The actors: Casting for authenticity

The casting of a movie can be crucial to its success. Some well-known actors are almost a genre unto themselves, the best example being the “John Wayne” movie. It could be a western or a war movie, but the audience knew what to expect.

Occasionally a director will seek out unknown actors so that a well-known face will not subvert the story. A few daring directors will even cast amateurs. For La battaglia di Algeri (1966), director Gillo Pontecorvo cast amateurs except for one part, that of the French general. He even included some of the Algerians who took part in the battle in 1957-58. Pontecorvo in an interview said:

“When the film was made — this was in 1965, remember — it was a dangerous novelty to use non-professional actors and to have not one single protagonist but a collective one, a chorus. So from the start we had lots of problems and it seemed to me the only way to win over audiences to a film so different from the ones they were used to was to impose a dictatorship of truth that gave the impression of a documentary, a newsreel. This despite the fact that it was a work of fiction.”