Amanda Mackey, the casting director behind such films as Best Picture Oscar nominee The Fugitive and A League of Their Own and who earned an Emmy nom for The Normal Heart during a nearly four-decade career, has died. She was 70.
Her longtime friend and business partner Cathy Sandrich Gelfond told Deadline that Mackey died August 27 in her sleep of myelodysplastic syndrome, a form of blood cancer, at Calvary Hospital in Brooklyn.
“Amanda was a singular force — fiercely intelligent, impeccably stylish, wildly passionate about ideas, the state of the world and her work,” Sandrich Gelfond told Deadline. “She loved her daughters profoundly and was an unwaveringly steadfast friend and champion in a time when women weren’t as supportive to other women as they are now. She believed in me, lifted me up and gave me a career. She was the sister I never had and changed my life in countless ways. The world’s light is significantly dimmer without her in it.”
The Casting Society honored Mackey with Artios Awards for the films A League of Their Own (1993) and Smokin’ Aces (2006) among 15 career nominations. Her long list of credits as casting director also includes such popular films as Bad Moms and its sequel, Olympus Has Fallen, United 93, We Were Soldiers, Get Carter, Ronin, The Hunt for Red October, Sleepy Hollow, The Proposal, The Cooler While You Were Sleeping, Patriot Games, The Fugitive sequel U.S. Marshals, Star Trek: Nemesis and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Rocky IV.
“We are heartbroken to hear about the passing of Casting Director Amanda Mackey,” the Casting Society said in a statement. “She was an inspiration to many in our field, and everyone at CSA sends our condolences to her family and friends.”
Mackey cast and also executive produced A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, which won the Special Jury Prize for Ensemble Cast in a Drama at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival.
She also cast such TV series including A Million Little Things, Claws, Hell on Wheels, Magic City, Hell on Wheels, Low Winter Sun and Memphis Beat and was featured in the 2012 documentary Casting By.
Mackey cast five films for director Andy Davis, from The Fugitive to Holes. “Amanda was a total professional — committed to her craft, spending time in the large and small theaters of New York finding up-and-coming talent ahead of anyone,” he told Deadline. “Amanda knew who the pros were, known and unknown. For a director, casting is everything. Amanda and Cathy gave you choices which inspired new ways of looking at characters and ways of telling your story. Her body of work in film and television was huge.”
Among the up-and-comers she cast in Davis’ films were the team of marshals surrounding Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive including Julianne Moore, Sela Ward and L. Scott Caldwell; Chain Reaction‘s Rachel Weisz and Brian Cox; A Perfect Murder‘s David Suchet and Sarita Choudhry; and Holes‘ Shia LaBeouf, Tim Blake Nelson and Dulé Hill.
Born on September 22, 1951, in New York City and raised there, Mackey was fascinated with acting, theater and film from a young age. Her love of foreign film led her to spend a semester at the Sorbonne, where she discovered a love of character-driven stories that favored brave, unconventional performances.
She started in showbiz as an agent at J. Michael Bloom but quickly was drawn away to pursue a career in casting with the legendary Marion Dougherty, a future Casting Society Hoyt Bowers Award recipient for career achievement. Mackey worked in New York for a time and moved to Los Angeles in 1985, where she would stay for 10 years. During that time, she and her Sandrich Gelfond built the Mackey Sandrich Casting Company. Mackey moved back to Manhattan in 1996, and Mackey Sandrich casting became the first independent bicoastal casting company.
“Those who knew her will agree, Amanda Mackey was one of a kind,” her daughters Nicola Mackey Johnson and Emma Sophia Johnson told Deadline. “Our mother was beautiful, powerful and always stood up for what she believed in. She was terrified of public speaking but could level you with her eyes. She was dynamic and so much fun to be around. She made us the women we are today. She taught us to be strong feminists and truth seekers. We will miss her every second of every day for the rest of our lives, but we will carry her wise voice and love in our hearts forever.
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