The casting process is one of the most essential elements of successful filmmaking. It doesn’t matter how strong the script is or how talented the director is; with the wrong people in front of the camera, a movie won’t work.
Conversely, movies that match the perfect talent to the available roles tend to resonate better with audiences. One such film, The Family, released in 2013, impressed audiences for many reasons. However, the fact that it starred major actors like Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer certainly added to its appeal.
These performers were not hired accidentally. When bringing the project to life, the filmmakers understood from the beginning that casting the film correctly would be crucial to its success.
While all filmmakers do their best to cast the right people, in this case, it was particularly necessary to find actors who could fit into their roles easily and believably. This is because The Family tells the story of a legendary mafia family that has relocated to France as part of the Witness Protection Program. As such, it was necessary for the actors to convey to viewers that they truly could be the type of people who’ve spent decades committing major crimes.
The author of the book upon which The Family is based clearly appreciated this fact. In an interview, he explained, “It needed indisputable American actors who carry in their own legend and who, when they appear on the screen, do not need to convince.” This authenticity was key to making The Family a strong film. Because it features several major characters, the audience would not have time to learn all the personal details of each one. The actors would have to bring established presences to their roles to ensure the performances came across as believable.
This may be why the book’s author explained that he had personally wanted De Niro to play the role of family patriarch. De Niro’s talents as an actor have never been in dispute, but his legendary status in Hollywood, combined with his history of playing mafiosi, made him the perfect choice for the role.
Of course, De Niro is by no means the only major performer in the cast. Michelle Pfeiffer is also a legend in her own right, having already played similar roles in movies like Scarface. Pfeiffer’s experience playing this type of character is one reason she joined the production. The opportunity to work with a respected peer like De Niro was another. Although the two had appeared in the same films in the past, they had never performed any scenes together. The Family would mark the first time these two famous and talented actors truly shared the screen.
Of course, Pfeiffer and De Niro did not complete the cast. There were still other roles to fill. While these may not have required the actors playing them to have the same degree of onscreen experience as the lead roles in the film did, they still required talented actors who would not let the legendary status of their older costars overshadow them.
This is why Dianna Agron was chosen for the role of De Niro and Pfeiffer’s daughter. Having already demonstrated her talents on Glee, Agron made it clear that she could hold her own while surrounded by many other talented stars. Although casting an actor who was working on a TV show at the time of the production may have been somewhat risky from a scheduling perspective, this did not stop director Luc Besson and his team from choosing the right performer for the part.
The role of the son in the family also required a young actor with the talent and confidence necessary to perform alongside some of the most respected stars in the industry. This can be difficult to find when a character is young. The very nature of the character prevents a filmmaker from finding someone who has a significant amount of experience. Luckily, John D’Leo was available for the role. Besides being a talented performer, D’Leo has been an acting professional since the age of 10, thus making him a smart choice for this particular part.
Other well-known actors, like Tommy Lee Jones and Vincent Pastore, also joined the cast. By hiring these legendary talents, the filmmakers ensured that the actors filling each and every major role were perfect for the characters they were playing.
Again, casting may be an overlooked aspect of strong filmmaking, but it should not be. The characters are only words on a page until an actor brings them to life. Thus, finding the right actors is essential. Luckily, the team behind The Family was able to achieve this goal.