh but it’s very true. You have that swagger. Actors that come in just have that cockiness that they can do it and you go…’Oh really, oh really?’…..and then they ‘bring it’…and you go ‘Ohhhhh….okay!’ That ‘s what gets you going. That’s what gets you working and we all want to work!”
. . . More to follow from Matthew's sneak peak into the world of casting in our next blog!
What did Matthew share that you might never have realized about casting before now?