Colleagues of legendary casting director Mike Fenton remembered the business veteran as a tireless champion of actors who had a eager eye for expertise, an awesome humorousness and a full life exterior of labor with a large circle of mates.
Fenton, who died Dec. 30 on the age of 85, had practically 300 casting credit to his identify and helped launch the careers of such stars as Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfuss, Drew Barrymore and Robert Downey Jr. He received the Casting Society of America’s Artios Award in 1996 for Greatest Casting for TV Nighttime Particular for “Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree” and once more in 2000 Greatest Casting for TV Miniseries for “Arabian Nights”
Graham Yost, screenwriter and showrunner recognized for “Damaged Arrow,” “Velocity” and FX’s “Justified,” turned pleasant with Fenton by means of a operating membership dubbed Flying Squirrels that the casting professional based within the Nineteen Eighties. Yost met his spouse, Connie, by means of the group.
“He was simply the sweetest man and really humorous,” Yost stated. The Flying Squirrels used to fulfill each Saturday in Santa Monica, and it was Fenton who regarded out for the group of runners as they ran alongside the tight streets. “He would yell, ‘Automotive!’ even when it have been a mile away,” Yost recalled.
Over time, the operating group light however its members saved in contact. Years later, a couple of members began enjoying poker each Sunday, and even by means of the COVID lockdown the group would meet over Zoom to play. Yost famous, Fenton was in a nursing residence, and had been identified with Parkinson’s illness a couple of years in the past, however “it was a approach we may see Mike.”
The final time Yost noticed Fenton was on the 2016 Academy of Movement Footage Arts & Sciences tribute to 3 casting legends: Fenton, Lynn Stalmaster and Juliet Taylor. “It was such an awesome factor to see this tribute to Mike, and all of the individuals they discovered,” Yost stated.
“E.T” star Henry Thomas, certainly one of Fenton’s most notable discoveries, was additionally current that evening. “(Thomas) had that unbelievable audition (for ‘E.T.’), and the clincher was that he received that job,” Yost stated.
As demonstrated within the clip posted beneath, Fenton might be heard off-screen working with Thomas throughout his audition for what would grow to be the 1982 blockbuster directed by Spielberg. On the finish of the studying, Fenton tells Thomas he received the job. “Henry was simply wonderful, and he (Fenton) would inform nice tales. He would do something for you,” Yost stated.
Yost stated Fenton’s talent got here partly as a result of he at all times had unconventional concepts about matching actors with roles. Yost cited the choice to forged Sally Discipline in “Sybil,” the landmark 1976 TV film a couple of girl battling a number of personalities, for example of a Fenton inspiration that turned an actor right into a star. Fenton “modified her life as a result of nobody considered her for that. He was the champion of that concept. He modified her life from ‘The Flying Nun to (future) Academy Award winner.”
Actress Frances Fisher cited Fenton’s function in elevating the function of the casting director as effectively.
“He unionized casting administrators by founding @CSAcasting,” Fisher wrote of Fenton’s work as a co-founder of Casting Society of America in 1982.
“Physician Who” casting director Andy Pryor remembered Fenton on Twitter. “R.I.P. Mike Fenton, Casting Director of so lots of our favorites. “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “E.T.,” the “Indiana Jones” movies, “The Goonies,” “Again to the Future” & many extra. Thanks for all that pleasure.”
Amblin Leisure tweeted a poignant tribute from director Steven Spielberg. “Mike Fenton, who was inarguably one of many prime casting brokers in our business for many years and important to key Steven Spielberg and Amblin Leisure movies, has handed on the age of 85.”
Mike Fenton, who was inarguably one of many prime casting brokers in our business for many years and important to key Steven Spielberg and Amblin Leisure movies, has handed on the age of 85.
Steven Spielberg pays tribute to Mr. Fenton at this time as we at Amblin notice his passing. pic.twitter.com/k6Badz6I2p
— Amblin (@amblin) January 2, 2021
“Gremlins” director Joe Dante shared, “RIP Mike Fenton, among the finest casting administrators within the enterprise! I labored with him on “Twilight Zone,” “Innerspace,” “The Burbs,” and the best-cast movie I ever made, “The Second Civil Struggle,” with 90 talking components. I by no means met anybody who liked their work extra.”
Producer Jane Kelly Kosek shared on Fb, “So unhappy to listen to that Mike Fenton, certainly one of our casting administrators of our movie “Not Since You,” handed away at this time. He helped us put collectively such an exquisite forged for “Not Since You.” He additionally forged “E.T.”, “The Goonies” and “Again to the Future!” He was a pleasant man too. RIP”
“Felony Minds” casting director Lisa Zambetti known as Fenton’s demise “such a loss.”
On Instagram, casting director Jennifer Ajemian, whose credit embody Amazon Prime’s “North of Boston,” wrote that Fenton’s passing was “very unhappy information for the casting neighborhood. We’re such admirers of Mike’s in depth work and contribution to the casting craft.”
Whereas “Iron Will” producer and President of Seismic Footage, Robert Schwartz wrote, “The top of 2020 noticed the passing of casting director extraordinaire, Mike Fenton, certainly one of my favourite individuals in Hollywood. We labored collectively on a number of motion pictures and he was merely the very best and such a beautiful, form and beneficiant individual. RIP Mike.”
“Blazing Saddles” author Andrew Bergman remembered Fenton through his Twitter web page. “A beautiful man. Helped forged “The Freshman” and “Honeymoon in Vegas.” Nice style and open to surprises.”
A beautiful man. Helped forged The Freshman and Honeymoon in Vegas. Nice style and open to surprises.
— Andrew Bergman (@andy_bergman) January 2, 2021
Actor, author and producer Ryan Paul James wrote about attending a casting workshop that Fenton hosted. “I took Mike Fenton’s casting director workshop again in Orlando, Florida in 1996. There was solely a handful of us actors and we went to Boston Marketplace for lunch. He had the best casting tales,” James wrote.
“I bear in mind him telling me at that lunch that there’s an opportunity I’ll by no means get in his workplace for an audition trigger there are such a lot of actors in LA. Quick ahead 8 years later, my first yr in LA and guess who I received to audition for. Once I reminded him of that story, he laughed and known as me in a pair extra occasions for auditions. R.I.P. Mike.”
“Avatar” actor Woody Schultz additionally remembered taking lessons with Fenton.
Unhappy to listen to about #MikeFenton. Really one of many all-time nice casting administrators and a helluva good man. As a younger actor I took a sequence of lessons with him and he took such pleasure in sharing his knowledge with us. Grateful for the expertise. Sending like to his household and mates.
— Woody Schultz #BlackLivesMatter (@UGottaWoody) January 2, 2021
Producer David Latt additionally had a full-circle second when he employed Fenton to forged what would grow to be certainly one of Fenton’s final undertaking, the cheeky 2014 TV film “Sharknado 2: The Second One.” “Within the Nineteen Eighties I interned below Mike Fenton and @marciliroff. It was a dream job then & a fulfilled dream after I employed Mike 30 years later to forged #Sharknado 2. #RIP. You taught me solely the great things.”
Watch Thomas’ audition beneath and hear as Fenton coaches the actor: