The man had a nose for talent that just could not miss. Legendary casting director Mike Fenton – the perceptive detective of talent that helped cast such iconic films as The Godfather Part Two, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Back to the Future – has shuffled off the Hollywood stage at the age of 85, according to our friends over at The Hollywood Reporter.
The man who would one day go on to cast E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial was born as Ronald Michael Fenton and slipped his toes into the hot waters of Hollywood as a mailroom clerk at the renowned Music Corporation of America before becoming an agent at the Lew Wasserman firm. From there it was but a short step into casting, first for some overnight flash-in-the-pan called Paramount and then on to casting for none other than Danny Thomas and Sheldon Leonard’s T&L Productions. It was at the latter where Fenton began to assemble the faces and voices that informed my – and many other’s – youth and colored how I viewed the world with such downhome and folksy casting for classic shows such as The Andy Griffith Show, Gomer Pyle: USMC and the more urbane – in comparison to Andy and the gang, at least – The Dick Van Dyke Show, That Girl, and I Spy.
But it’s really through the worldwide magic of the cinema that Mr. Fenton will most likely be remembered: The man populated and stacked iconic casts for the abovementioned classic films as well as other loved gems such as Aliens, Blade Runner, Chaplin, The ‘Burbs (a sentimental fave of mine), Dream a Little Dream (ditto for this Two Corey’s bonanza), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Toy Story.
Hollywood heaped praise on Fenton as the news came in about his passing, with early supporter Steven Spielberg perhaps most eloquently summing up what made Mike Fenton so very unique and special: “Working with Mike Fenton was like working in a candy store – he made casting a blast. His fervent support of actors was the stuff of legend, and after landing a part, any actor’s smile was rarely as wide as Mike’s. He didn’t just support actors, he launched crusades. And he was a pretty good actor himself, as he would always read off-camera dialogue to create energy and mojo for the person reading for the part. Much like the actors for whom he advocated, Mike loved his role – and those around him loved him so much, and I will miss him dearly.”