Casting Local Talent: CP Casting and Local Actors on Infinitely Polar Bear
Written by Sarah Blood | Posted by: NewEnglandFilm.com
Infinitely Polar Bear, which played at Sundance Film Festival in 2014, was cast in Boston and shot in New England. NewEnglandFilm.com’s Sarah Blood talks with Boston casting director, Carolyn Pickman, and some actors from the film about their work.
Infinitely Polar Bear, written and directed by Maya Forbes, explores many complex and intense themes: family, psychological illness, feminism, and childhood trauma. Forbes (who was born and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts) based her script on her childhood and her father’s bipolar disorder, which he used to refer, jokingly, as “polar bear” disorder.
During her childhood in the late ’70s, Forbes’s mother decided to attend business school in New York City, thus leaving Forbes and her sister (China Forbes, of the musical group Pink Martini) under the care of their father in Cambridge. This difficult time in her childhood inspired Forbes to develop the screenplay for Infinitely Polar Bear, which took over several years. The film stars Mark Ruffalo (as Cameron Stuart), Zoe Saldana (as Maggie Stuart), and the two daughters, Ashley Aufderheide (as Faith Stuart), and Imogene Wolodarsky (as Amelia Stuart).
CP Casting, a Boston-based company, cast local talent for various roles in Infinitely Polar Bear, and Carolyn Pickman, director, cofounder, and president of CP Casting, went through auditions to gather local talent. Maya Forbes specifically selected some of the other actors, many whom she already knew. ‘We tried to find two girl leads, and brought in several local little actresses -aspiring actresses.’ Instead, Forbes chose a little girl from New York, Ashley Aufderheide, and her own daughter, Imogene Wolodarsky. ‘It’s a bio-pic, so it was a wonderful choice, and her daughter did very well,’ said Pickman of the choice. Pickman cast local adults and children, including two sisters Nekhebet Juch and Uatchet Juch for the film.
CP Casting selected a number of actors, including many theater actors, who worked well for specific roles. One such talent was Mark Cartier, whose résumé is filled with past work through CP Casting. ‘I was the Maitre D’ and had one line, but it was an important and intense scene,’ said Cartier. The scene takes place in a restaurant, shot in Providence, Rhode Island, with Saldana and Ruffalo arguing over the future of their family.
Cartier emphasized that shooting for Infinitely Polar Bear displayed a different approach compared to other film sets. “The entire scene was done in one shot,” said Cartier. “They filmed their argument from every angle and it was great to see the two of them together (Saldana and Ruffalo). I went into a corner for a while and watched.” Cartier also spoke to Ruffalo and describes him as a down-to-earth and nice guy.
Cartier recalled Forbes’ depth as a director and her determination to reach a personal nerve and connection. “She was very in the truth of the scene, and was trying to get the emotional truth.”
Patrick Shea, one of the actors who plays a business man in the film, shot a scene with Saldana. Patrick recalled the relaxed and organized nature of the set and crew. “It was a very calm set. Sometimes sets are very difficult to walk on to because of strange dynamics,” said Shea. The scene was an interview between Saldana and Shea, and done quickly and concisely at Providence City Hall.
On working with Pickman, Shea explained the Casting Director has a fairly selective idea on who should play certain roles. “I’ve been working for CP Casting for years,” said Shea. “She calls me, or doesn’t call, but she has a good eye and good ear, and she called me in for this.”
Alicia Love, another actor from CP Casting, who played alongside Saldana, reminisced about the same feelings as Shea. ‘She was wonderful to work with,’ Love said about Forbes. ‘She made me feel very comfortable on set. She gave me my first speaking role in a film and I’ll forever be grateful to her.’
In the film, Love plays a co-worker of Zoe Saldana’s character, named Carol. Part of the shooting for Infinitely Polar Bear took place on the day after the Boston Marathon Bombing last year. ‘I drove to Providence listening to the radio and balling my eyes out,’ recalled Love. However, when Love arrived on set, she was immediately relieved and appreciative for the opportunity. ‘For a few hours, I got to be someone else, surrounded by amazingly talented people.”
Carolyn Pickman also emphasized the importance of working and casting for a female director. ‘A female director doesn’t come around very often. The last time that happened was in 2007 for the film The Women (directed by Diane English). Thankfully things are changing – slowly.”
According to Pickman, Forbes’ friend, Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom, The Grand Budapest Hotel) referred her to CP Casting. Pickman explained referrals are common for her casting company services. Pickman described casting as a process of understanding who the main players are in the story and what are the connections amongst them. As they worked, Forbes would either sit down with Pickman to go through materials or she would receive tapes from auditions.
Pickman described actress Tod Randolph as gifted and talented in her role as Cameron’s (Ruffalo) neighbor, Ruth-Ann. ‘I hit something right away that they wanted,’ said Randolph on the casting process. ‘I made them laugh and you are doing something right if you make them laugh.’ Randolph played neighbor in the film. Randolph shot scenes in Providence, RI, in a parking lot, an apartment complex, and elevator.
Randolph acted in a comical scene with Ruffalo’s character and the two young daughters. In the scene, Randolph’s character is carrying groceries, and Cameron (Ruffalo) and his daughters offer to help. As they follow her into the apartment, the situation becomes progressively more awkward and comical. ‘The girls were amazing,’ said Randolph. ‘They were posed and professional, playing these huge parts.’
On working with Forbes, Randolph described her as straightforward and a great communicator with the cast and crew. ‘Everyone was having a good time and Maya couldn’t have been more supportive,’ explained Randolph. ‘I read the script and it was really a pleasure filming from beginning to end.’
Infinitely Polar was produced by Paper Street Films, J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot, and Park Pictures. The movie played in this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Sony Pictures Classics acquired the rights to Infinitely Polar Bear, as the film’s distributor for theatrical release.
Related Article: In the Casting Chair: Carolyn Pickman
Stay up-to-date on the theatrical release for Infinitely Polar Bear through Sony Pictures website: http://www.sonyclassics.com/. For more information on CP Casting please visit http://www.cpcasting.com.