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A Blog Post

Hollywood still wants more Australian Actors!

By Garry Maddox

SAM WORTHINGTON stars in Avatar, Simon Baker in The Mentalist and Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett in the Robin Hood movie. But the Los Angeles casting director Valerie McCaffrey believes more Australian actors should be heading to Hollywood.

“There’s a certain charm to Australians,” she says. “From my experience, they’ve trained quite extensively and have done lots of theatre. I’d like to see, quite frankly, a lot more Australians come over.”

McCaffrey, a former casting executive with Universal Studios and New Line Cinema, has been to Sydney conducting workshops for actors, directors and writers.

She provided early Hollywood breaks to two actors who have gone on to recent Oscar nominations – Juno’s Ellen Page and The Hurt Locker’s Jeremy Renner – and has also worked on American History X, Dark City and Babe as well as directing the 2002 comedy Wish You Were Dead.

McCaffrey believes Hollywood is shifting ground on casting. Producers and production executives are more aware of the need to contain budgets and less interested in expensive stars, particularly after seeing the $US15,000 ($16,4000) horror movie Paranormal Activity gross more than $US190 million around the world with an unknown cast.

There is also more weight being given to the director’s vision for a movie.

“People are looking at the quality of the material,” she says. “They’re taking chances on new people – Sam Worthington is one of them in Avatar.”

For McCaffrey, discovering new acting talent is a blend of instinct and training.

”It’s many years of training and knowing good acting from not-so-good acting,” she says.

But sometimes it comes down to an actor being ready for a role, such as Renner in The Hurt Locker, which took him from years of obscurity to an Oscar nomination.

“Quite frankly, I think men come into their own when they close in on the age of 40,” she says. “All of the work he did supporting bigger-name actors in films only enhanced his masculinity to the point where [in The Hurt Locker] he showed a strength and sense of ‘I can do this, I have been doing this’ …

”And I think he is very humble. Eventually, being humble pays off, but maybe not in the beginning.”

In these more politically aware times, is there still a casting couch in Hollywood?

“I can say that I’ve never taken advantage of the casting couch but I’m sure there is,” McCaffrey says. “It will always happen, when you combine men and women together, or maybe sometimes men and men.”