Fiona Weir is the casting director behind films like Brooklyn, Judy and Ammonite—which arrives in select theaters Nov. 13.
Chemistry on screen is something magical and elliptical that occurs when actors find an equal and opposite screen opponent. I don’t think it is necessarily to do with sexual attraction (although it can help!) but, at its essence, it has to do with a matched screen presence and actors’ genuine curiosity about each other.
I love Shirley MacLaine’s Fran and when I saw this, I hoped one day someone as funny as Jack Lemmon might drain spaghetti through a tennis racket for me. The wit and attraction flies between them with ease and speed. I had no idea what giants of comedy they were—just that these two people were destined to be together.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
[Paul] Newman and [Robert] Redford are two of the most beautiful screen actors of all time whose charm and screen presence is perfectly matched. It is sheer joy listening to the banter between them as they face one perilous situation after another. Every time I see this movie, I wonder why anyone would want to hang these men?! There were definitely three people in this marriage between Butch, Sundance and the smart and patient Etta (Katharine Ross). But they are all cool with that and all utterly devoted to each other.
I was 17 when I saw this film [cast by Dominique Besnehard] at the Screen on Baker St. and was intoxicated by the wondrous wild nature of Betty and Zorg’s relationship. It opens with the most intense and erotic sex scent between Betty and Zorg, which ends with the statement that they have known each other a week. What could be more fabulously French and cool when you are 17? Béatrice Dalle is raw and visceral—perfect for Betty’s extreme nature. As Betty fell for Zorg’s strength and Zorg for Betty’s wildness, so Béatrice’s instinctive acting was balanced and met by the more experienced and controlled Jean-Hugues Anglade. They are a great match. When I have re-visited the film years later, it carries the tarnish of age, but Betty and Zorg will be forever painting houses pink along the beach together.
My Beautiful Laundrette
In the same year, 1985, Daniel Day-Lewis appeared in two films: as the pompous, deeply unattractive Cecil Vyse [in A Room With a View] and the glorious Johnny in My Beautiful Laundrette—two polar opposites. There is no mystery to Johnny and Omar’s attraction in MBL [a film cast by Debbie McWilliams]. It is clear to us what they give to each other and need from each other. Hanif Kureishi’s script is a brilliant portrait of all that was wrong with ’80s Britain, but also all the joy and exhilaration that two young men from different worlds can find in each other. Daniel Day-Lewis and Gordon Warnecke are true diamonds in the very rough that light up when they are with each other.
This film [cast by Elisabeth Guthmann] is about many things in our war-torn and politically beleaguered world, but at the heart of it is a beautiful marriage. Toulou Kiki’s Satima and Ibrahim Ahmed’s Kidane have a relationship that reminds us how little we need to be truly happy. They live right on the edges of survival in the blistering heat of the desert with their beloved daughter. Their love is so deep and profound that they seem to move as one creature. The scene where they run to each other and are killed reaching for one another is as beautiful as it is devastating. Neither Toulou nor Ibrahim were experienced film actors, but their relationship and story are utterly authentic.