The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
Hollywood bares its claws

Hollywood, March 19: There is disarray in Hollywood after the 'golden rule' of never speaking ill of an actor or director ' in public, at least ' was broken by the president of the venerable William Morris talent agency, one of the 'big four' in Los Angeles.

Among those who are the butt of cutting remarks by Dave Wirtschafter ' noted in the business for his Zen-like way of dealing with actors ' are Michael Douglas, Wesley Snipes and Guy Ritchie.

Now the agent is reported to be facing a rebellion from some clients. Since publication of his remarks, Sarah Michelle Gellar, the star of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, is said by the New York Post to have quit the century-old agency, along with Charlie's Angel Lucy Liu.

Gellar, he said, is 'now nothing at all', though has the potential to be a star. Other clients are apparently unhappy that he called the singer Alicia Keys 'my favourite -she is it, she is the second coming.' Wirtschafter, 47, has spoken of his job as 'removing emotion' and 'creating calm' for his clients, who include Russell Crowe, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, John Travolta and Tommy Lee Jones.

Confident of his place in the Hollywood pecking order, he gave New Yorker writer Tad Friend a searing insight into the ways of the movie jungle's 'zoo-keepers'.

A picture emerges of a world of brash deal-makers, many trained at the Harvard Business School, who have replaced the 'ten-percenters' ' men such as Irving 'Swifty' Lazar, who worked with Bogart, Hemingway and Truman Capote and saw it as very much part of his job to keep them happy. In a telling insight into his working methods, Wirtschafter was pictured on the phone to Halle Berry's lawyers, discussing her contractual demands for a thriller Perfect Strangers.

Details are revealed about how Berry, the only Bond girl to win an Oscar, was paid $12 million against 10 per cent of the gross profits for Catwoman. Revolutionary Studios wanted her to take less.

Wirtschafter told the New Yorker: 'Many agents would say: 'Not a f*****g chance, she gets all the money.' But why not make it work for everyone' He told Berry's lawyer: 'She'll give up a little money to get a good director or co-star. But if she is forced to go down, she will be treated as an investor in the film for the difference, and for every dollar she invests she would get $1.50 out of the gross' I don't know why anybody would think that's crazy.'

The William Morris president, described by one producer as 'cold, within himself and vindictive', made no pretence about what he thinks of 'big' clients who have fired him. He said that his first response was dismay when Michael Douglas left the agency. 'You say to the trades [newspapers]: 'I wish him well.' But your first thought is: 'That mother-f*****'.'

Wirtschafter was particularly exercised by the departure from the agency of Madonna's husband, Guy Ritchie, who made his name with the British gangster film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

'Guy is not in the groovy, glamourous place he was then,' he said, 'and I think that's just unequivocally interesting.' Wesley Snipes was dismissed as an actor who thought a lot of himself. 'He believed he was a $15 million movie star. The market doesn't reflect that.'

The article implies that Wirtschafter was indifferent to the talents of Wes Craven, creator of Nightmare On Elm Street. Half way through a meeting with the director, the agent stood up to leave.

'Everyone was very crabby,' explained Wirtschafter.

The agent even allowed himself to be portrayed in the New Yorker as a potential predator of other agencies' stars. By appearing at a party for Ewan McGregor in Santa Monica, he signalled that he was hoping to poach the actor from Creative Artists Agency, an arch-rival.

Tad Friend said that Wirtschafter was a member of a new breed of agent. 'He loves delving deep into the sub-paragraphs of contracts and figuring out new and complex ways for his clients to make money ' and he hates going out to parties.'

Email This Page