June 20, 2010

Auditions for Everybody Loves Whales

Auditions begin in Anchorage for Barrow whale movie

'X' marks the spot for star-struck tryouts

By Kyle Hopkins
Auditions have begun for "Everybody Loves Whales," the upcoming Universal Pictures movie that begins filming in Anchorage and Barrow this fall. With an estimated budget of $30 million and Drew Barrymore and John Krasinski set to star, the movie tells a dramatized story of the 1988 attempt to rescue three gray whales trapped in sea ice near Barrow.

News of the project--and filmmakers' plans to cast dozens of Alaskans in speaking roles, if possible--have stirred Hollywood dreams in would-be actors across the state and beyond. More than 1,000 people have e-mailed or called in hopes of winning speaking parts or extras work, said Deborah Schildt, one of two Alaska casting directors.
Here's how you find Inupiaq actors. Hint to M. Night Shyamalan: It's not by publishing an open casting call in the Hollywood trades:The auditions move to Barrow next weekend, in time for the spring whaling festival, Nalukataq. After that it's Western Alaska, then off to Fairbanks for the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics in late July. Multiple auditions are planned for Anchorage, Schildt said, with the filmmakers looking to cast Russian-speaking sailors, a helicopter pilot who can actually fly a helicopter, cameramen and restaurant workers, and an army of extras.

On Friday, Schildt saw about 20 kids for the role of an Inupiaq boy, about 10 to 13 years old. Two children arrived from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta village of Chevak. One from Bethel. On Sunday, the casting directors were looking mostly at an Alaska Native elder and whaling captain roles.
A small example of why authenticity matters:Steve MacLean said he's hoping the moviemakers do their homework and do right by Inupiaq culture in the movie.

"There are some things that were not exactly right in some of the lines that were given. Some misperceptions of some small details," he said after the audition.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Preview of Everybody Loves Whales and The Best Indian Movies.

Below:  "Teddy Smith auditioned Sunday, June 20, 2010, for a part in the movie Everybody Loves Whales, set to start filming this fall in Alaska." (Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News)

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