Young hopefuls flock to Zeffirelli audition

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The Independent Online
THE TINY, boxed advertisement in last week's classifieds said: 'Open Casting Audition. A Franco Zeffirelli Film. Are you what we're looking for? Girl: 15- 18 years, beautiful, petite, waif- like. Boy: 18-22 years, handsome, intelligent. Both should look Italian,' writes Leo Burley.

Several hundred hopefuls gathered yesterday morning at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, west London. Some were pushing their luck. 'I'm not waif- like, but I'm interesting to look at,' 21-year-old Louise Hedley, from Darlington, said. 'I haven't got any Italian blood, but I've got some European in me.'

Mark Bossen, a 24-year-old drama student from Chesterfield, had no Italian ancestry either. 'But I went skiing there when I was at school,' he said. 'Actually I really want to be a stuntman.' At 6ft (1.8m) tall with blond hair he looked more like a Viking.

By 1pm the queue had grown to more than 1,000, though few seemed to have any idea what they were auditioning for. 'It's a remake of his Romeo and Juliet,' one young man said and this information filtered back down the line. In fact the auditions were for a 19th century love story, The Sparrow, to be shot in Sicily early next year.

In the foyer, stage-mothers roamed anxiously. Mr Zeffirelli, perhaps spurred on by critical acclaim for his 1991 screen version of Hamlet (starring Mel Gibson in the title role) demanded 'new and stunningly beautiful faces' for the lead roles of Nino and Maria.

Liz Ellis, who was stage-managing the event for the Emma Style agency, said: 'We're really just looking for 'the look' today.'

Numbers 226 and 227, Naomi Taylor and Vicky Herman, both 17, did camera tests. 'They said they'll call us,' Naomi said.