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AT THE MOVIES : WORD OF MOUTH

Summer battle royal for agents

CAA looks to be the heavyweight champ this movie season.

July 03, 2008|John Horn | Times Staff Writer
  • We all know Bruce Wayne is Batman, but seriously, who's his agent?
We all know Bruce Wayne is Batman, but seriously, who's his agent? (Stephen Vaughan / Warner…)

Hollywood IS all about bragging rights: who has the biggest box-office returns, the largest market share, the most Oscar nominations. Talent agents love the glory as much as anyone but generally prefer to keep the spotlight on their clients.

So we've decided to do the back-slapping for them.

As much as they say they dislike reading about themselves, agents very much have been in the news recently. While it's unclear if the Screen Actors Guild will go on strike and prompt a complete work stoppage, the agencies are still hurting from the recent 100-day Writers Guild of America labor dispute, which forced many to reduce staff, drop lesser clients and forgo bonuses.

Because most movie studios planned for the possibility of a SAG walkout this summer, they front-loaded their film production schedules and committed very few dollars to making movies in the year's second half, leaving agents scrambling to find their clients work.

At the same time, skirmishes among the town's five top agencies have been escalating, with a prominent agent or an important client switching sides nearly every week.

More worrisome to all talent agencies are the numerous A-list actors who no longer have agents at all, a list that includes Emile Hirsch (who left United Talent Agency as soon as "Speed Racer" bombed) and "Iron Man's" Gwyneth Paltrow (who is no longer being represented by Creative Artists Agency).

As the year's most important -- and competitive -- moviegoing season, the summer provides a perfect period to measure the agents' true clout. We've selected 25 of what we consider to be the summer's highest-profile films and analyzed which agencies currently represent the key creative talent in each movie.

Admittedly, it's a tremendously subjective exercise: Who says the upcoming "X-Files" movie is more worthy than "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2"? Well, we do. And isn't Sigourney Weaver's voice a critical ingredient of "Wall-E"? Sadly, not by our reckoning. "Hancock's" Jason Bateman makes the cut, but not "Wanted's" Morgan Freeman? We've seen both movies, and that's our ruling. And shed a tear for producers too, none of whom qualified because our focus rests on directors, writers and actors.

Given their instinctive fierceness, the agencies have tried their best to apply pressure and influence the outcome any way they can. One dutifully (if not morbidly) pointed out that CAA shouldn't get credit for representing Heath Ledger, as "The Dark Knight" star is no longer alive. Another went to bat for a client's blink-and-you'll-miss-her cameo in "Sex and the City." Several argued that writer-director clients should get two votes for fulfilling two jobs. We saw it differently.

Because so many agents and clients have changed addresses in the last few months, the agency that helped put key pieces in one summer movie may receive hardly any credit for it under our rules if the agency no longer represents those people. UTA, for example, once handled some of the linchpins in Aug. 15's "Tropic Thunder." But since writer-director Ben Stiller and costar Jack Black recently left UTA for Endeavor, the latter agency grabs our vote. And because Black is also the lead voice in "Kung Fu Panda," Endeavor collects not one but two points in our accounting.

Even multiple tallies such as that, however, can only narrow -- but not close -- the gap between the dominant CAA and everyone else. As any studio executive or film producer will tell you, CAA's authority is unrivaled. What's surprising about this poll is not that Endeavor landed in second (as it has been steadily rounding up and launching topclients), but how close everyone else is. International Creative Management, which has lost a number of agents and clients over the last few months, still has a surprisingly strong showing thanks to its literary department.

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john.horn@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Accounting for bragging rights

A tally of talent agency clients in the summer's 25 highest-profile films, listing the key creative people in each film. The five major agencies listed are the Creative Artists Agency (CAA), the United Talent Agency (UTA), the William Morris Agency (WMA), International Creative Management (ICM) and Endeavor.

John Horn

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"The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian"

William Moseley, actor...UTA

Andrew Adamson, writer-director...UTA

Christopher Markus, writer...UTA

Stephen McFeely, writer...UTA

Anna Popplewell, actor...CAA

Skandar Keynes, actor...Endeavor

Georgie Henley, actor...Hamilton Hodell

Ben Barnes, actor...ICM

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"The Dark Knight"

Maggie Gyllenhaal, actor...CAA

Chris Nolan, writer-director...CAA

David S. Goyer, writer...CAA

Christian Bale, actor...Endeavor

Jonathan Nolan, writer...UTA

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"Get Smart"

Anne Hathaway, actor...CAA

Pete Segal, director...CAA

Steve Carell, actor...Endeavor

Matt Ember, writer...Endeavor

Tom Astle, writer...ICM

Dwayne Johnson, actor...UTA

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"Hancock"

Vy Vincent Ngo, writer...ICM

Vince Gilligan, writer...ICM

Will Smith, actor...CAA

Pete Berg, director...Endeavor

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