‘Dazed and Confused’ & ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’ Casting Director, ‘Melvin and Howard’ Producer Was 80 – Deadline

Casting director and producer Don Phillips who helped launch the careers of such actors as Sean Penn, Matthew McConaughey and Mary Steenburgen, handed away on Thanksgiving Day from pure causes. He would have turned 81 on Dec. 21.

Phillips acquired his first break when he landed an entry-level job within the casting division of filmmaker Otto Preminger’s 1971 film Such Good Friends. Impressed by Phillips, Preminger took an advert in Variety and Backstage to reward his work on the movie.

The acknowledgement led to Phillips getting employed to do extras casting on Sidney Lumet’s Serpico starring Al Pacino along with his job subsequently increasing to casting all the movie. Lumet then tapped him as casting director on his subsequent movie, Dog Day Afternoon, additionally starring Pacino. Phillips is credited with holding out for actor John Cazale to be cast reverse Pacino as Sal.

Phillips went on to cast the cult 1976 film Car Wash written by Joel Schumacher, and directed by Michael Schultz. Phillips additionally labored on the 1978 National Lampoon’s Animal House along with his casting companion Michael Chinich.

Phillips expanded into producing in 1974. His first film as a producer was Universal’s 1980 movie Melvin and Howard, for which Phillips employed then-little recognized filmmaker Jonathan Demme to direct the story a few small city man’s relationship with Howard Hughes (portrayed by Jason Robards). For the feminine lead, Phillips found actress Mary Steenburgen. The movie earned Best Screenplay Oscar for author Bo Goldman, and Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Steenburgen in addition to an Oscar nomination for Robards.

Phillips went on to cast the 1982 coming-of-age comedy, Fast Times At Ridgemont High, directed by Amy Heckerling from a screenplay by Cameron Crowe and produced by Art Linson. Phillips found the then-newcomer Sean Penn for the lead, Jeff Spicoli.

Story goes that, after Penn’s first audition didn’t go nicely, Phillips requested the younger actor to return again at the top of the day to present it one other attempt. Penn nailed the second audition and was employed on the spot. Phillips then helped assemble a cast that launched such actors as Jennifer Jason Leigh, Forest Whitaker, Phoebe Cates, Judge Reinhold, Nicolas Cage, and Eric Stoltz, in addition to Ray Walston as Mr. Hand.

Phillips befriended and lived for a time with playwright David Rabe befriended. Rabe wrote the dark-comedy play Hurlyburly, loosely based mostly on their personal experiences in Hollywood. It was staged on Broadway with William Hurt, Christopher Walken and Harvey Keitel starring, incomes a Tony nomination. Hurlyburly was later tailored into a movie starring Penn (who additionally did the position on stage at one time), Robin Wright, Garry Shandling, Meg Ryan, and Anna Paquin.

Phillips returned to producing with Penn’s directorial debut, The Indian Runner starring the then-unknown Viggo Mortensen (one other Phillips discovery, and later shut pal), David Morse, Patricia Arquette, Charles Bronson, and Valera Golino.

Phillips then labored with Richard Linklater as casting director on the enduring Dazed and Confused for which he met unknown actor Matthew McConaughey in an Austin bar, and cast him as Wooderson.

Phillips is also credited with discovering and casting such actors of their first main roles as Rory Cochrane, Ben Affleck, Cole Hauser, Renee Zelwegger, Milla Jovovich, Anthony Rapp, Parker Posey and Nicky Katt.

He labored with director Kevin Smith on Mallrats, which starred Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams, Stan Lee, Claire Forlani, Shannen Doherty amongst others. Phillips additionally cast the Penn-directed The Crossing Guard with Jack Nicholson, Anjelica Huston, Robin Wright, David Morse and Robbie Robertson.

In 1997, Phillips labored with director David Fincher on his movie, The Game starring Michael Douglas and Sean Penn for Steve Golin producing.

Phillips reunited to work with director Linklater on The Newton Boys, headlined by McConaughey and Ethan Hawke. In 2000, Phillips re-teamed with old-friend Linson on Sunset Strip starring Rory Cochrane, Simon Baker, Anna Friel, and Tommy Flanagan. Phillips additionally returned to work with Penn on The Pledge which starred Nicholson, Benicio Del Toro, Patricia Clarkson and Aaron Eckhart.

In latest years, Phillips was growing a characteristic movie Open Heart to be directed by Edoardo Ponti (The Life Ahead, which starred his mom, Sophia Loren). It relies on the true life story of Michael Debakey and Denton Cooley who carried out the primary synthetic coronary heart transplant. Phillips’ real-life nephew Dr. Chris Allison, an orthopedic oncology surgeon, was additionally concerned with growing the screenplay.

Phillips was preceded in demise by his spouse, make-up artist (*80*) Pearl (Tootsie, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Miss Congeniality).

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