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Audition Tapes that Got the Part

Courtesy of Youtube and some leaky casting offices, The Brains bring you a selection of role-winning audition tapes and musings to go with them.

Evangeline Lilly – Lost

Claire: Ohhh, I love the discourse between her and JJ Abrams at the top of the tape. Just that little bit, watching two people so invested in bringing the work to life, really inspires me. I take audition workshops with Jack Plotnick and students often ask about ‘miming’ in auditions. He always suggests students ask if they are inclined to do the physical action of the scene for themselves or for the audience. If it’s for you – ie, to help you feel grounded in the reality of the scene – he tells students to go for it. If it’s to help the audience ‘see’ the scene, then it’s probably better off without. I think this audition (and Matthew Fox’s below) are a great opportunity to see actors taking on just enough of the physical life in the scene to make the circumstances real for themselves. Consequently, watching it, I feel the scene instead of ‘seeing’ it.

Sarah: I was also totally taken by the conversation at the top of the tape.  How great to get such actable direction.  I also appreciated how simple and straightforward her performance was.  I felt she really trusted herself and didn’t push at all.  And I appreciated her arms.  Seriously.  I have to go do some push-ups.

Matthew Fox – Lost

Claire: The Jack clip is so simple and immediate. My heart started beating faster as he got to the climax of the story. And the reader in these auditions (it sounds like the same woman, no?) does a great job.

Sarah:  How cool to see him audition for both roles!  What I find really interesting, is that he just works as Jack in a way that he doesn’t in the Sawyer audition.  I certainly think we can all play a variety of roles, but there is something magical that happens when our own essence corresponds with that of the character.  He clearly does a good job with both roles, but there is just something sweet and open in Matthew Fox’s demeanor that makes the second role sing.

Rachel McAdams – The Notebook

Claire: When I first stumbled upon this, I had the sound turned off on my computer. Watching the first moments, I thought it must be footage of her talking to the director since her behavior seemed so spontaneous! By framing this with actual footage from the movie, the poster of this video reminded me how the shot scene and the audition tape are two totally different animals. I thought, Oh, audition = moments of life, scene = edited moments of story…I don’t know exactly where I’m going with this, but something along the lines of how it’s important not to edit the scene, in one’s acting, during the audition…

Sarah: OK, Claire’s gone all high-brow on me since we discussed this, so I’m just going to say it – I want Rachel McAdams to teach me how to put on eye shadow.  Oh yes, and I would like Ryan Gosling to be my reader at all my auditions.  I really think that would help me.

Russel Brand – Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Claire: I have had many a cd, agent, etc. tell me not to spend my time worrying about my hair and eyeliner for auditions. Mr. Brand knew better than to take this advice. Of course, a fantastic example of an improv audition, of pursuing an objective, etc. But I think my favorite moment was the look I interpreted as ‘Christ-this-is-what-i-have-to-do-get-a-part’ that he shot the auditors on his way out. In this interview Forgetting Sarah Marshall director Jason Segal discusses how he changed his perception of the part after Brand’s audition.

Sarah: This is the only one of the auditions that is my first introduction to an actor, as I never saw Forgetting Sarah Marshall or anything else that Russel Brand has been in. And what an introduction!  I love how he just listens without smiling while they describe what they want to him, comes completely alive throughout the scene, and then drops back to neutral at the end.  You don’t get the feeling that he’s trying to please anyone.  I think this is an example of an actor making it impossible for the director not to cast him.  Now I’m going to have to watch the movie.

Natalie Portman – The Professional

Claire: Look at how relaxed she is going down to the script and picking up her lines when she needs to. Totally in the scene, not judging herself for ‘forgetting.’

Sarah: “Dogs, all my life.”  Could there be a better reading of that line?  Lots going on behind those big pretty eyes.

Hugh Laurie – House

Claire: I have no idea if this is true, but I heard that Laurie auditioned for this (sending in a tape from location on a movie he was shooting) pretty late in the game. When casting saw the tape, they were thrilled that someone played the scene instead of the qualities of ‘evil’ Dr. House.

Sarah:  I’m a huge fan of Harold Guskin’s book, How to Stop Acting, and I have no idea if Hugh Laurie ever worked with Harold, but this audition seems like a perfect example of Howard’s audition technique.  He looks down, gets his line, looks up and delivers it in a way that feels totally fresh and spontaneous.  Then he looks down and starts the process over again.  He has clearly done his homework and made strong choices, but the script is there for him when he needs it.  That reminds us watching that this is an audition and not a finished performance, an important distinction.

Why do you think these auditions were successful? Do you have any others to add to the list? Leave your thoughts and links below.

  1. Ayman Samman on Tuesday 2, 2010

    Claire, Sarah, thank you very much for the clips and the amusing commentary. It is very helpful to see that side of the game that you rarely get to see as an actor. Specially at that level. Here’s the American Pie audition tape for Alyson Hannigan. She was very relaxed an having fun with the lines. I also like how when she dropped her line she quickly looked at the script and picked it up and got back in character. That’s usually a freak out moment but I thought she handled it very well.

    Keep up the great work!


  2. Cathy Madeo on Tuesday 2, 2010

    These are fabulous. Way to go guys!

  3. Susyn on Tuesday 2, 2010

    Nice post, ladies! And, I, too am a fan of “How To Stop Acting”.


  4. Sabrina on Tuesday 2, 2010

    Thank you ladies – so inspiring!

  5. jj on Tuesday 2, 2010

    well done

  6. karen Steele on Tuesday 2, 2010

    thank you mamacita i love it

  7. Caroline on Tuesday 2, 2010

    Rachel, Evangeline, and Alyson. Wow. All proof that you’ve really gotta bring it. They are so prepared but stay in the moment and make it organic and real. They could walk right onto set from their auditions and shoot the thing.

  8. Mari on Tuesday 2, 2010

    Claire and Sarah thank you so much for these links!
    It’s wonderful to see great audition tapes.
    I see that they made definitely bold choices and they also are listening
    to what the reader is saying off the screen.
    Looking forward to your next post!

  9. Caroline on Tuesday 2, 2010

    Kristin Bell for Forgetting Sarah Marshall

  10. Nadia on Tuesday 2, 2010

    This looks super interesting, but I don’t see any videos, just open spaces. Is it my dumb computer?

  11. Sarah on Tuesday 2, 2010

    Nadia – I’m afraid the problem is on your end, as I just double checked and they are showing up. I’d try opening a new browser. Hope that helps!

  12. Walt Sloan on Tuesday 2, 2010

    There are many different lessons to be learned from these videos. Thanks so much for posting them. I, too, am a fan of “How to Stop Acting”.