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Actors love well-written characters as much as audiences do. The A-list actor sees an Oscar® nomination in your accomplished drama. The budding starlet looks at your moving coming-of-age piece and sees her big break. And someone who has been typecast sees his chance to shift directions with your knee-slapping comedy.
"When actors read a script, what they're looking for is a particular moment where they really get to chew on something interesting," says director Randa Haines. "They're looking for that moment people will remember. They want a role that stimulates them and expands their range. That's true for all parts, even supporting roles and cameos."
If you want to attract actors, make every character in your script special or engaging in some way. Give each character an agenda that is related to the main storyline and doesn't detract from it. Make sure each character is memorable in some way. Maybe they use colorful language or have a quirk or a trait that stands out. A good example is Danny DeVito's character in Romancing the Stone (written by Diane Thomas). He's the bad guy's flunky, but he has a goal of his own, namely to quit while he's ahead. And he's very funny. He's a fully developed character in his own right, but his storyline is there to serve the main storyline.
A word of warning: roles that actors love aren't written specifically for them as actors, but for the archetypes they like playing: the reluctant hero (Tom Hanks), the shady shapeshifter (Jeremy Irons), the trickster (Jim Carrey), the princess, the witch, the wise old man, and so on. For that reason, your screenplays will be stronger if you keep the archetypes at the forefront rather than thinking of specific actors for specific roles.