Mycroft Holmes and Princess Margaret herself (sort of) headed up those who came out in support of the launch of the inaugural Casting Directors’ Guild Awards 2019 at a star-studded Soho bash last night. 

Last night the very first of the CDG Casting Awards was announced at a glitzy reception in Soho, the London home of the film and television industry. The awards were introduced by Andy Pryor, the casting director responsible for casting cult classic Trainspotting (and arguably Ewan McGregor’s career), comedy staple I’m Alan Partridge, and BBC dramas such as Call the Midwife and Dr Foster. 

Cast your mind back to last year. When Jodie Whittaker was announced as the first woman to portray the BBC’s indefatigably successful Dr Who, she caused a nationwide debate about gender equality. Also at the event, David Gyasi (Interstellar, Cloud Atlas, The Dark Knight Rises) was cast as Achiles in the new Netflix series, Troy, portrayed by Brad Pitt over a decade ago in the film of the same name. He is proud to be the first black man to have ever been cast in the role.

David Gyasi CDG Awards

David Gyasi will be the first black man to portray Achilles in Netflix’s Troy. Photo: Scarlet Page.

Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), Johnny Depp (Fantastic Beasts), Finn Whitehead (Dunkirk), Harry Styles for Bond…please, we beg of you, no; these were some of the last year’s biggest and most controversial headlines, and contributed immeasurably to the year on stage and screen. Indeed, Sherlock creator himself, Mark Gatiss, jovially referred to his jealousy of the “overnight star” Sherlock had made of his on-screen brother, Benedict Cumberbatch. Also speaking at the event was Jade Anouka, who will star in upcoming ITV series, Trauma, next month alongside Adrian Lester (who would make a far better James Bond).

It’s strange, then, that there’s no Oscar, no BAFTA and no RTS award for casting, and the same lack of recognition in the theatre world. Speaking to Miro Magazine, writer, actor, director and all round creator, Mark Gatiss (Sherlock, The League of Gentlemen, Game of Thrones) said: “There’s a huge omission for one of the most important things for the whole industry. It’s slowly changing but it is an extraordinary gap.”

Gatiss was unable to count the number of times he himself has gone into a casting and come out feeling disappointed. “There’s the traditional short walk away. The short walk to the lift where you can get a very quick idea of how well it’s gone,” he recollected. “The old cliche is that the jobs you don’t want are the ones you get offered straight away, and the ones you really want you don’t get anywhere near.”

Gatiss is unusual in that he’s also had his fair share of time spent on the other side of the camera when doing his own castings.” What you want is someone to walk in the room and solve your problem. I find that hugely beneficial as an actor thinking they’re not out to get you. They want you to be the one.”

Mark Gatiss Andy Pryor

Andy Pryor and Mark Gatiss introduced the awards in Soho on 24th January. Photo: Scarlet Page.

In response to the lack of attention given to the work done by casting directors and their teams, the Casting Directors’ Guild have established their own awards, to recognise and champion casting talent in the industry, without which filming on day one would not even get the green light. Announcing the awards, Vanessa Kirby (The Crown, Great Expectations, About Time) paid her respects to the people who had given her career the leg up she so desperately wanted. “I owe so much of my career to some of the amazing people in the room and they are the unsung heroes of the industry…They are the ones that believe in you the earliest and nurture you right from the beginning,” she said.

Kirby gained widespread acclaim for her portrayal of Princess Margaret in Netflix’s hit series The Crown, recalled the day she got the call: “I ran around, I was on set at the time and I just got this call and was running around the courtyard screaming ‘fuck, fuck, fuck’!”

She pledged her support for a new category at major awards ceremonies in future: “I can’t believe there’s not one now. It’s so mad. Casting is the beginning of every single project, and they lead it. I think it’s absurd; I hope that this is the beginning,” she added. Speaking to the crowd, she added:  “Nine times out of 10 its been your belief in me that’s got me the job. In my lowest moments it’s been that belief, your belief, that’s made me keep going.”

We’re undeniably glad that she has. Kirby’s next project is is Miss Julie at the National Theatre. “It’s a part that I’ve always wanted to do,” she said to Miro. “It’s one of those parts that as an actor you always dream of. There’s definitely some Margaret qualities to her that I’m really excited to find.”

Vanessa Kirby The Crown Netflix

Vanessa Kirby gained widespread critical acclaim for her portrayal of Princess Margaret in The Crown. Photo: Scarlet Page.

And of her previous casting horrors? “Too many to count,” she reminisced. As for Mark Gatiss, having played many a monster on BBC’s Dr Who, he looks forward to the day when he gets his next call up. “Jeremy Hunt, UKIP leader Henry Bolton, General Assad; these are just some of the people I could play,” he quipped.

The inaugural CGD Casting Awards will take place in early 2019 and will recognise casting talent in the fields of TV, Film, Theatre and Commercials. The event was sponsored by Spotlight.