Lynn Stalmaster is a legendary pioneer in the field of Casting. In the 1950’s, as Hollywood’s studio system faded and contract players were no longer assigned to movie roles, Lynn became the first independent casting director in motion pictures, hired by producers, directors and studios to cast films on a free-lance basis, collaborating intimately with filmmakers to bring their stories to life on screen.
Stalmaster brought a fresh perspective to choosing actors in Hollywood, introducing skilled, but unknown theater-trained performers to directors who were striving for authenticity and integrity in their casts.
Born in Omaha, the son of a Nebraska Supreme Court judge, Lynn moved with his family to Beverly Hills, primarily to help ease his severe asthma condition. While at Beverly Hills High School, a then-shy Lynn Stalmaster became involved in theatre and radio, an environment in which he came out of his shell and discovered a penchant for performing.
After a stint in the US Army, Stalmaster received a degree in Theater Arts from UCLA and embarked on an acting career. Among his acting credits were roles in Sam Fuller’s THE STEEL HELMET and Nicholas Ray’s FLYING LEATHERNECKS, opposite John Wayne.
In 1952, Lynn received a masters degree from UCLA in Theater Arts and then, as a back-up career, began working as production assistant to prolific television producers Gross-Krasne, who soon promoted him to be their casting director on five on-air series. Although he had no previous casting experience, Lynn used his understanding of the acting craft and his empathy for the actor’s plight to create an environment where actors felt supported and encouraged to do their best work.
In 1955, Lynn opened his own casting office and began to bring new faces to television in the seminal westerns GUNSMOKE and HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL.
In 1956, Lynn received a call from famed director Robert Wise, who was impressed with the freshness of Lynn’s work in television and asked him to bring that same authenticity to his film I WANT TO LIVE, the true story of death row inmate Barbara Graham, for which Susan Hayward won the Oscar for Best Actress.
From there, Lynn was on the radar of all the great directors of the time: Stanley Kramer, Billy Wilder, George Stevens, William Wyler, which then led to work with more legendary filmmakers, including Norman Jewison, Blake Edwards, Arthur Hiller, John Frankenheimer, Hal Ashby, John Cassavetes, Mike Nichols and Sydney Pollack.
For those directors and many others, Lynn assembled some of the greatest acting ensembles of all time, including INHERIT THE WIND, JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG, WEST SIDE STORY, THE GREAT ESCAPE, IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT , THE GRADUATE, HAROLD AND MAUDE, DELIVERANCE, BEING THERE, COMING HOME, TOOTSIE, and THE RIGHT STUFF.
In 1968, Lynn became the first casting director to receive billing on a separate card in a film’s main titles (Norman Jewison’s THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR) and that credit, “Casting by Lynn Stalmaster”, has appeared on over 180 major motion pictures over six decades.
In addition to his extraordinary filmography, Lynn has long been a champion of diversity in Hollywood and has provided countless opportunities for women and all minorities, both on-screen and off.
In 2003, The Casting Society of America presented Lynn Stalmaster with its Career Achievement Award, in celebration of his groundbreaking work in bringing fresh, talented faces to classic motion pictures, and this year he becomes the first casting director in the history of the Academy to receive an Oscar.