Lynn Stalmaster, the first casting director to receive an Academy Award, has died at his home in Los Angeles at the age of 93.
Stalmaster’s death Friday was confirmed by Laura Adler of the Casting Society of America.
“Lynn Stalmaster launched the careers of Jeff Bridges and Christopher Reeve. He cast `The Graduate’ and `West Side Story.’ A trailblazer, in 2016, he became the first casting director to receive an Honorary Oscar, a testament to his impact on the industry. He will be missed,” the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences tweeted.
Stalmaster was born on Nov. 17, 1927, in Omaha, Nebraska. His family later moved to Los Angeles and he attended Beverly Hills High School and UCLA, where he earned a master’s in theater arts.
His family moved to the Beverly Hills area when he was a child to help his severe asthma.
Early in his career, Stalmaster acted in such films as “The Steel Helmet” in 1951 and “Flying Leathernecks,” also in 1951, starring John Wayne.
He returned to UCLA for a master’s degree and wound up working as a production assistant to TV producers Grosse-Krasne, which set him on the path to a casting career.
He has more than 400 casting credits, among them such classics as “Inherit the Wind” (1960), “The Great Escape” (1963), “In the Heat of the Night” (1967), “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” (1969), “Harold and Maude” (1971), “Jeremiah Johnson” (1972) and “Tootsie” (1982).
In 1968, Stalmaster became the first casting director to receive a single-card credit on Norman Jewison’s film “The Thomas Crown Affair,” starring Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway.
He is credited with helping to discover or break such major stars as William Shatner, Dustin Hoffman, Jeff Bridges and John Travolta.
Working on director John Boorman’s 1972 classic, “Deliverance,” Stalmaster not only recommended an unknown Ned Beatty for one of the film’s starring roles, he found Georgia local Billy Redden to portray the young man who plays the banjo in a scene that became iconic.
He also suggested LeVar Burton, who was studying at USC, play Kunta Kinte in the landmark 1977 ABC miniseries, “Roots.”
Stalmaster received the Casting Society of America’s Career Achievement Award in 2003.
The November 2016 Governors Awards saw Stalmaster become the first casting director to receive an Academy Award. The honorary Oscar recognized his long and meritorious career.