Modine back at WMA

The William Morris Agency confirmed yesterday it has signed Matthew Modine for representation in all fields, luring the actor and emerging filmmaker away from rival International Creative Management and agent Ed Limato.

Modine, who made his movie debut in John Sayles’ 1983 release “Baby, It’s You ,” was signed by WMA special projects and packaging head Morgan Mason and WMA East Coast motion picture department co-head Johnnie Planco.

Modine’s ICM exit follows Steve Martin, Rick Moranis, Brad Pitt and Samuel L. Jackson as the latest in a string of talent defections since the consolidation of agency power, which took shape with WMA’s acquisition of Triad Artists and the dissolution of InterTalent.

Agents said the scramble for clients could be one of 1993’s major trends, as consolidated competitors look for every little edge.

WMA’s signing of Modine represents a coming home. He was represented by the agency for such projects as “Vision Quest” and “Full Metal Jacket” before jumping ship five years ago, when Limato defected from WMA to ICM.

Modine switches agencies during a busy time in his career. The star already has booked appearances in the coming HBO movie “And the Band Played On,” Robert Altman’s “Short Cuts” and Alan Rudolph’s “Equinox.”

Both Altman and Rudolph are represented by WMA’s team of Mason, Planco and Bobbi Thompson. ICM’s Limato could not be reached for comment.

A key factor in the 33-year-old Modine’s decision was his aspiration to chase dual careers as filmmaker and thespian, Mason said. WMA will be involved in Modine’s plan to write and direct his first feature, as well as the pending debut of Modine’s New Mercury Theatre complex in Beverly Hills.

On the movie side, Modine has finished the short film “When I Was a Boy,” which was entered into the Sundance Film Festival with WMA’s help. The pic will next go to the New York Museum of Modern Art’s New Directors– New Film Festival in March.

One of WMA’s first tasks will be to set up Modine’s feature directorial debut , which the actor is currently writing.

Mason heads the WMA branch that arranges financing and distribution for independent projects, including recent deals for Rudolph’s “Equinox” and the coming “Mrs. Parker and Mrs. Benchley,” which stars Jennifer Jason Leigh and John Cusack. Mason said packaging of the Modine project is in the works.

The agency is also spearheading Modine’s effort to finance and organize the New Mercury. The company’s first production, “12 Angry Men,” is skedded to fly in six weeks with Modine in the director’s chair.

WMA’s involement in New Mercury is logical, since it could potentially deliver an alternative venue for the agency’s playwrights and stage directors. Morris’ client roster includes playwrights John Robin Baitz (“The Substance of Fire”), David Williamson (“Money and Friends”), Jonathan Tolins (“Twilight of the Golds”) and Eric Bogosian.

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