Ros Hubbard is a world renowned casting director having worked on hugely successful films such as ‘The Commitments’, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy and ‘Father Ted’ with her family. IFTN caught up with the Irish talent spotter to talk about casting hobbits and dwarves for Peter Jackson, her trouble finding thin Irish children and ‘Father Ted’ bringing out her catholic guilt!
Ros and her husband John have brought several well known actors to fame having ‘discovered’ Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Colin Farrell, Orlando Bloom, Sienna Miller and Kate Winslet between them. Hubbard Casting is run between Ros, John and their children, Dan and Amy Hubbard and the team has found cast members for international hit films such as ‘Green Zone’; ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’ and ‘The Bourne Supremacy’; ‘United 93’; ‘Evita’ and the ‘Da Vinci Code’.
Where Irish projects are concerned, the Hubbards have filled many celebrated film and TV sets for features and TV dramas such as ‘Into the West’; ‘Father Ted’; ‘Best’; ‘Bloody Sunday’ and several projects with IFTA Industry Contribution award winner, Morgan O’Sullivan including ‘Moll Flanders’; ‘The Nephew’; ‘Angela’s Ashes’.
Ros and the rest of the Hubbard Casting team have been kept busy in the last few months, casting for features such as Peter Jackson’s upcoming epic ‘The Hobbit: Part 1’ and Grand Pictures’ ‘Death of a Superhero’ which is set for release later this year.
We spoke to Ros about the business of film and TV casting and lessons she has learned down through the years:
IFTN: Ros, You got into the business of film and TV casting through being a model agent, how did it come about?
Ros Hubbard: I was an agent when I was very young, a model agent, and you didn’t specialize in those days. It sort of fell into my lap in that people would call me when they arrived in Ireland and say, “Well I know you’re an agent, but I also know you’re very good at casting because people have told me…would you cast this for me?” And it started off that I mainly did commercials and just grew from there.
IFTN: IFTN: The project that really put you guys on the map was, ‘The Commitments’ – was it very daunting having to cast, not only good actors but good actors with musical abilities also?
Ros Hubbard: That was what was wonderful about it…It felt like fun mixed with very hard work. And that’s because we got to go out every single night, and at that time there was a huge music scene in Dublin and they were falling over themselves. They didn’t really know who we were, so we would go into these lovely clubs and take our video camera out and start shooting the band and they would be saying to each other “Who’s yer wan?” “Well, you can have her, I’m not going home with her”. Afterwards then we would find some sort of manager or roadie or their mother – whoever – and they would send the bands and singers in to do a bit of workshopping with us and that was how we worked it. It was a pleasure.
IFTN: Another iconic project you helped to cast was ‘Father Ted’ which you famously almost didn’t get involved with!
Ros Hubbard: Yes, Dermot Morgan suggested that we do it because he had begun to get to know us, and he had in fact started to ‘do’ us on Scrap Saturday…I used to hear Pauline ‘doing’ me, and she said I was the hardest person that she ever had to do because she couldn’t work out the accent. (It’s Ranelagh via Sandymount!).
John had turned it down but in those days we didn’t have that much work, so we would still read the things that we turned down or didn’t get, and I was sitting in the bath that night roaring laughing. John asked me what I was reading and I said, “This script you’ve turned down, ‘Father Ted’, its hilarious!” He had thought I’d hate it because I’m Catholic but I said “No, there are two things here; One - it’s hilarious. Two - We are the only ones who would understand this…we have got to do it!”. And then Pauline was the first of the bigger stars in that we cast.
Actually I got ‘the fear’ then, as a Catholic and thought that I would get punished, so we gave the money from our casting to GOAL. I finally met John O’Shea, who runs GOAL years later when I was doing an interview on TV3. I told him about it and he was shocked because he had never been told about it, he thought the Channel Four had just sent him a cheque.
IFTN: Do you work on many projects where some of the main parts have already been cast?
Ros Hubbard: Yes, that happens a lot, particularly with very big films because they’ll get Matt Damon in, and that’s how they got the money together to do it. And it’s better for us really because, if you have a lead actor like Matt Damon, you can use that to draw other actors in of course. And then, if you’re working with a director like Paul Greengrass which John and Dan do mainly, you don’t have a problem drawing actors anyway.
IFTN: In your career so far who has proved the hardest character to cast?
Ros Hubbard: Joey The Lips in The Commitments. Very, very hard. We showed Johnny Murphy on the very first day and Alan Parker didn’t quite recognise it then but eventually he did go back to him, and used him. That was one of the hardest, hardest parts ever. We now call situations like the ‘Joey the Lips syndrome’. We’ll say “Oh here’s a Joey the Lips” when we can’t hit it fast.
We met Johnny at a play called ‘Studs’ and I said to him “Johnny do you know how to play the trumpet, ‘cause if you don’t you will!” I was quite confident! And then we went through huge amounts of people after that, I mean Van Morrison and all sorts of people were seen for it - because he did play the trumpet and Johnny didn’t – but Johnny was by far the best choice. Alan Parker was very good at casting, he puts you through the hoop and he tells you to “keep going, keep going, keep going”. And you do and then he comes back to your original choice anyway. On the first day of The Commitments casting we saw 12 of the 15 of the cast.
But then, Alan was right – he is thorough. We worked together on a few things like Angela’s Ashes where we had big problems finding kids that looked poor and thin, because Ireland was going through the good times then!
IFTN: Another Irish filmmaker who keeps cropping up in partnership with you is Morgan O Sullivan.
Ros Hubbard:Yes, he is hugely successful and so brilliant, and what a wonderful man. He doesn’t use us as much as he should (laughs), but he is tremendous to deal with and very good at his job.
IFTN: How often do you come across someone who is perfect for a part?
Ros Hubbard: Oh lots of the times if you’re good at the casting and have a bit of an old knack in you. If I was a huge producer in Hollywood, I’d hire maybe three casting directors and I’d say “Give me your first ten ideas.” Because the right actors are in there, they’re usually in there. That said, there are times when you are really sweating it trying to find an unusual skill or handicap or something really, really hard and you have to give it your time. But most of the time, if you know your actors (and if you’re watching the new ones) you can feel it pretty quickly. In Ireland that is what we like to do, we like to show new faces. I keep seeing people we discovered twenty years ago, and I am still very proud of them. I’d like to be out there looking again for more.
IFTN: In the last few years have you seen the numbers of people auditioning for you rise or fall?
Ros Hubbard: I think they are going up. I think people who aren’t in ‘proper jobs’ think, “Ah, I might as well do a bit of acting.” They mightn’t stay at it and I hope there is now a realism coming into acting where people realise “You know, I’m not as good as I thought I was going to be, and so I’ll feck off out of it.”
But it is such a private decision to remain an actor, none of us can say to somebody “You shouldn’t be an actor” because I’ve met kids at 17 or 18 who really were not good at all, and I’ve seen them again at 22 or 23 and they have been brilliant. There are a few knacks you can learn. And your confidence can emerge in those years.
IFTN: You have just finished casting The Hobbit for Peter Jackson, was it as epic a task as finding people for the Lord of the Rings trilogy?
Ros Hubbard: It was John and Amy and me who worked on it (Even though I’m not getting a credit…two is enough!) It was a huge event but it was smaller than the three Lord of the Rings. And it is still going on to a degree in that little things change, but the actors are all out in New Zealand now.
IFTN: I wondered if there was any coincidence between the large Irish presence (Aidan Turner, James Nesbitt and Saoirse Ronan) in the film and the fact that it was you guys casting . . .
Ros Hubbard: Yes, there was quite a lot of influence there! We had been wanting to to put Aidan Turner into film for a long time because he had done an awful lot of TV and we told him when we finally met him “We are going to concentrate in getting you into the movies.” I didn’t think it would be as big as this. But how great for him.
And Jimmy is thrilled to bits, his whole family have gone out, it is just wonderful. And working with Peter Jackson is like working with a family. So they’ll have a great time. Saoirse’s family will go too, everyone is very close and very loving on those sorts of jobs. It’s not like typical studio movies at all.
IFTN: Finally Ros, what projects are you currently working on?
Ros Hubbard: We are hopefully about to start an Irish film which is written by Cecilia Ahern, ‘Where Rainbow’s End’. We’re just waiting to kick into that now. We’re also doing some work on a film with Tristran Orpen Lynch which will be directed by Niall Heery and a thriller called ’66 Degrees North’ which Edwina Forkin is producing. And Michael Garland always uses us. So we are getting more Irish work again which is fantastic!