Louis DiGiaimo, 77, an Emmy-winning casting director who made his name with

The Godfather

- and whose New York sensibilities flavored a string of successful Hollywood films and TV shows - has died.

Mr. DiGiaimo, a son of Italian immigrants who lived all his life in his native New Jersey, died in Oakland in that state Dec. 19. He suffered complications from a stroke in May, said Lee DiGiaimo, his wife of 53 years.

He specialized in discovering unknown actors who would inject a jolt of authenticity into character roles.

Later in his career, he made an especially famous casting choice for the 1991 film Thelma and Louise: He suggested Brad Pitt for the role of J.D., a thieving drifter who charms star Geena Davis.

At the time, young Pitt's credits included a soap opera. But Thelma and Louise proved his breakout role. Mr. DiGiaimo said he reviewed a hundred actors for the part. Pitt, he said, "had what we needed."

It was a typical enigmatic remark from a casting director who said "gut feeling" was the root of his craft.

Mr. DiGiaimo was on a team that won an Emmy in 1998 for work on the NBC television show Homicide: Life on the Street. He also cast actors for films Tin Men, Good Morning, Vietnam, Rain Man, and dozens of others over a four-decade career.

Besides his wife, Mr. DiGiaimo is survived by a son and daughter and six grandchildren. - L.A. Times