Marilee LearAs a contribution to our Spotlight on Vegas issue--and in celebration of the launch of the new Las Vegas section of BackStage.com--I contacted Marilee Lear of Lear Entertainment, in Las Vegas.
Our conversation was brief but gave me the impression that casting in Vegas is not that different from casting in Los Angeles.The professional, prepared actor wins the role--and gets invited to read again and again.And in Las Vegas, where $135 million was generated by filmmaking in 2001, that could be more often than you'd think.Lear Entertainment
, a 180,000-square-foot studio and production office facility, houses the casting and production office from which Lear
(the only CSA member working in Vegas) has cast extras and local principals for features ranging from Sister Act II to Rush Hour II and from television series VIP to The Pretender.Lear
has also cast commercials and even stage spectaculars for the Sahara and Bellagio--including Star Trek...The Experience.
First Casting Job: The 1992 Nicolas Cage feature Honeymoon in Vegas."I have since worked on a number of pictures with Nicolas Cage [including handling the task of extras casting for Con Air].He is the actor's actor," Lear said of Cage and his interest in working with like-minded talent when he comes to Vegas.
Coolest Casting Gig: Tim Burton's Mars Attacks."Tim Burton is an incredible talent," Lear recalled, explaining that the project is one she'd classify as, "The most unusual coolest casting gig.We worked in Kingman, Ariz., in the middle of a dry lake bed."
Another favorite, from Lear's Vegas
casting history, was also one she
classifies as a challenging film to cast: Casino."I placed 190 actors in that film," Lear recalled.Why that particular film, with its lush depiction of mobster life, was a challenge stemmed from its basis in reality."I was able to cast real characters for [director Martin] Scorsese.That means real retired mobsters and real FBI agents that were involved with [film subject] Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal actually worked on the film," she
explained."Scorsese loved the reality.I even found the original ambulance team that responded when Rosenthal's car blew up.
Best Way To Get Seen by Her
, who has recently begun the common casting-director-to-producer transition, has to limit the time she
spends with unsolicited material."I don't have a lot of time, but if an actor has a reel, that is the best way to get seen by me," she
said, indicating that, once an actor has enough material to compile a tape of his
work, she'd like to see him.
Lear's database of actors currently includes more than 6,000 principal and extra performers.Getting into her
database is a good thing for actors hoping to work in Vegas--whether Vegas
residents or not--as she's
tapped more than a few people for 3000 Miles to Graceland, Vegas Vacation, Fools Rush In, and Luckytown, the latter of which stars James Caan and Kirsten Dunst, along with 500 local extras and 14 Vegas-hired principal actors.
Currently Casting: "I've just completed [location casting for] The Jamie Kennedy Experiment for the WB and last night wrapped the search for a real bearded Santa Claus and The Globe Child for the Christmas show [being produced] at the Fashion Show Mall," Lear listed, somewhat relieved.
This has been a year of changes for Lear Entertainment
will soon begin casting on three feature films, all of which she
has optioned as a producer.Casting on the first feature will begin in December.
What a Los Angeles Actor Needs To Know about the Las Vegas
Market: "In the next year, the Vegas market is going to explode," Lear predicted."Los Angeles actors need to get here and get registered with a local agent," she
advised."Actors who want to work in Vegas
need to get into the Nevada Talent Guide," Lear explained of the guide most similar to the well-used L.A.-based Academy Players Directory
."It's much smaller, of course," she
The main reason an actor needs to be listed in the Nevada Talent Guide, according to Lear
, is so that the actor can be brought in as a "local hire."Lear
happily books L.A. actors, but she
needs to be able to reach them locally.To that end, she
uses online resources (such as the one provided by the Nevada Talent Guide--again, like the Academy Players Directory's
online companion--and uses the Breakdown Services listings and The Link) and, as mentioned above, has her
own, ever-growing database of actors.
Key Things She
Looks for in an Actor: Lear
had only two things on her
list: "professionalism and talent."Everything else, according to Lear
, is negotiable.
Advice for Actors: Of course, Back Stage West readers know the emphasis casting directors place on preparedness.Lear
is no different."The best advice that I can give to actors is to be prepared.It breaks my heart when I see the exact look that I am searching for and then [the actor] doesn't produce."When Lear realizes the actor with the right look just isn't bringing the material to life, she has been tempted to say, "Get prepared or get out of the business."
Most Gratifying Part of Her
Job: "When a good actor does his
job, I am in awe.The most gratifying part of my work is how it can change someone's life [to reward an actor with a role]."BSWMarilee Lear, CSALear Entertainment41 N. Mojave Rd.Las Vegas, NV 89101
Casting Qs is a weekly column by Bonnie Gillespie focusing on the casting directors behind the projects.Suggestions for Qs are welcome via e-mail at CastingQs@yahoo.com. Today's News