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Casting Director Launched Many Actors' Careers

By Lloyd Jojola
Journal Staff Writer
      Shari Rhodes, a casting director who worked in the film and TV industry for more than 30 years, died Sunday. The Santa Fe resident was 71.
       “Shari was good at her job because she would spot talent,” said Michael L. Miller, producer/director with 9 Point Productions/New Mexico Film Partners.
       He noted there are many casting directors who bring in talent but leave it to the director to pick and choose. “But Shari had what she called 'The Eye' for talent and could spot fresh, raw talent sometimes.
       “Reese Witherspoon is a perfect example of that. She put Reese in (the film) 'The Man in the Moon' to play a young girl, and it was an amazing performance and launched a career.”
       Rhodes co-produced the 1991 film and served as casting director. She also was casting director for such films as Steven Spielberg's “The Sugarland Express,” “Jaws” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”
        She also did casting for many other films, including “Tender Mercies,” “Urban Cowboy” “There Will Be Blood,” “Silverado,” and “Terms of Endearment.”
       “She's been most recently doing location casting on (the television shows) 'Breaking Bad,' 'Crash' and 'In Plain Sight' here in New Mexico,” Miller said.
       Originally from Paris, Texas, Shari Swofford Rhodes got her foot in the film business by answering a newspaper ad tied to a film being shot in Dallas.
       “It was a secretarial position, initially, in a production office for an all-black film company,” Miller said. “She was the only white woman in the office. After that experience, she listed herself on the Texas Film Commission crew list as a casting director.”
       Off that list, she was hired to work on “The Sugarland Express” when the production came to Dallas, Miller said.
       “Over the years, she's started many, many actors on their career path,” he said. “She started a number of other casting directors on their career paths, including people like Joseph Middleton, who is now a major Hollywood casting director.”
       Rhodes died at St. Vincent's Hospital after a long battle with cancer. A celebration of life memorial will take place after a private burial.
       Rhodes was preceded in death by her father, Jewell Doyle Swofford; brother, Timothy Clark Swofford; sister, Robin Swofford Engels; and daughter, Stacy.
       Survivors include her mother, Elsie Julian of Paris, Texas; son, Kenneth Doyle Rhodes of Los Angeles; sisters, Phalia Blassingame and her husband, Jim, of Paris, Texas, and Judy Young and her husband, Charles, of Athens, Ga.; brother, Mark Swofford of Portland, Ore.; and numerous other relatives and friends.
       Contributions can be made to Presbyterian Medical Services: Hospice Center, 1400 Chama Ave., Santa Fe, N.M., 87505.
       





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