Barry Levinson's leap of faith

March 27, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

HOLLYWOOD -- "If you cast wrong, it's not an easy day," said director Barry Levinson, who with Oliver Stone and Barbra Streisand addressed a recent Directors Guild of America seminar. During the course of the 2 1/2 -hour discussion, Mr. Levinson shared some of the agonizing that went into casting Oscar nominees for "Bugsy."

Mr. Levinson said that he was "amazed" at the number of people who turned down various roles in "Bugsy." The part of gangster Meyer Lansky, in fact -- for which Ben Kingsley received a best supporting actor Oscar nomination -- wasn't filled until a week before the shoot.

"I knew that Kingsley was a brilliant actor," Mr. Levinson recalls. "But could this guy ... Gandhi ... play a New York Jew? It took a leap of faith to believe he could deliver the accent and the character."

The Academy Awards show will be broadcast Monday night.

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