Lynn Stalmaster, an empathetic and tenacious casting director who altered the careers of a whole bunch of actors, together with John Travolta, Jeff Bridges and Christopher Reeve, and forged a whole bunch of Hollywood movies and tv packages, died on Feb 12. at his residence in Los Angeles. He was 93.
The trigger was coronary heart failure, mentioned his son, Lincoln.
Billy Wilder, Robert Wise, Hal Ashby, Mike Nichols, Sydney Pollack and Norman Jewison all relied on Mr. Stalmaster’s eager capability to discern the interior lifetime of a personality and match it to the 1000’s of actors who inhabited his psychological Rolodex. This alchemical course of, as Tom Donahue, the filmmaker behind “Casting By,” a 2012 documentary about the craft, put it, raised Mr. Stalmaster’s work to a excessive artwork.
“Lynn had a wonderful gift,” mentioned Mr. Jewison, the director and producer of movies like “In the Heat of the Night” and “Fiddler on the Roof,” each of which had been forged by Mr. Stalmaster. Mr. Jewison was the primary filmmaker to present a casting director his personal movie credit score when he had Mr. Stalmaster listed on “The Thomas Crown Affair,” launched in 1968.
“I was always encouraging him to find offbeat people,” Mr. Jewison mentioned. “For ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ I had to find actors who could speak Russian. Lynn found them in San Francisco, where there was a big Russian community. None of them were actors. He was so ingenious. And he was very good at reading with actors. He could keep them calm and secure.”
Once a shy teenager who had educated as an actor and been within the trenches of auditions within the 1950s, working in tv and on radio, Mr. Stalmaster was attuned to the actor’s expertise and have become a fierce advocate for these he believed in. After assembly an 18-year-old John Travolta, he pushed for him to get the position that ultimately went to Randy Quaid in “The Last Detail,” the Hal Ashby movie, starring Jack Nicholson, that got here out in 1973.
It was a lifeless warmth between the actors, Mr. Travolta recalled in a telephone interview, however Mr. Quaid’s bodily presence was extra akin to the character’s, as Mr. Ashby and Mr. Stalmaster instructed Mr. Travolta in a midnight telephone name praising his work.
At the time, Mr. Travolta was doing theater and commercials in New York, however Mr. Stalmaster so believed in him that he hounded him for 2 years. When a task got here up for a personality on a comedy tv pilot set in a Brooklyn highschool, Mr. Stalmaster pressed him to show down a lead half in a Broadway present and return to Los Angeles for an audition.
He obtained the half — what proved to a career-making flip because the swaggering punk manqué Vinnie Barbarino in a present that might discover its personal place in tv historical past: “Welcome Back, Kotter.”
“He was quite determined,” Mr. Travolta mentioned of Mr. Stalmaster. “He did not let them consider anyone else. After ‘The Last Detail,’ he had told me: ‘Do not worry. This will happen.’”
Mr. Stalmaster had a hand in numerous different careers.
He nudged Mike Nichols to forged a younger Dustin Hoffman in “The Graduate.” LeVar Burton was in school when Mr. Stalmaster forged him because the lead in what turned in 1977 the hit tv sequence “Roots.”
Geena Davis had educated as an actress however was working as a mannequin when Mr. Stalmaster forged her in a minor position in “Tootsie,” Sydney Pollack’s 1982 romantic comedy starring Mr. Hoffman. It was her first audition, and the position could be her movie debut.
After seeing Christopher Reeve in a play with Katharine Hepburn, Mr. Stalmaster steered him for a small half in “Gray Lady Down” (1978), Mr. Reeve’s first movie position, after which efficiently lobbied for him to be the lead in “Superman,” launched that very same yr.
“Lynn understood the actor’s process and the actor’s plight,” mentioned David Rubin, a fellow casting director and president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. (Mr. Stalmaster was his former boss and mentor.) Mr. Stalmaster’s profession, he mentioned, confirmed that “being a success in Hollywood and being a mensch are not mutually exclusive.”
In 2016 Mr. Stalmaster turned the primary — and to this point, solely — casting director to obtain an honorary Academy Award for his physique of labor. At the Oscars ceremony, Mr. Bridges recalled how Mr. Stalmaster had jump-started his personal profession again within the early 1970s. At the time, Mr. Bridges was in his early 20s and making an attempt to determine if he needed to make a life within the enterprise when Mr. Stalmaster provided him an element in “The Iceman Cometh,” John Frankenheimer’s 1973 movie primarily based on the Eugene O’Neill play.
“This is some heavy stuff,” Mr. Bridges remembered pondering, as he instructed the awards viewers. “It scared the hell out of me. I didn’t want to do it, to tell you the truth. I didn’t think I could pull it off.”
But he did, and the expertise — terrifying but additionally joyful, he mentioned — made him understand that he may make a life in performing. “Gotta thank you, man,” Mr. Bridges mentioned, nodding to Mr. Stalmaster, “for heading me down that road. Lynn Stalmaster is the Master Caster.”
Lynn Arlen Stalmaster was born on Nov. 17, 1927, in Omaha, Neb. His father, Irvin Stalmaster, was a justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court; his mom, Estelle (Lapidus) Stalmaster, was a homemaker. Lynn had extreme bronchial asthma, and when he was 12 the household moved to Los Angeles for its temperate local weather.
He turned fascinated by theater and radio as a scholar at Beverly Hills High School, and, after serving within the Army, earned bachelor’s and grasp’s levels from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television in Los Angeles.
Mr. Stalmaster had roles in a number of movies, together with “Flying Leathernecks,” a 1951 John Wayne image, and a day job as a manufacturing assistant to Gross-Krasne, an organization that within the early 1950s made movies for tv. When its casting director retired, he was promoted to the job and shortly opened his personal company.
“I would spend the days meeting new actors, all these great new talents,” he mentioned in “Casting By,” the documentary. He was engaged on “Gunsmoke” and different hit tv reveals in 1956 when Robert Wise, the director who would make “West Side Story” and “The Sound of Music,” requested him to forged “I Want to Live,” the 1958 movie starring Susan Hayward primarily based on the story of Barbara Graham, a prostitute sentenced to demise row.
Mr. Wise needed actors who regarded just like the precise characters in Graham’s life. It was Mr. Stalmaster’s massive break, he recalled, as he discovered new faces to spherical out the forged, giving the film “a verisimilitude, the truth” the director needed to attain.
His marriage to Lea Alexander led to divorce, as did an early, transient marriage. In addition to his son, Lincoln, Mr. Stalmaster is survived by his daughter, Lara Beebower; two grandchildren; and his brother, Hal.
Mr. Stalmaster’s kindness was as a lot a component of his artwork as his matchmaking skills, Mr. Rubin mentioned. But he was no pushover, and he was enormously persuasive, “firm in his creative point of view,” Mr. Rubin mentioned, “but extremely skillful at convincing others that it was actually their idea.”