Mike Fenton, Famed Casting Director on ‘Back to the Future,’ ‘E.T.’ and Many Other Movies, Dies at 85

Mike Fenton, the legendary casting director who worked on the “Back to the Future” franchise, “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and scores of other classic movies and TV shows, has died. He was 85.

Fenton co-founded what is now known as Casting Society of America in 1982. He was a prominent casting director for more than 40 years, with a mile-long resume that stretched from “The Andy Griffith Show” and “That Girl” to “Chinatown,” “American Graffiti,” “The Godfather II,” “Blade Runner,” “Norma Rae,” “Footloose” and “Honeymoon in Vegas.”

“Working with Mike Fenton was like working in a candy store — he made casting a blast,” Steven Spielberg said in a statement. “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.”

Casting Society of America co-presidents Russell Boast and Rich Mento hailed the organization’s co-founder as a leader in the industry who advanced the standing of casting as a discipline.

“Casting Society of America is saddened about the death of co-founder Mike Fenton. His remarkable accomplishments and his incredible work in elevating the awareness and appreciation of the craft of casting defines his legacy in the entertainment industry. CSA extends its love and support to his cherished family and friends,” Boast and Mento said in a statement.

Fenton attended USC with the intention of becoming a cinematographer. But after graduating in 1956, he wound up working as an agent, first for Lew Wasserman’s MCA and then at Ashley-Steiner. He joined the staff of Paramount Pictures in 1963 but left two years later to become head of casting for T&L Productions, the outfit behind the groundbreaking 1960s NBC drama series “I Spy.”

By the early 1970s he was working on some of the most popular and most cutting-edge movies in Hollywood. In a 1990 profile, Fenton told Utah’s Deseret News, “I’ve been fortunate to work with some of the greatest directors in the history of this business.”

More to come

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