Gone are the days when studios signed actors to long-term contracts. Casting a film now starts as soon as the “greenlight” is given by a studio because most of the other phases of production revolve around the lead actors. Sometimes, a lead actor is already attached to a project and has approval over his or her co-leads. Once the leads are set, the other actors are cast.
The casting director is responsible for organizing auditions, making casting suggestions and providing the director with names and headshots of potential actors for each role. Managers and agents often call the casting director to get their clients in the door. Well-known actors often meet with the director rather than audition. Some directors make every actor audition and read the “sides,” or selected scenes from the script.
On a typical day of casting, the director and casting director sit through hours of auditions. Each actor is videotaped for later reference. The casting process begins with the larger roles and continues with supporting and smaller roles. Once all roles are cast, the casting director and producers negotiate the actors’ contracts with their agents and managers, taking into account everything from salary and credit placement to trailer size, choice of hairstylists, and personal trainers.

Hundreds line up for a casting call in 1920 on the lot, then Goldwyn Studios.

Screen siren Rita Hayworth became a star while under contract at Columbia Pictures.