MANAGEMENT R&D: Though they usually work stealthlike, managers Eric L. Gold and Jimmy Miller of Gold/Miller Entertainment have generated more than their share of buzz this week. Longtime clients Jim Carrey and Jennifer Lopez toplined last weekend’s top-grossing films “Liar, Liar” and “Selena,” respectively. Keenen Ivory Wayans just signed a Disney deal for a latenight show. The WB network sitcom “The Wayans Brothers,” starring clients Marlon and Sean Wayans, just sold into syndication, while Marlon’s Touchstone comedy “The Sixth Man” opens Friday.
Just by helping steer Carrey to become comedy’s biggest film star, Gold/Miller merits being mentioned in the same breath as other management conglomerates like Brillstein-Grey, 3 Arts Entertainment and Addis-Wechsler.
But Gold and Miller said they’re in no hurry to grow. Along with Peter Safran and Julie Wixson, they handle only 30 clients, aligning them with a few agents they trust, such as UTA’s Nick Stevens, who supervises that agency’s relationship with Carrey, Lopez, Marlon Wayans and Judd Apatow.
“We consider ourselves R&D guys who find clients we share a vision with, and then go after it,” said Gold, who started as a manager with Ray Katz in 1984. Miller, the brother of Brillstein-Grey-repped comic Dennis Miller, started managing comics in 1985 and hooked up with Gold in 1989.
Gold and Miller so far have resisted the overall studio deals they fear could be constraining, but are exploring alternative forms of financing to stake on client projects. The duo said they actually turned down producing credit on “Liar, Liar.”
“We’re not producer-managers. We’re managers first, and if it doesn’t serve the client first, we don’t need to be producers,” Gold said. “Imagine developed the ‘Liar, Liar’ script and we knew Jim was in good hands. On ‘Selena,’ we chased those rights for Jennifer as producers and lost, but we won as managers.”
The duo will make their debut as producers on a Carrey project in New Line’s remake “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” which could be Carrey’s next film. “That one we’re on from ground zero,” Gold said. “The key to our business has always been that first decision of whom to represent,” Miller added. “Quality control is everything, because if you sign the wrong people and put them in good situations, you can still lose.”
They’re also hedging bets on clients by putting them in several different venues at once. Keenen Wayans keeps his hand in comedy while making his bid for action stardom in New Line’s “Most Wanted,” which Wayans wrote and produced with Gold. Marlon and Shawn Wayans balance movies with their sitcom and a book deal. Lopez is in talks for a record pact.
Miller avoided putting all his standup clients as centerpieces for hit-or-miss sitcom pilots; it’s safer being a show writer. That was the path taken by standup Judd Apatow, who, after stints writing and producing such shows as “Ben Stiller,” will direct New Line’s “Making Amends,” from a script he and Wilson are co-writing.
Gold-Miller is betting its next onscreen score will be comedian Harland Williams, whom they co-manage with Laugh Factory proprietor Jamie Masada. Williams will topline the features “Rocket Man” and “Beetle Bailey,” and just got a 13-episode CBS sitcom commitment.
Gold and Miller also have bigscreen hopes for new client Jon Stewart, who’s developing a Miramax pic with Janeane Garofalo. “We believe he could be the next Billy Crystal,” Miller said.
BREATHING’ GETS FEATURE LIFE: Jessica Yu, who directed the Oscar-winning docu short “Breathing Lessons,” is having her 35-minute pic dressed up for feature treatment. She’s made a deal with Oliver Stone and Dan Halsted’s Illusion Entertainment, and hopes to direct the feature once the producers get it financed.
The film is about 47-year old Mark O’Brien, who has managed to graduate from Berkeley and become a journalist and a poet even though he’s been confined to an iron lung since stricken with polio at the age of 6. “It was a stunning documentary with a very strong character,” Stone said. “The feature will take on another form, like going from David Helfgott to Geoffrey Rush in ‘Shine.’ ”
Given that three of the five Oscar nominees played disabled characters, Yu acknowledges actors might jump at the chance to be involved. “It’s more complex than just physical tics; it’s the story of a man struggling to find a sense of purpose when he cannot overcome physical barriers,” she said. “Mark’s got a wonderful sense of humor about all this. In fact, when I teased him about how famous he’d be, he suggested a line of Mark O’Brien non-action figures.”
Yu is repped by APA’s Adam Shulman.
STERN THOUGHTS: Though some columnists are harassing Howard Stern’s movie debut “Private Parts” for not being as strong a hit as expected, the criticism rings hollow. The pic’s on course to gross more than twice its negative cost, and will do huge video biz, if not foreign. Stern obviously was handicapped by being in only 35 radio markets, but the movie will help change that. Stern’s been offered deals for 25 new radio markets, putting him in key cities like Houston, Charlotte, Denver and Kansas City. He’s also getting dozens of scripts, and an offer for a syndicated TV show. That’s failure?
BOOK GRIST: Studios are aroused over “God is My Broker,” the satirical novel about a fallen stockbroker who becomes a monk and begins picking winners hoping to save the monastery from financial ruin. It’s co-written by Chris Buckley and John Tierney for Random House. ICM’s brokering “Broker.” Buckley’s last novel, “Thank You for Smoking,” is being developed by Mel Gibson’s Icon. …
John Grisham’s in no hurry for a screen partner on his bestselling new novel “The Partner.” The movie sale’s now on indefinite hold, said agent David Gernert. Reason is, there’s a Grisham glut, with Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Rainmaker” and Robert Altman’s “The Gingerbread Man” and Joel Schumacher’s “The Runaway Jury.” Grisham would rather finish another novel, then revisit the subject. “I don’t know when we’ll sell it, but the feeling is he’s in no hurry,” Gernert said. “Interestingly, the feeling from many people is this is arguably the most cinematic of his books.”