An update was made to this article on July 31, 2006.SUE BODINE
Attorney, Partner One of the key legal eagles behind the Oscar-winning “Capote,” Bodine is known as the go-to dealmaker for the cream of the Gotham indie film crop.
Having worked on Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation,” she recently hammered out the financing and production details on the helmer’s follatest pic, “Marie Antoinette.”
If that sounds like mere nuts-and-bolts work, Bodine doesn’t see it that way. “On good days, I like to think it’s helping art happen. That’s the view from 50,000 feet. On a day-to-day basis, it’s mostly problem-solving.”
Bodine’s other clients include Roberto Benigni, John Sayles and Michael Stipe. She also works with production companies and studios including Merchant Ivory Prods., HBO and New Line. On the exec front, she personally reps Focus Features CEO James Schamus.
“With indie clients, we get involved with helping them find financing and helping them put together films,” Bodine says. “It’s not like an agent just getting them a directing assignment.”
Bodine is a former dancer who previously worked at a music biz law firm. Career mantra: “I find that rational thinking and good manners will generally win out over big egos and self- aggrandizement.”
Role models: “My current fave is Madeleine Albright.”
What’s next: “Working with my partners to continue developing business and expertise in the wild new-media world of collapsing windows, on-demand services, branded entertainment; continuing to expand our active international business; and of course finding and nurturing the next crop of dynamic filmmakers.”
— Nicole LaPorteMICHELLE BOHAN
Partner, Endeavor The antithesis of the stereotypical Hollywood agent barking into a cell phone, Bohan tends to keep a low profile. “I live completely and totally vicariously through the actors I represent,” says the William Morris veteran, who joined Endeavor as a partner in May 2005.
It must be exhausting to keep up, even vicariously, with a roster that includes Kevin Bacon, Willem Dafoe, Lili Taylor and recent Oscar winner Reese Witherspoon.
Steve Carell, a client of five years, was this year’s feel-good success story. “He just broke all the molds of what people think happen in Hollywood,” says Bohan. “Watching him become a movie star at 40 years old was just extraordinary.”
Like Carell, Bohan’s clients often bring multiple crafts to the table. “They’re self-generating,” she explains. “They write or produce, have aspirations to direct, and they’re interested in giving back.”
Philanthropy is part of Endeavor’s company mission, and Bohan herself finds charity work hugely rewarding. She is deeply involved with longtime client Ashley Judd’s cause, YouthAIDS. Last month, 6½ months pregnant, she was swinging a hammer for Habitat for Humanity. “I’ve never been so excited about getting a nail into a piece of wood!” Bohan says with a laugh.
The modest working mom (daughter Grace is almost 4; Vivian is 2) also recently had her own moment in the spotlight. Reading a casting breakdown, she found herself listed as one of the prototypes for an agent character on “Entourage.”
“I literally saw it and screamed!” she remembers. “And I called my husband and said, ‘Honey, I think I’ve made it!’ Career mantra: “Trust your instincts and stay focused.”
Role model: “My mother, who raised three children while starting a successful business. She inspired me as a woman to be able to balance family and work.”
What’s next: “Baby No. 3!””
— Steffie NelsonTRACY BRENNAN
Co-head of Motion Picture Talent Dept., CAA It takes boundless energy to shepherd the careers of a stable of talented artists, and luckily Brennan has got it. Backed by the CAA team, she took English beauty Kate Beckinsale from love interest to vinyl-clad action lead in the successful “Underworld” franchise. “We did a radical change,” she says. “Nobody thought of Kate Beckinsale as an action star.”
Brennan’s also committed to getting comedian Dane Cook on studio execs’ radar, starting with his role in Greg Coolidge’s fall comedy “Employee of the Month.” Before he’s pegged as just another funnyman, he’ll follow that up by playing a serial killer in “Mr. Brooks.” “His fans are just rabid for him,” Brennan says. “We want to take that energy and harness it.”
Brennan has already successfully guided Lindsay Lohan’s transition from teen sweetheart to grounded adult with roles in “A Prairie Home Companion,” “Bobby,” “Chapter 27” and “Georgia Rule.”
And she recently scored a trifecta with Alan Cummings’ passion project, “Suffering Man’s Charity,” which the British thesp stars in and directs alongside CAA brethren David Boreanaz and Henry Thomas. “It’s a little outside of the mainstream, but it’s something Alan is passionate about,” Brennan says.
Other clients who are on a roll include Aaron Eckhart (upcoming “The Black Dahlia” and “Bill”) and Vera Farmiga, who headlines Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed” followed by a role in Anthony Minghella’s “Breaking and Entering.” Career mantra: “Work, work, work, harder, harder, harder. Never leave a stone unturned. Listen, listen, listen to clients.”
Role models: “My parents, Mary and Charlie Brennan. I credit a lot of who I am as a person to them. My husband, James Dreher, who is totally supportive of me.”
What’s next: “Continuing to do more good work with clients, to get them to the next level.”
— Rachel WimberlyJOANNE COLONNA AND ALEEN KESHISHIAN
Managers, Brillstein-Grey Management To say that Keshishian and Colonna’s careers have run on parallel tracks would be an understatement. They served overlapping stints as agents at ICM, and as managers they acted as co-heads of the talent departments at both AMG and the Firm. Last year, they made the jump to their new home at Brillstein-Grey within three weeks of each other.
Keshishian says her perspective on how best to serve her clients — who include Orlando Bloom, Natalie Portman, Laura Linney and Julianna Margulies — was formed by the twin experiences of being an agent-turned-manager and avoiding the head-for-Los Angeles career route.
“Starting my career in New York informed my taste and gave me a slew of contacts in the theater and independent film world,” says Keshishian, who started as a casting assistant on films by Woody Allen and Mike Nichols.
What makes her work rewarding, says Keshishian, is that she has had the luxury to find and nurture developing artists rather than signing established stars, and, in fact, Bloom and Portman have been with Keshishian since the beginning of their respective careers.
Exuding down-to-earth charm, Colonna says that after 18 years in showbiz, she is much better at talking about her clients than herself. But since launching her career as an agent in New York “at the tender age of 22,” Colonna has built a reputation for nurturing young talent, including signature client Sarah Michelle Gellar as well as Anna Paquin, Andy Garcia and Brendan Fraser.
Like Keshishian, Colonna has the perspective of an agent-turned-manager, and she relishes the opportunity to produce her clients’ projects.
“I got out of the agency business because I wanted to really get behind what my clients wanted,” Colonna says. She is exec producing Universal’s “Alice,” a videogame adaptation starring Gellar, and is also producing “This Side of the Looking Glass” starring Gellar and Fraser. Career mantras:
Keshishian: “Trust your instincts. Tell the truth. Never take no for an answer if you believe it should be a yes. Never operate out of fear. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from people who know more than you.”
Colonna: “Always treat the assistant with respect. He or she may be running a studio someday.” Role models:
Keshishian: “My mother for teaching me that exceptions prove the rule; casting directors Juliet Taylor and Laura Rosenthal; agent Sam Cohn; casting director Toni Howard; and Angelina Jolie for her humility, grace and generosity.”
Colonna: “I was motivated by those around me who always said, ‘You won’t make it. Get a real job,’ which served as my motivation to succeed.” What’s next:
Keshishian: “I helped put together ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ with Natalie Portman and Eric Bana for Sony/Focus.”
Colonna: “Always looking for the next project for clients, while raising three little boys in the middle of this crazy entertainment business!”
— Janet ShprintzLISA HALLERMAN
Partner, UTA For Hallerman, the mistress of the blockbuster summer comedy, it all began about 10 years ago when she walked into UTA agent Nick Stevens’ office and said, “I want to work for you.” Everyone wanted to work for Stevens, who had just done Jim Carrey’s deal for “Cable Guy,” but he took on Hallerman even though she had just arrived at the agency. And the rest is comedy history.
As for that impulse to enter Stevens’ office, it’s not a mystery. “I like comedies. That’s the kind of movies I wanted to see, and those were the clients I wanted to have,” says Hallerman. “Who wouldn’t want to have a job where they get to talk to Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn every day?”
Hallerman had previously been a litigator in New York, and although she loved the courtroom, she wasn’t having fun. After an impulsive move to Los Angeles and a job as a TV assistant at ICM, she instantly knew she had found her niche: “I ‘get’ actors. The work was interesting, and because of my legal background, I could negotiate without fear because I knew what I was doing.”
Now a key agent in UTA’s comedy business, Hallerman has masterminded packages for her signature clients Wilson and Vaughn. She was a key architect behind last summer’s “The Wedding Crashers,” and was deeply involved in “You, Me and Dupree” as well as “The Break-Up.”
Ex-Universal studio chief and new DreamWorks honcho Stacey Snider, with whom Hallerman worked on the last two films, says, “Universal’s summer is dominated by Lisa Hallerman-packaged movies.” Career mantra: “Trust your instincts, be honest, be creative and connect the dots.”
Role models: “I draw inspiration and wisdom from different people every day, including my clients and colleagues.”
What’s next: “Surfing bigger waves, flying in smaller planes and touring with the E Street Band.”
— Janet ShprintzLINDA LICHTER
Entertainment attorney West Coast-based Lichter says Hollywood today is far more female-friendly than when she started her career. “I think it’s definitely gotten much better,” she says. “There are many more women at every level. The firm I started in had 90 people, and I was the second woman ever hired there.”
In the 30 years since, Lichter has become one of filmdom’s pre-eminent attorneys, repping some of the hottest names in both the major and indie realms.
Her clients are mainly writers and directors whose work ranges from studio tentpoles (“Pirates of the Caribbean” scribes Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio) to indie pics (“Little Miss Sunshine” producers Ron Yerxa and Albert Berger, as well as that film’s star Abigail Breslin).
“What I have are people who go back and forth between studio-type projects and indie stuff,” Lichter says. “I can work in all worlds.”
Ultimately, she says, “I like movies that attempt to change the world and change people’s perspectives.”
Lichter’s other clients include “Stranger Than Fiction” director Mark Foster, “Babel” scribe Guillermo Arriaga and Susanne Bier, who’s directing the upcoming “Things We Lost in the Fire.” Career mantra: “Stay curious.”
Role models: “Emma Goldman and Madeleine Albright.”
What’s next: “Adjusting to an upcoming empty nest.” (Lichter’s youngest of three children is entering the senior year of high school.)
— Nicole LaPorteAMANDA URBAN
Exec VP, co-director of lit dept., ICM Urban is at the pinnacle of her profession, but this agent’s advice to clients is very much of the “stop and smell the roses” variety.
“There is perhaps too much emphasis put on end goals and not enough on process,” says Urban. “The best part of my job is working with writers to help shape ideas and narratives, and to provide a safety net for them to take chances.”
Keeping things a little bit unscripted extends to Urban’s view of life, where she describes the peak experience of raising her now-adult daughter, Kate, as “staggering, unparalleled and full of surprises.”
Although Urban got her start in the 1970s working at Esquire and New York magazines, she embraces rather than fears Internet technology. “The digital revolution will open new markets and lure new readers,” says Urban. “I’m so interested in the emerging markets in India and China.”
She is particularly proud of helming the London office that ICM opened three years ago to capitalize on anticipated increased demand for English-language material.
Married to New Yorker media writer Ken Auletta and one of the most high-profile literary agents in the business, Urban was fittingly cast as the agent who turns down Jeff Daniels’ book in “The Squid and the Whale.” (Daniels and co-star Laura Linney are ICM clients.) Urban is so much at the epicenter of her profession that it is less than surprising that she found herself this year in the unusual position of being the literary agent for both New York Times reporter Judith Miller and her White House source Lewis “Scooter” Libby, whose novel “The Apprentice” was published in 1996.
Urban’s vast client list spans both high and popular culture; she represents writers such as E.L. Doctorow and Toni Morrison. Her authors have had 14 recent New York Times bestsellers including Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals” and Alan Alda’s “Never Have Your Dog Stuffed.” Urban also has handled recent movie deals for her authors including Christopher Buckley (“Thank You for Smoking”) and Stephen Millhauser (“The Illusionist”). Career mantra: “Don’t live a life that is too pre-scripted, professionally or personally.”
Role model: “After years of battling poverty and alcohol, Raymond Carver was so happy when he finally had the means to write full time. He would call me in the morning to say, ‘I’m at my station.'”
What’s next: “The digital revolution.”
— Janet ShprintzCORI WELLINS
Head of William Morris’ TV lit department As broadcast television becomes more cinematic, count Wellins as an integral part of the trend. At William Morris, Wellins is known as the point person for catapulting bigscreen talent’s passions to the small screen.
Since her promotion a year ago, four of the dramas she handled have landed slots on the 2006-07 fall season sked: “Jericho” (CBS), “Men in Trees” (ABC), “Shark” (CBS) and “Six Degrees” (ABC).
James Mangold and Cathy Konrad originally conceived “Men in Trees,” a story about a female relationship guru whose love life is on the rocks, as a feature. Wellins believed ABC would be the perfect fit for the project, given the network’s success with femme-themed skeins. Having Mangold (“Walk the Line”) as the pilot’s director was an added plus.
Wellins also linked CBS with clients Jon Turteltaub and Steve Chbowsky for “Jericho,” a series about a mysterious explosion’s impact on a Kansas town.
Another feather for Wellins at the Eye entailed booking WMA client Spike Lee as the pilot director for the James Woods law drama “Shark.”
While some film pros have seen broadcast television as a career setback, Wellins’ roster is bolstering their resume. One such example is screenwriter Gary Scott Thompson (“The Fast and the Furious”), whose series “Las Vegas” is entering its fourth season on NBC.
“People who come from film are thrilled by the TV process,” Wellins says. “There’s a real cycle whereby a project goes into development. If the series doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. With features, it can take years before a film goes into production.”
Wellins started off on the right foot at WMA 11 years ago, bypassing the mailroom for a desk assistant job to Rob Wolken and later Gary Loder, the tenpercentery’s former TV lit topper.
Recalling agenting advice from Loder, Wellins says: “I remember him saying, ‘Always remember your career is a marathon, not a sprint.’ If I found a few new clients every year, 10 years down the road I would have a list of 30 outstanding clients who were in a great place in their career.” Career mantra: “Always trust your gut.”
Role model: “Any working mother who has found a balanced life of genuine satisfaction.”
What’s next: “We’re in talks with HBO for Jason Reitman to make a ‘Thank You for Smoking’-like series starring Rob Lowe as a PR executive.”
— Anthony D’Alessandro