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‘E.T.’ casting director Mike Fenton dies at 85

A scene from 'E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.' The film's casting director, Mike Fenton, recently died at age 85.
(Margaret Herrick Library)

Casting director Mike Fenton, who in a more than 40-year-career worked on projects ranging from “The Andy Griffith Show” to movies including “The Godfather Part II” and “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” died Wednesday, Dec. 30, at age 85.

The news was confirmed to The Times by Fenton’s son, Mick, who said Fenton died at his home in Los Angeles from natural causes.

Casting director Mike Fenton, known for his work on films such as "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" has died at age 85.
Casting director Mike Fenton, known for his work on films such as “The Godfather Part II” and “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” has died at age 85.
(courtesy of Casting Society of America)

Steven Spielberg worked with Fenton on numerous projects dating back to Spielberg’s first theatrical feature, “The Sugarland Express” in 1974. In a statement, Spielberg said, “Working with Mike Fenton was like working in a candy store — he made casting a blast. 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 support actors, he launched crusades.”

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Spielberg added, “Much like the actors for whom he advocated, Mike loved his role — and those around him loved him so much.”

A native of Los Angeles, Fenton had hundreds of credits and worked on dozens and dozens of films that would come to be regarded as contemporary classics, including “Chinatown,” “American Graffiti,” “Blade Runner,” “Breaking Away,” “Norma Rae,” “Footloose,” “A Christmas Story,” “The Bad News Bears,” “Shampoo,” “Young Frankenstein,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Slap Shot,” “Poltergeist,” “Aliens,” “Beaches,” “Total Recall,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and two sequels, and the “Back to the Future” trilogy.

Director Joe Dante also paid tribute to Fenton on social media, having worked with him on “Innerspace,” “The Burbs” and other projects. “One of the best casting directors in the business,” Dante wrote. “I never met anyone who loved their work more.”

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In 1982, Fenton co-founded the American Society of Casting Directors, which would become the Casting Society of America. He was an 11-time nominee for the CSA’s Artios awards, winning twice. In 1989 he received the CSA’s Hoyt Bowers Award for outstanding contributions to the casting profession.

In a statement, current CSA co-presidents Russell Boast and Rich Mento said, “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 define his legacy in the entertainment industry.”


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