Almost all characters in films necessitate actors who have certain features before makeup and costumes fill in the gaps. The role of James Bond, for instance, necessarily calls for a tall, handsome and athletic actor.

How do filmmakers avoid offending actors when they cast them (or seek to cast them) in a role where the character requires certain traits which may be considered undesirable, such as being overweight/unattractive/old etc.

One example that comes to mind is e4's 'My Mad Fat Diary' - how on earth would you cast that role in a tactful way?

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    When casting ugly models, you contact the Ugly Models Agency. Why should movie casting be any different?
    – user7812
    Mar 10, 2016 at 17:23
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    Who says they are tactful about it?
    – sanpaco
    Mar 10, 2016 at 19:35
  • I think what the comments and the very good answer are getting at is, "they don't avoid offending people". Maybe one would avoid offending someone like Cathy Bates, and at the same time she's certainly had enough success and experience to know that if they are considering her for a part, then they either want someone overweight or the weight of the character doesn't matter. I expect 99% of the time everything matters, or at least is believed to matter, so Cathy Bates is probably marketing herself for roles fitting her body type and wouldn't be offended in any case, as per Catija's answer. Mar 13, 2016 at 5:45
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    @sanpaco - People working in the movie business are well known for their tact and decorum
    – user7812
    Mar 15, 2016 at 11:11

1 Answer 1


The answer is "actors want work". They're also somewhat realistic about recognizing how they're marketed... if an actor is overweight... they're going to get cast in a lot of roles for "overweight people" and very few roles for "normal people".

Similarly, if someone has a "character face", they know that they have a non-traditionally beautiful look and they embrace it rather than trying to only take on roles for "beautiful people".

When a casting director needs to cast people with unusual looks the casting call goes out with a character description to all of the agencies in the area and the agencies submit their talent for the roles... so, if anything, it's on the agent's head for submitting their talent for an "ugly character" role. If offered an audition, the talent can always opt to back out (though it's not good policy to refuse auditions).

If it's an open casting, the talent will submit themselves, so they've already decided they're OK with the fact the character is "unusual", so they're not going to be offended if they get the role for being the fattest or most unique-looking. They're going to be happy they've been cast in a project and they're getting a great payday for it.

These roles are not common because, Hollywood particularly, likes "pretty", "healthy" people. Certain directors look for more unique looks (Terrence Malick, for example casts a lot of character faces in the minor roles in his films... he loves gritty, hard-worn looks) but, in general, they look for people that someone will want to watch for two hours (or several years, for a TV show). So these actors with that non-"standard" look will jump at the opportunity to finally have a role they can fit into... particularly if it's a good role and not just a role that makes fun of the fact that they're fat or ugly.

The reality is, if an actor can't be comfortable with their look, they either change it through diet/exercise or surgery... or they don't work in the industry for very long because they will never be satisfied with the roles they're offered.

Don't forget, makeup (or lack thereof) does a lot to make someone look "ugly" in our era that delights in perfect skin... so, in some cases, being "ugly" isn't inherent to the talent, it's all about how their makeup is done.

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