Casting Johnny Suede

August 15, 2023
I met over 200 actors to play the part of Johnny Suede.
For some reason, most of the guys who auditioned thought Johnny was The Fonz from Happy Days and even brought in his accent. After finding no one in New York, my casting director Marcia Shulman, and I flew out to LA.
We stayed in a cheap motel on Highland; one room for me, one for Marcia, and one to hold the auditions in. Marcia introduced me to some fantastic actors, including Catherine Keener, Dermot Mulroney, Danielle Von Zerneck, and 16-year-old Juliette Lewis. I will never forget looking out the window one morning and seeing Tina Louise waiting by the empty pool, dressed in a black mini-skirt and twirling a leopard-print umbrella.
But we still couldn’t find anyone to play Johnny. After another grueling day of Fonzis, Marcia handed me a photo and said, “He’s only got a Canadian TV series and one film, but I thought you should see him.” And then she brought in someone named Brad Pitt.
He wore a tan, fringed suede coat, none too clean, and a pair of cowboy boots. When he started the audition, he had no accent. Just his own voice, clear and simple. He was the first actor to know intuitively that beneath Johnny’s bravado lay a deep foolishness, fear, and vulnerability. He was absolutely amazing to watch.
At that moment, I was certain of two things; I’d found Johnny Suede, and this young man was going to be a star. To my astonishment, my financier refused to let me cast him. He said, “This kid is a nobody, going nowhere.”
So, I did the only thing I could think of. I walked away from the money, which had taken me four years to raise. Someone was smiling on me, I guess, because I found another financier over the weekend. She said I could cast anyone I wanted.
And so I did.
Learn more about Johnny Suede here.

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Independent Filmmaker & Musician