She starts October 1st. Gottlieb left ICM to head Alec Baldwin’s production company, El Dorado Pictures, and then develop projects for her husband, director/producer Walter Hill. Of course, most of her former clients scattered: Eddie Murphy, Keanu Reeves, Helen Mirren, Christopher Guest and Bill Paxton. But I’ve always loved the story of how Hildy jump-started Murphy’s film career. The 19 year old Eddie came out of the New York comedy clubs to join SNL’s 1980-1981 season as only a featured player, not even a regular. At the time, Gottlieb had just been hired away from J. Michael Bloom. The youngest of ICM’s film agents, she one day received a phone call from ICM’s personal appearances department asking for her help: the agency had just signed a young black comic who was going to start on SNL but wanted to do movies. With that, Gottlieb officially had her first ICM actor client, though she didn’t even know what Eddie Murphy looked like, or if he were talented. (Of course, when the first SNL finally aired, Gottlieb thought the kid was great.) Before the fall TV season started, she set up meetings for Murphy with a number of producers and studio execs. But no one recognized his potential. Instead they told Gottlieb over and over that, sorry, they couldn’t star a black actor in a movie for white audiences. Only Universal’s Jennings Lang made a deal for Murphy. But when the script came in, it was awful. Another deal was set up at Rastar, but that, too went nowhere. There was a black role in The Lords of Discipline which Murphy almost snagged but didn’t. It was now 1981, and nothing else was in the offing. At the time, Gottlieb was living with Hill, and every Saturday night, she’d make him watch her new client on SNL. One night, while driving down Santa Monica Boulevard, Hill started to complain about the casting problems on his new movie, 48 HRS. Written four years earlier, Hill had once planned it as a vehicle for Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder, but now Nick Nolte was set to play the white cop. Hill’s choice to play the black convict, Gregory Hines, was suddenly unavailable. Hill didn’t know who to cast. ”Well, use Eddie,” Gottlieb nudged. But could they sell it to Paramount? Gottlieb spent a day putting together Murphy’s SNL footage and sent it to Don Simpson, then head of production at Paramount. The rest is history. “It was probably the best thing I’d ever done as an agent.” Gottlieb later told me. “It was nice because Eddie knew that it was my suggestion. And that’s all I ever cared about — that the client knows that you’re trying to do something for him.” Even now, Eddie still credits Hildy with his big break, joking, “I got the role in 48 Hrs because my agent was sleeping with the director.”
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