Film actress and producer Ngô Thanh Vân (second left) is organising casting for the film Thanh Sói (Pain Changes People). Photo thegioidienanh.vn
The Vietnamese film industry is currently enjoying a boom of development, with an increase in the number of large scale and arthouse projects.
Last year alone, more than 40 movies were released, among which Hai Phựơng (Furie) starring Ngô Thanh Vân marked the first time a Vietnamese film grossed more than VNĐ200 billion in revenue.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, at least 15 films were scheduled for release this year, though that may change with cinemas having to shut. Bí Mật Của Gió (The Secret of Wind) has already had its release delayed.
On top of that, the industry faces a serious shortage of versatile actors as many casting candidates are young and inexperienced and lack the skills for film.
Directors and producers are looking for those who not only act well and look good but have elusive talent.
“Most Vietnamese actors and actresses presently lack many supplementary skills which can help them act in different roles,” Vân, who is also a producer, recently was quoted by Thanh Niên (Young People) newspaper as saying.
Vân found this out when looking for a new actress to play a female character for the film Thanh Sói (Pain Changes People).
“I agreed with senior acting generations' comment about the young that they (young actors and actress) are now 'lazy and not devoted' and lack the ability to suffer from pain and hardship during acting,” said Vân.
She said during casting, some of the young candidates came in with too graceful and gentle appearance not suited for the action movie role that was on offer.
“Some of them even wore high heels and smart dresses,” Vân said.
Such candidates were surely not passionate enough to perform the gruelling work needed to shoot an action film, she said.
Film director and producer Nguyễn Quang Dũng had the same opinion.
Dũng said in addition to acting, actors need other skills to adapt to many different types of roles.
However, he complained that few young actors could drive, play the piano, perform martial arts or dance and sing at the same time, forcing producers to find stunt doubles or waste time training actors.
“Previously, I cut the roles of some famous hot girls, hot boys, beauty pageant winners and supermodels. They are famous only because they are beautiful but don't have good character or behaviour. Some of them even don't know any acting skills,” Dũng was quoted by the newspaper as saying.
The director added that if an actor took the role of a painter or a singer, they should know about painting, singing and dancing.
“Young actors should possess such skills before taking a role if they want to follow the acting career in the long-term,” the director said.
Em và Trịnh (Me and Trịnh), a film directed by Phan Gia Nhật Linh about the life of well-known musician Trịnh Công Sơn, is the product of Thiên Ngân – Galaxy and producer Nguyễn Quang Dũng.
After nearly a month of casting in Hà Nội, HCM City and Huế, director Phan Gia Nhật Linh and the casting board could not find the right actors.
“The team are now still carefully analysing candidates’ dossiers but none have been found meeting the requirements,” Linh said.
Two male actors are set to play the role of Trịnh Công Sơn between 19 and 45 years old. They both need to be able to speak with a Huế accent, as well as sing and play the guitar. Knowing French is an advantage.
The crew is also looking for up to five actresses to play different roles of muses throughout Sơn’s life, including a Japanese girl in her 30s who can sing, play guitar, speak Vietnamese and Japanese or French.
The director said for the main character of Trịnh Công Sơn, the crew wanted to find actors who could convey the spirit of the music icon.
“In addition to some skills such as playing musical instruments, singing and painting, the actors should act romantic and gentle with a caring manner in both life and art,” Linh said.
Facing the same situation, a film project celebrating the 200th death anniversary of great poet Nguyễn Du directed by Mai Thu Huyền has just opened the third casting in Huế after being held in HCM City and Hà Nội last December.
The film producer said the crew had not found good actors for the film as yet.
To play the character of Thúy Kiều, the crew said they could not find because “people with good looks don't know more about the skills for the role such as playing musical instruments, playing chess, writing poems and vice versa".
The film also demands male actors to be able to act in action scenes, according to the producer.
There is also fierce competition for roles in movies nowadays, with the casting for the film Mắt Biếc (Blue Eye).
From a total of 1,500 candidates, the crew had to whittle down to 200 for three rounds of testing different skills.
The crew revealed they sometimes struggled during casting because the director's requests were too difficult for the candidates.
Director Victor Vũ wanted to find an actor who looked like a teenage with the old-style beauty of about half a century ago, both romantic and innocent but new and special.
Vũ required the actor be a new and pure Vietnamese face, able to sing and act in such a way that he could create a complex inner spiritual world at the age of rebellion in the Vietnamese educated society during the 1970s.
Khánh Vân, the young actress who was chosen for the role of Trà Long in Mắt Biếc, said she won the role because she focused on her natural acting while she was requested to sing.
“The director asked me to sing. I knew I didn't sing well but when I tried, I kept singing passionately and as loud as I could. I was finally accepted, maybe the director found I was too carefree, not shy and natural, very suitable to the innocent character of Trà Long,” Vân said. VNS