EXCLUSIVE: UTA has signed British helmer Simon West and his producing partner Jib Polhemus. West is in post-production on Wild Card, William Goldman’s adaptation of his book that stars Jason Statham and Sofia Vergara, with Sierra/Affinity financing. This comes after West directed The Mechanic with Statham and Ben Foster, and The Expendables 2, with Statham and Sly Stallone leading the macho ensemble. West left Resolution, and became in play after the recent exits of Martin Spencer and Adam Kanter.
West also directed Con Air, The General’s Daughter, and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. He was exec producer on Black Hawk Down, and is re-teaming with that writer, Ken Nolan, to direct the adaptation of the David Zucchino book Thunder Run. West also works in TV, producing Fox’s Keen Eddie, CBS’s Close to Home, Fox’s Human Target and NBC’s The Cape. West and Polhemus continue to be lawyered by Barry Tyerman.
TV and film director Allen Coulter has signed with UTA. Coulter, probably best known for his work as director-producer on HBO’s The Sopranos, has helmed the pilots for such series as Damages and Nurse Jackie. He recently has directed multiple episodes of Boardwalk Empire, House Of Cards and Ray Donovan and is currently helming the opening episode of CBS’ summer series Extant starring Halle Berry. On the feature side Coulter, a five-time Emmy directing nominee, directed Remember Me and Hollywoodland. He was at ICM Partners and continues to be repped by Paul Alan Smith at ESA.
Alex Fragen, Summit Entertainment’s former president of TV distribution who oversaw the company’s free and pay TV and VOD and PPV, has joined UTA as a strategist to help agents and clients maximize various delivery platforms. He also previously worked for 14 years at Paramount Pictures where he was responsible for all aspects of television distribution for the studio library in North America. Most recently he worked at multi-media consultancy firm Question Media Group helping such companies as EPIX, Colony Capital and AwesomenessTV to maximize their multi-platform efforts. So basically, Fragen was hired to help the agency negotiate deals and get the best terms for their clients throughout various platforms. The business model for content distribution (with the various windows) has changed so much over the years that all agencies should probably be doing this, if they aren’t already, for their clients. The move to bring in Fragen and his expertise is smart, considering that there is so much content — for instance at Sundance or other film festivals — that might not get picked up but will be able to find new life outside mainstream theatrical distribution.
This is an area UTA has been very involved with in the past. For instance, the agency helped established a distribution model for writer-producer Tom Fontana’s series Borgia on VOD and one of the first scripted series exclusivity deals for Netflix. They also assisted their client Brian Robbins create the digital network AwesomenessTV, a web-based multi-channel network (or MCN, which means it works with YouTube to facilitate the programming, cross-promotion, and monetization, in exchange for a percentage of the ad revenues from the channel). AwesomenessTV distributes content both theatrically and on cable television networks using social media platforms to brand-build. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Gillian Robespierre made a splash at this year’s Sundance Film Festival with the comedy Obvious Child. Her directorial debut about a Brooklyn comedian (Jenny Slate) who gets dumped, fired and pregnant just in time for the most chaotic Valentine’s Day of her life was acquired by A24 for low seven figures in one of the biggest deals of the festival. Now UTA has signed Robespierre as the NY-based filmmaker’s first agency representation; she continues to be repped by attorney Andre Des Rochers. Obvious Child will be released June 6.
Nick Damici has signed with ICM Partners for film and TV lit. He wrote and co-stars in the Sundance competition drama Cold In July, which also stars Michael C. Hall in his first post-Dexter role. IFC acquired the North American rights to the pic during the festival. Damici also wrote Stake Land, Mulberry Street and 2013 Sundance pic We Are What We Are. He is managed by Sweet 180 Management.
Spencer Boldman has inked with UTA. The star of Disney XD’s Lab Rats next appears in in the rodeo-themed DTV feature Dakota’s Summer. His credits also include I’m In The Band, iCarly and the telefilms Billion Dollar Freshman and Jack And Janet Save The Planet. He is additionally repped by Coast to Coast Talent Group and Millennium Artists.
EXCLUSIVE: UTA has just signed Liev Schreiber. Maybe it’s because I love that Showtime series Ray Donovan and especially Schreiber’s hard-edged title protagonist, but this feels like a real coup for UTA. You can tell that even though he’s a vet, Schreiber’s best work is ahead of him after this career changing role. Schreiber got a Golden Globe nomination this year for Best Actor in a Television Series Drama for Ray Donovan. Schreiber, who had been repped by CAA, recently wrapped a turn as Soviet chess master Boris Spassky in the Ed Zwick-directed Pawn Sacrifice, with Tobey Maguire playing enigmatic American chess champion Bobby Fischer. Schreiber‘s recent credits include The Reluctant Fundamentalist; Salt; X-Men Origins: Wolverine; Defiance; The Manchurian Candidate; and A Walk On The Moon.
The agency will continue to help Schreiber in the small and big screen pursuits as well as stage. Schreiber got his third career Tony nomination when he starred with Scarlett Johansson in the revival of Arthur Miller’s A View From The Bridge. He got the first Tony nom playing Ricky Roma in the 2005 revival of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, and was also nominated for the 2007 revival of Eric Bogosian’s Talk Radio. Schreiber’s also a director, making his debut on the Jonathan Safran novel adaptation Everything Is Illuminated. He continues to be repped by Untitled Entertainment.
In his new Digital Media Agent post at UTA, online media veteran Greg Goodfried will focus on growing the agency’s digital practice and creating new digital revenue streams for UTA clients. Prior to joining UTA the veteran digital media exec, who co-created the LonelyGirl15 viral phenomenon, also co-founded digital branding firm EQAL which produced Kraft Foods’ “Real Women of Philadelphia” campaign, “Walk with Walgreens,” and LaurenConrad.com. EQAL was sold to Everyday Health in 2012. Goodfried joins a digital media team at UTA that reps content creators and digital production companies, provides strategic advising to consumer and corporate clients, and has worked with the likes of AwesomenessTV, iJustine, Shane Dawson, Dolby, and the Consumer Electronics Association. UTA’s digital wing also co-founded the Viterbi Start-Up Garage fostering digital start ups with Kleiner Perkins and USC.
Distribution/production outfit Small World IFT has signed with UTA. Founded by husband-and-wife team Tim and Colleen Crescenti, Small World specializes in bringing global formats to the U.S., including ABC’s I Survived A Japanese Game Show (aka Big in Japan) and Silent Library (MTV). Small World also recently signed a development deal with NBC to identify and develop new unscripted formats from the global marketplace for the U.S. In addition, they domestically launched Japanizi: Going Going Gong! for Disney XD.
EXCLUSIVE: UTA has just signed Michael Douglas, who won the Emmy, the Golden Globe and the SAG Award for his turn as Liberace opposite Matt Damon in the Steven Soderbergh-directed HBO pic Behind The Candelabra. Douglas just booked a major role in Marvel’s newest superhero franchise, Ant-Man, with Edgar Wright and Paul Rudd, and he’s also starring in and producing The Reach.
Douglas had been repped by WME, and he came in play and met with all the agencies recently after Brian Swardstrom left to become a partner at UTA. Douglas just decided to make the move. He is coming off the CBS Films hit Last Vegas. I have always thought Douglas was one of the brightest producer/actors in town, and when he needed a moderator for a screening of Wall Street 2 in New York, I rushed in. At the time, he was frail from cancer, and I walked away worried. It is incredibly gratifying to see him looking as good as ever, putting that in the rearview mirror, and working up a storm again.
Related: EMMYS Q&A: Michael Douglas
UTA apparently sees big business opportunities ahead for TV news personalities after picking up an agency whose client list includes Bill O’Reilly, Anderson Cooper, Robin Roberts, Megyn Kelly, Bob Scheiffer, Norah O’Donnell, and Glenn Beck. The changes at the operations will mostly be felt internally for now: N.S. Bienstock will keep its name and, as the companies put it, its “corporate identity, location and corporate ethos with the entire leadership team and agents remaining in place.” Founders Richard Leibner and Carole Cooper will continue to manage it as co-presidents, and will also become special advisers to UTA. Jonathan Leibner and Adam Leibner are now partners at UTA, but will continue to work at Bienstock. UTA Managing Director Jay Sures will oversee the relationship. “As the entertainment, media, news and technology industries comingle in new and exciting ways, we see tremendous potential for broadcast news talent across every conceivable media platform.” says UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer, whose company has been looking for opportunities to expand in the Big Apple. Richard Leibner says the alliance “is a significant step forward in the growth and evolution of N.S. Bienstock.” The companies say that Bienstock clients “will now have access to UTA’s full breadth of resources, including new opportunities across digital content platforms, motion pictures, scripted television, online entertainment, video gaming, books, theatre, touring, branding, licensing, endorsements, voiceovers and speaking engagements.” Read More »
Will Packer Productions, coming off the opening-weekend box office success of the producer’s Universal Pictures action comedy Ride Along, has hired UTA motion picture literary agent Barbara Dreyfus as head of motion pictures. She is one of the first key hires for Packer’s new shingle, which launched in October when he inked a three-year, first-look producing deal with the studio and set up operations on the lot. Dreyfus spent the past 13 years at UTA repping writers, directors and producers, and before that was an agent at ICM where she spent eight years in the motion picture literary department. She began her agent career at the InterTalent. “I’m thrilled to have Barbara on my team,” Packer said. “Her impeccable taste in material and great relationships across the creative community will be key assets as we establish and expand our Will Packer Productions brand. Additionally, she shares my passion for quality commercial material.”
As part of the deal, Dreyfus’ clients will remain in the UTA fold repped by their UTA agent teams. Read More »
There are plenty of people working on more than one movie at the Sundance Film Festival this year, but only one musical act pulled double duty Sunday. On a packed party night in Park City, Damon Albarn played a 5-song set at the Sundance Channel HQ in the evening in front of Maggie Gyllenhaal and more. He then hustled down the block to the YouTube On Main Street storefront for a slightly longer show in front of 150 guests at 11 PM. At the two invite-only SRO events, the Blur and Gorillaz frontman performed ballads from both his bands and his upcoming solo album. In both gigs, a string quartet and a keyboardist backed up Albarn, who played acoustic guitar.
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One day before Hellion has its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, its star has gotten some big new friends through his onscreen father. Josh Wiggins has signed with UTA and Leverage Management. Playing Jacob, Wiggins co-stars in the film, which debuts in Park City on Friday, with Aaron Paul. The Breaking Bad actor, who is a co-EP on Hellion, plays Jacob’s widowed father. Paul is also repped by UTA and Leverage. Juliette Lewis also stars in the film. Discovered by director Kat Candler from YouTube videos Wiggins made with pals, the dysfunctional family drama is the first professional acting gig by the 15-year old from Texas. “Josh had never acted before, and in every single take he blew me away. He really had an instinctual grasp of the character which helped set the tone for the entire shoot,” said Candler in a statement today. Hellion is based on Candler’s short film that screened at Sundance two years ago. The film is produced by Kelly Williams & Jonathan Duffy and executive produced by Jeff Nichols and Sarah Green. UTA is handling worldwide sales on Hellion.
EXCLUSIVE: Susan Sarandon has signed with UTA only about a month after leaving ICM Partners where she had been for about 25 years. The Oscar-winning actress next stars in the upcoming Melissa McCarthy road comedy Tammy at New Line playing a rough-and-tumble grandmother and also is starring in and co-producing a half-hour single-camera comedy at NBC in which she stars with daughter Eva Amurri Martino. That project, produced by UTA-repped Le Train Train, recently received a pilot production commitment from the network. Sarandon is one of the best actresses working today, often nominated for Oscars and Golden Globes (and other awards) and critically acclaimed each time she appears in film. She has had a long and noteworthy career from everyone’s favorite The Rocky Horror Picture Show to her Oscar-nominated performance in Atlantic City to winning an Oscar for her performance as a nun struggling to help a man on death row in Dead Man Walking. She will repped by a team of agents led by UTA partner and talent department co-head Shani Rosenzweig. She will continue to be repped by her attorney Jon Moonves.
Related: Susan Sarandon Leaving ICM Partners
EXCLUSIVE: Actor-comedian Billy Gardell, the male lead of CBS’ comedy Mike & Molly, has signed with UTA after a two-year stint at CAA. The Chuck Lorre comedy, now in its fourth season, serves as a 9 PM anchor of CBS’ Monday comedy block. In addition to his starring role on the show opposite Melissa McCarthy, Gardell has a lucrative seven-figure comedy touring business and is looking to expand into writing, having recently sold a script to CBS. Gardell also recently shot a comedy special and will next be seen in Clint Eastwood’s Jersey Boys.
As expected, two-time Oscar winner Jessica Lange has followed her agent Brian Swardstrom to UTA from WME. She formally signed this morning. Lange is currently Golden Globe-nominated for her role on American Horror Story and she begins production in February on the Rupert Wyatt-directed The Gambler, opposite Mark Wahlberg. She continues to be represented by Jason Weinberg at Untitled Entertainment.
EXCLUSIVE: John Lithgow and Patrick Stewart are the latest actors who’ve followed Brian Swardstrom and Danie Streisand to UTA from WME. We told you he was taking almost all of the clients on his roster when Swardstrom, the longtime partner at Endeavor and then WME, left late last year and landed as a partner at UTA. Much like what happened when Dan Aloni and Warren Zavala left CAA to go to WME, the agent’s longtime clients made a fast change of address. A lot of these clients, including Lithgow and Stewart, are active in legit so the exits sting a bit more. Here are the clients who’ve formally made the switch and bolstered the talent ranks at UTA: Jamie Bell, Ben Foster, Fifty Shades Of Grey helmer Sam-Taylor Johnson, Aaron Johnson, Emile Hirsch, Homeland‘s Damian Lewis, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton, Dexter‘s Michael C. Hall, Timothee Chalamet, Agyness Deyn, Julia Garner, Bill Heck, Diane Lane, Bill Paxton, Jonathan Pryce, Ben Rosenfield, Scott Speedman, Ray Stevenson and Tilda Swinton.
Related: Brian Swardstrom Moves To UTA From WME
EXCLUSIVE: One day after bringing in longtime WME partner Brian Swardstrom, UTA has added his colleague, talent agent Danie Streisand. Like Swardstrom, with whom she shared some clients, Streisand will work out of the agency’s New York offices. I’m trying to get a list of clients beyond those she has shared with Swardstrom, and will add when I have it. Streisand started at Don Buchwald Associates and moved to WMA before being elevated to agent at WME in 2011.
BREAKING: Brian Swardstrom has landed at United Talent Agency as a partner, and he will work out of the New York office. Swardstrom comes to UTA after a four-year stint at WME and before that he was a partner at Endeavor and ran the talent department for 11 years. It has to play out to see which clients he will bring over with him to his new digs, but it looks like Swartstrom is going to bring most of them and it is a solid list of actors and directors and this it certainly bolsters UTA’s list.
That list includes Tilda Swinton, Dexter‘s Michael C. Hall, Homeland‘s Damian Lewis, Edward Norton, Diane Lane, Frances McDormand, Bill Paxton, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch, Rooney Mara, Claire Danes, Michael Douglas, Patrick Stewart, Richard Gere, Jessica Lange, John Lithgow, David Oyelowo, Jonathan Groff, Jamie Bell, Scott Speedman, Ray Stevenson, Julie Christie, and Tracey Ullman, and filmmakers including Fifty Shades Of Grey helmer Sam Taylor-Johnson, Luca Guadagnino, Ira Sachs and Oren Moverman. I’m told the latter two are staying put at WME. Swardstrom will be joining about 12 other agents in the New York office of UTA. This brings the number of UTA partners to 30.
Swardstrom’s exit played out over the past few weeks at WME, but he and agency leaders Ari Emanuel, Patrick Whitesell and others spent so many years ago it wasn’t really acrimonious. They couldn’t come to financial terms. Read More »