Casting for Talent

Toby Guidry on set with a few of the actors from the Robert Zemeckis film, Yellow Submarine. The actors are wearing special motion-capture suits that allow cameras to register their movements, which are then used to develop the 3-D animation.

The names are recognizable to anyone with a passing interest in the entertainment world: Robert Zemeckis, Steven Spielberg, Jerry Bruckheimer, the Farrelly brothers, Tony Scott. Most of the world knows them as the biggest directors in Hollywood. Toby Guidry ’01 knows them as co-workers.

Guidry moved to Los Angeles six years ago when he was 25. After several years working entry-level jobs with little to no pay, he has earned his place in the entertainment world with his eye for talent. A casting associate with Los Angeles-based Burrows/Boland Casting, Guidry lives in a world of stars and power brokers, logging long hours to find the right talent.

In the fall of 2009, he worked with Zemeckis to cast the upcoming remake of the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine. The film will be made in new 3D performance capture technology through a deal between Walt Disney Studio’s ImageMovers Digital and Apple Corps.

For Guidry, finding the right people to star in Yellow Submarine meant weeks of watching the original, not to mention scores of other footage of the Beatles. He had to know the body movements of John, Paul, Ringo, and George and be able to identify an authentic Liverpool accent. Fourteen-hour days were the norm during the preparation time and casting sessions. You might say he was working a hard day’s night for weeks on end.

“I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the original Yellow Submarine, but it’s a pretty trippy experience,” Guidry said with a laugh. “Being a part of this film is incredible. To watch it come together with the technology is amazing because it is animated, but they are using the actual body movements and facial expressions of the actors.”

This is Guidry’s world. He sits with the directors of movies and television shows and reads scripts and gets a sense of their vision of a project. From there, he has to find the right actor.

“Ultimately it is the decision of the producer or director as to who gets a part, but if I find the type of actor they are looking for, it makes their lives easier,” Guidry said. “There is a lot of loyalty when a project is successful. When a producer or director is starting a new film, they want to assemble the same team if they can.”

Guidry’s casting is clearly getting noticed. Before Yellow Submarine, he worked on Bruckheimer’s Confessions of a Shopaholic. Since 2009, in addition to the Zemeckis projects, he has worked for Spielberg on The Adventures of TinTin: The Secret of the Unicorn (scheduled for release in 2011), for Scott in The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3, and for Gary Winick in the comedy hit Bride Wars starring Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway.

In the casting world, there are three levels: casting director, casting associate, and casting assistant. Guidry got his first break as an assistant on the 2005 Disney comedy Herbie Fully Loaded and has steadily moved up. Although most of his work now is at the casting associate level, he has casting director experience as well. His first project as a casting director was for a television sit-com pilot titled Back Nine for Spike TV.

If the early part of 2010 is any indication, Guidry is still on the rise. In January, Burrows/Boland agreed to work on casting for Peter Jackson’s next film, The Hobbit. Jackson scored massive success with previous J.R.R. Tolkien material, The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. Jackson was also a producer for The Adventures of TinTin.

Although he remains focused on the work at hand, every once in a while Guidry allows himself to step back and soak in his surroundings: “I worked on a television pilot with Bernie Brillstein, which is something I will never forget. It was like he was the Godfather—everyone was coming over to shake his hand and show respect.”

Before his death in 2008, Brillstein made his mark as a producer, particularly in television, where he produced some of the biggest shows in history, including Hee Haw, The Muppet Show, and Saturday Night Live. He was a longtime business partner of Brad Grey, the CEO of Paramount Pictures. Together they developed The Larry Sanders Show and The Sopranos for HBO.

“He was a legend in the business, and there I was at the table with him,” Guidry said. “The thing that struck me was how kind and respectful he was. Here is a man who has done so much, but he took the time to talk with you and make you feel important.”

Guidry understands the importance of role players. Long before entering the entertainment business, he was a walk-on for the 1999-2000 URI men’s basketball team and often played pickup games with Cuttino Mobley and Lamar Odom, two of the best players in school history.

“Coming out of high school, I wanted to play Division I basketball, but it didn’t happen the way I had hoped,” Guidry said. “I was enjoying myself at URI, but I wanted to feel more a part of the University. I knew I wouldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t try out.”

He did more than try out, as he earned a roster spot and donned Keaney blue. “The experience made me stronger as a person,” Guidry said.

Similarly, as his profile continues to grow in the entertainment world, Guidry feels that he belongs in the world of actors—both stars and up-and-coming talent.

By Shane Donaldson ‘99