'Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark'

'Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark'

Tiffany Little Canfield
Telsey + Company, New York
Broadway: ‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,’ ‘Tarzan,’ ‘The Addams Family,’ ‘Rock of Ages’

With Peter Parker [in “Spider-Man”], it’s interesting because he’s sort of the anti-superhero. He’s the nerd who becomes powerful against his will. When you think of casting a superhero, you’re thinking of strength and confidence if you think of someone like Superman or Batman. But this is actually the opposite of that. We’re looking for vulnerability.

Of course, the actor plays Spider-Man too, but he’s in a mask—for a limited amount of time while singing and dancing, and stunt doubles in full costume take over for additional tricks—and in terms of the acting range, you need someone who can then also be physically confident to fly all around the stage and do all the extensive physical work they have to do. We did flying auditions and looked for expression within the body. A lot of the harness work is strength-based for agility and comfort in the air. That’s strength, but it’s also balance and being able to hold yourself so that you can continue to act. And luckily in a musical, you have the music, which does a lot to convey emotion.

Those defining elements of who Peter Parker is are crucial. But does that mean how tall or how short he is? No. Hair color? I’m not as concerned about that. That’s up to the creative team, to figure out what are they going to make him physically look like, which I have no interest in. I’m looking for the essence of Peter Parker. He’s a very complicated hero.

This is a character who is an American hero, an American figure that is more than just a literary figure. It’s in every element of our culture, pop art, movies. It’s a character that Americans deeply identify with, so you definitely don’t want to reinvent the wheel when you’re attempting to tell his story in a new way. Marvel is one of the producers, and their Spider-Man is very important to them. So there was always someone there really defining who Peter Parker is alongside the creative team, to keep us on the track of being true to the original source material.

Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in 'Iron Man'

Randi Hiller
Randi Hiller Casting, Los Angeles
‘Thor,’ ‘Iron Man 2,’ ‘Iron Man,’ ‘The Scorpion King’

It’s a whole world. I mean, I didn’t even know it existed before then. But then you start watching videos and you get the magazines and you start to see the culture, and you’re trying to match a culture.

You just want to make people proud. I feel like, in a sense, there’s more pressure, because it means so much on such a deep level to a lot of people. That whole world was a little new to me, and how serious people are about this. But the executives at Marvel are really knowledgeable and fair. They’re very accessible for questions and histories of the characters and allowing you to see things to help you understand the world that you’re in.

I think in the case of Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, yay for Marvel for being open to it. Basically, Iron Man’s weapon, among other things, was his brain, and Robert’s very quick-thinking, he’s very bright, and he sprang loose very quickly. We came up with it, but Robert embodied so many of those traits, and he’s such a phenomenal actor. And that was all a really important part of Iron Man.

'Batman: The Brave and the Bold'

'Batman: The Brave and the Bold'

Andrea Romano
Voiceover casting director, Los Angeles
‘Batman: The Brave and the Bold,’ ‘Green Lantern: First Flight,’ ‘Teen Titans,’ ‘Justice League’

The writing and the character design, for the most part, come before the voicing. So that gives me my core materials to jump off of. It’s specific to each hero, because they each have certain abilities and skills. But there is some quality about a heroic voice that typically has broad shoulders; a large, defined chest and pec muscles; and a bass sound in the voice that is not necessarily deep but has a strength and a security to it that makes it sound like this is someone you would listen to. This is someone who knows what’s right and what’s wrong. This is someone who has some kind of authority. Those are the things that I look for.

I have discovered over the years that theater actors make the transition to voiceover acting for animation easier, smoother, and faster than feature-film actors. Many performances are barely more than a whisper in on-camera acting, but in animation it’s got to be bigger and broader.

There are projects where we have to decide, “How different are we playing Bruce Wayne from Batman vocally? Do we want to be able to tell that it is the same guy, or do we want the voice to be so disguised that we can’t possibly tell it’s the same guy?” That has always been one of those funny things. Now, Batman wears a cape and cowl, so at least he’s got that disguise to help him separate.

The first Batman series I did was “Batman: The Animated Series,” where I began a whole journey into the DC universe and have never looked back. Here I am 20 years later, still working in that universe and loving it, and still learning. The audiences that watch my cartoons are my real bosses. Those are the people that I am truly working for. I have to please the audience. I like knowing what they like and don’t like. It can be a little bit scary, because some of the fans are obsessed. I am a fan myself of so many things, and so I understand fandom obsession. But part of my job that I take very seriously is making sure that these shows based on comic books are still accessible and interesting and entertaining for people who didn’t or still don’t read comic books.

This “Ask a Casting Director” column was published in the Nov. 19-25, 2009 issue of Back Stage.