“Susie had a tremendous life force that always shone out beyond the physical,” writer/director Sasha Hadden (pictured above with Maizels) tells FilmInk. “She was a star and could always recognise a star out of a sea of novices. The best way to explain her process is that she cast the way an artist paints a picture, but using dynamics and chemistry instead of paint.”
When discussing the many creatives that band together to create a film (truly, the most collaborative of all art forms), the usual players are singled out: the director, the cast, the writer, the cinematographer, the composer, and even occasionally the editor. But despite the fact that one of the first things we notice about a film is who is in it, rarely, if ever, is the casting director singled out for praise. They team with the producers and director to find exactly the right people for the right roles, and this process can often make or break a film.
One of Australia’s most highly regarded casting directors was the late Susie Maizels, who sadly passed away earlier this week. Maizels began her film career in 1974, but really started to impact the local industry upon the establishment of her casting agency, Maizels and Associates, in 1977. Susie eventually cast a wide range of Australian films, including Lantana, Jindabyne, Oyster Farm, Dating The Enemy, Shame, Dad And Dave: On Our Selection, Bliss and BMX Bandits, on which she is widely credited for giving a fourteen-year-old Nicole Kidman one of her first major roles. Maizels also worked on many TV productions, including Poor Man’s Orange, The Harp In The South, The Potato Factory, All Saints, Fire, and Always Greener.
The final film that Susie Maizels worked on was Liebe, the feature debut from writer/director Sasha Hadden. “The film has come up pretty darn solid, and it’s exceeded all our expectations,” Hadden tells FilmInk. “That’s largely due to Susie’s casting and collaboration with her prodigy, Kathryn Courtney-Prior. Some of the actors’ agents were understandably sceptical about what we were trying to achieve, and there were moments when it looked like the project could fall apart. But no matter what the problem was, I could rely on Susie to sort things out in a single call. She had such grace and respect, and because it was never about business for her, it was entirely about community.”
Liebe follows 82-year-old woman, Liebe, who walks out on a fifty-year relationship with an abusive failed muso, and finds her passion for life reignited when she befriends a young Chinese fashion designer. With three highly unconventional leading roles, Maizels helped Hadden cast three amazing actors in veteran character actress, Maggie Blinco (Crocodile Dundee, Flirting, Alvin Purple), former Little River Band frontman and all-round Aussie icon (and only very occasional actor), Glenn Shorrock, and exciting newcomer, Hoa Xuande (Hungry Ghosts, Fighting Season, Top Of The Lake: China Girl). “Susie’s been an incredible collaborator, and a constant fan of mine since we met back in 2007,” Sasha Hadden tells FilmInk. “She’s been a true friend, and like an Auntie to my partner Tim and I. In our darkest moments, she made us laugh hysterically and helped us see that everything would be okay. I feel honoured to have made the final movie that Susie cast. And she was so happy with the result.”
And with its tale of warmth, compassion and surprise eleventh-hour friendship, Liebe looks like the perfect final movie for a woman who had such a vital effect on the lives of so many others in the Australian film industry. “We all believe that Liebe will have a positive impact on the world,” Hadden tells FilmInk. “And although it may be our last movie together on paper, perhaps Susie may lend a hand in many more to come. Because if anyone’s recruited into the high ranks of angels, it most certainly will be Susie Maizels.”
Liebe will be released in 2021. To read Anthony Buckley and Tim Read’s tribute to Susie Maizels, click here.