Dianne Crittenden, ‘Star Wars’ Casting Director, Dies at 82

Dianne Crittenden, the veteran casting director who helped assemble the cast for the first “Star Wars” film as well as movies by Terrence Malick, Peter Weir and Sam Raimi, has died at the age of 82 after multiple battles with cancer, according to media reports.

Crittenden said in a 2019 interview with Empire that she and the casting team for “Star Wars” saw auditions from over 3,500 actors for George Lucas’ iconic film before settling on the legendary trio of Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher to play Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Leia Organa.

“George’s feeling was that it was the technology and the story that people were going to see. They were the stars of the film, rather than the actors. So we saw everybody,” Crittenden said. “Anyone even vaguely in the right age-group came in to see us. I always said that anyone who had an agent and didn’t come in to see us should get a new agent.”

Crittenden recalled that several actors that auditioned for “Star Wars,” including Sissy Spacek, John Travolta and Amy Irving, auditioned for those top roles. But all three of those actors were picked up by Brian De Palma for his famous adaptation of Stephen King’s “Carrie.”

“Every time somebody came in that George liked, Brian would say, ‘No, I need them,'” she said. “I got quite upset by that, that Brian took the people who I thought were the better people at that time. But he just said, ‘That’s alright. Brian’s a good guy, he can have them.'”

While Crittenden said that she remembered how charming and “quirky” Carrie Fisher was in her audition for Leia, she did not remember much from Mark Hamill’s audition for Luke.

“I don’t want to say it in a way that’s unflattering, but there was something that was maybe a little bleaker about Mark that George felt would make him more the farmer who was in over his head. He just didn’t want anyone who he felt was a real survivor and would figure it all out,” she said.

“Star Wars” was one of the earlier projects in Crittenden’s career. A Queens native and graduate of Hofstra University, she got her start in showbiz in the 1970s after previously working as an elementary school teacher, working with director Howard Zieff on commercials as well as films like the 1975 movie “Hearts of the West” starring Jeff Bridges, Andy Griffith and Donald Pleasence.

In the 80s, Crittenden served as the head of casting at Warner Bros.. Following that, she would go on to work on films such as Peter Weir’s “Witness,” Leonard Nimoy’s “Three Men and a Baby,” and Martin Ritt’s “Murphy’s Romance.”

Other famous films that Crittenden cast include Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man 2” and Terrence Malick’s “The Thin Red Line” and “Days of Heaven.”

Crittenden is survived by her brother, Donald Derfner; her sister, Dori Carter; her stepdaughter, Jennifer Crittenden; her sister-in-law, Brenda Derfner; her brother-in-law Chris Carter; five nephews; four grandnephews and one grandniece. Her husband, George Drabek, died in 2023.

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