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Mary Selway, casting chief for a host of Hollywood films

LOS ANGELES -- Mary Selway -- the British casting agent whose transatlantic career led her to cast some of the most successful films of her time, including "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi," "Gosford Park" and "Out of Africa," as well as "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," which she helped to cast -- died April 21 in London, where she lived. She was 68 and had been ill with cancer, according to the London Guardian.

She worked steadily until the end of her life, most recently on "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," the fourth installment in the series, which is scheduled for release next year. Despite the demands of her illness, she never seemed to slow down. She helped cast several of last year's more popular movies, including "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World," which starred Russell Crowe.

"Mary had an essential understanding of what the roles required," said Sydney Pollack director of "Out of Africa," in an interview with the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday.

"She had good taste and her suggestions for roles were right on," Pollack said. "Usually you ask for suggestions and you get a laundry list of two or three pages. Mary made fewer, more accurate suggestions. I got two or three names."

Pollack had already cast Robert Redford, Meryl Streep and Klaus Maria Brandauer for the movie, but Ms. Selway suggested Michael Kitchen and Malick Bowens, among others, he said.

In her career of more than 40 years, Ms. Selway worked with Steven Spielberg, Peter Weir, and Roman Polanski, as well as with less established directors such as Richard Curtis, who made his directing debut last year with "Love Actually."

For "Gosford Park," a film with 54 speaking parts, Ms. Selway assembled a cast that included Maggie Smith, Derek Jacobi, Alan Bates, Kristin Scott Thomas, Michael Gambon, and Helen Mirren, among others, in a feat of logistics. Several of the actors had overlapping commitments. Jacobi was appearing in a London stage production during filming.

"Mary would be the first name I'd credit for making the film happen," director Robert Altman said of Ms. Selway in an interview with the Times yesterday. "Her contributions were vast. At one point we lost our financing, and she held the cast together through that.

Ms. Selway also smoothed the friction among cast members, three of whom were not speaking to one another at the start of the film, Altman said. "Mary said we have to have apologies," Altman recalled, and apologies were made. Born in Norwich, England, Ms. Selway enrolled in the Italia Conti school in London to study acting at age 13. She discovered that she was not cut out for it and, at 19, went to work for British independent television, first as a producer's assistant and later in the casting department.

From there she was hired by Miriam Brickman, one of England's leading casting agents. In 1969 Brickman sent her to meet with film and stage director Lindsay Anderson, who was preparing to direct a play in London. He became her mentor.

Ms. Selway produced one film, "Wuthering Heights," in 1992, based on the classic British novel by Emily Bronte. She was the associate producer of "A Dry White Season" in 1989.

Ms. Selway was married to actor Norman Rodway, who died in 2001. She leaves two daughters, Kate and Emma Buckley, and her partner of 14 years, Ileen Maisel.

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