CAMPAIGN CRAFT: PROFILE; Lively casting director who put Kamen into Levi’s

Ros Hubbard will cast just about anything you care to ask, Jim Davies discovers

Ros Hubbard will cast just about anything you care to ask, Jim Davies


When asked to recall the strangest piece of casting she’s undertaken,

Ros Hubbard doesn’t hesitate. ‘It has to be a French underwear

commercial from a few years ago,’ she says. ‘We were asked to cast a

penis and two testicles, which involved finding a pair of dwarfs and a

seven-foot man.’

Hubbard has been in the casting business for more than 20 years. With

her husband, John, a former agency creative director, she runs Hubbard

Casting from a bustling first-floor office in Soho.

Their eight-strong team includes their son, Daniel, and there is also a

smaller outpost in her home town of Dublin. If there was such a thing as

a typical week, she estimates they’d be working on three feature films,

one television project and up to ten commercials. ‘We’re the busiest

casting agency in the world,’ she claims. ‘And that includes Hollywood.’

In advertising, the singular art of casting is finally receiving the

recognition it deserves. This year, for the first time, the British

Television Advertising Craft Awards pays homage to ‘backroom’ skills,

including editing, costume, stunts and model-making. Casting is up there

with the best of them, and rightly so. ‘Agency people have a firmer

grasp of how important it is,’ Hubbard says. ‘It’s high on the list of

priorities. Creatives realise it can make or break a commercial.’ Of

course, Hubbard, the self-styled queen of casting, has pride of place on

the inaugural judging panel.

Lively and opinionated, she started out in a modelling agency in Dublin

and, after a spell at J. Walter Thompson in New York, returned to

Ireland to launch her own business, called Set Ups. It looked after

American and English production companies coming into Dublin, helping

out with crews, logistics and, increasingly, casting. She met husband

John, moved to England, did PR for the British Menswear Guild and

started a family.

One Christmas, John, then the creative director of the Creative Agency,

was trying to put together a quick turnaround Woman’s Own commercial.

All the casting agencies had shut for the holidays, so in desperation he

turned to Ros. ‘The director, Mick Messenger, continued using me, and

word soon got around,’ she says.

By the 80s, she was a name to be reckoned with and consolidated her

success by casting the first four Levi’s 501s ads for Bartle Bogle

Hegarty. So this is the woman we have to thank for Nick Kamen - not to

mention the resurgence of boxer shorts. But what did Kamen have that the

other young bucks were lacking?

‘Sheer sexuality. A kind of animal magnetism. All the girls, and the

boys for that matter, seemed to be drawn to him.’

A current winner Hubbard had a hand in is Peter Richardson’s Nissan

Almera ad, the spot-on spoof of the 70s cop series, the Professionals.

Hubbard’s feature film credits are impressive, too, with Alan Parker’s

the Commitments probably the pick of the bunch, because it famously

involved an ‘open casting’ - that is, finding a troupe of ‘real’ people

rather than professional actors. Her growing list of movie projects has

included disparate fare such as Heavenly Creatures, Far and Away and

James and the Giant Peach. Most recently, she’s been helping out her old

mucker, Alan Parker, on Evita, though she will take no responsibility

for discovering Madonna.

TV work has included Father Ted, Bugs and Sharpe. ‘The film work opens a

lot of doors with agents and actors,’ Hubbard says. ‘But you find most

of the fresh, exciting faces in commercials.’

So what qualities do you need to succeed in the casting business? ‘You

can’t be taught the gift,’ she says. ‘God gives you that. But you need a

good memory. Even if you can’t remember their names you need to remember

something about them. You also need an open mind - even if you hate an

actor, you bring them in because they are right for the part.’

Does that mean you need to bite your tongue a lot? ‘I try, but I never

succeed,’ Hubbard laughs.


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