At the age of 88, Lynn Stalmaster has just received his first Oscar, an honorary Academy Award from the film academy’s Board of Governors. The long-time Casting Director, responsible for helping Christopher Reeve become Superman, became the first person to receive an Oscar for casting.
Stalmaster earned a master’s degree in theatre from UCLA, and though he was having some success as an actor (he counts the 1951 John Wayne film “Flying Leathernecks” among his credits), he wanted a backup plan. He started working as a production assistant to a prolific pair of television producers, who eventually asked him to become their casting director.
In an AOL Online Chat in May 2001, Christopher Reeve revealed that he only got to meet with Richard Donner after Lynn Stalmaster kept putting his photo back on the pile of possible actors to play the role of Superman for “Superman: The Movie”… about ten times.
“The producers and the director, Dick Donner, they kept looking at my picture, and I was tall but very skinny. And so they kept putting my picture and resume on the bottom of the pile. And finally they were getting desperate, and Lynn Stalmaster persuaded them to meet with me. And I came in for a meeting with Dick Donner and Lynn Stalmaster. Next thing I knew, I was asked to go to London for a screen test.”
Lynn Stalmaster also introduced Ilya Salkind to Christopher Reeve. In a Superman Homepage interview with Ilya Salkind he remembered meeting Reeve with Donner in New York about five months before shooting began with Brando. “[Chris] was terrific but was extremely skinny. Six-four, but like a string bean. So we went back. Then we tried more people.”
As a casting director, Stalmaster was responsible for bringing many fresh faces to filmmakers and helping them shape their ensembles in such films as “West Side Story,” “The Graduate,” “Deliverance,” “Tootsie” and “The Right Stuff.”
Thanks to Andres Diez for the lead on this story.