UTA partner Marty Bowen and Davis Entertainment president Wyck Godfrey dropped a bombshell Thursday, announcing they’d leave their plum posts to establish a producing partnership with a first-look deal at New Line Cinema.
While Godfrey won’t be able to start his new venture until his contract expires in April, the exec suite at Davis is being shored up by the arrival of Robbie Brenner as an exec VP of production after ankling 20th Century Fox as a senior VP.
Bowen and Godfrey, a New Line director of development in his formative years, became friends when they shared a house in the Hollywood Hills with producer John Goldstone and writer Don Winston as all four were establishing their careers. Bowen decided over the recent holiday that he wanted to change his career path, and Godfrey was eager to join forces with him.
New Line has only nine producing deals, and the pact may give the mini-major some traction in developing projects.
Bowen announced his exit in a tearful UTA lit meeting. After joining the mailroom right after UTA formed in 1991, he worked his way up to partner in 2002.
“This was an exceptional event because he’s an agent in his prime, risking a great career because he’s passionate about trying something else, and I applaud him for that,” said UTA motion picture head Jeremy Zimmer, who hired Bowen right out of Harvard.
Bowen repped a list highlighted by Charlie Kaufman, James Gandolfini, “Brokeback Mountain” scribes Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, “Dukes of Hazzard” director Jay Chandrasekhar and his Broken Lizard troupe and “Alien vs. Predator” helmer Paul W.S. Anderson.
(Longtime client Kaufman created a character in “Adaptation” of a coarse-talking agent named Marty, played by Ron Livingston.)
Bowen spent much of Thursday helping transition his clients to other agents at the company, which has recently dealt with the exits of partners Dan Aloni, Jason Heyman and Martin Lesak (all went to CAA).
When rivals heard of the exit, they started circling, much as they did when John Lesher left Endeavor to head Paramount Classics and Steve Dontanville retired from WMA.
Godfrey, who’s been president of Fox-based Davis Entertainment since 2001, is ending an eight-year run at the company. He was working Thursday in post-production on “Eragon,” Davis’s big-scale dragon tale for Fox.
During his run with Davis, Godfrey was producer on “Daddy Day Care,” “First Daughter” and “Flight of the Phoenix.” He exec produced “I, Robot,” “Behind Enemy Lines” and “Alien vs. Predator.”
Prior to working at Davis, Godfrey served as senior veep of production for Paul Schiff and Michael London’s Horizon Entertainment.
Godfrey said his exit was due to timing and the opportunity to work with his friend.
“I told John Davis that I’d sat back and watched him build a company and was at the point where either you decide to do my job the rest of your life, or try to create your own company like he did,” Godfrey said. “Marty has salesmanship, energy and a skill for identifying talent, and I know how to produce a movie after doing eight of them for John. After six months being away on ‘Eragon,’ and with four Davis Entertainment movies ready to come out, the time was right.”
Bowen also felt the clock ticking. “I wanted to give myself the opportunity to do this at the peak of my creative energy,” he said, “because I’ve seen a lot of people make the transition too late. I can learn at the side of one of my oldest friends, so how could I say no?”
On his new hire, John A. Davis said, “She’s a sensational exec and producer and I’m looking forward to making movies with her.”
Brenner joined Fox in 2004 after working for eight years at Miramax. While at Fox, she oversaw Jesse Wigutow’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Tender Is the Night,” the Davis-produced thriller “Under” and the vidgame adaptation “Max Payne.”
She has also produced crime thriller “Haven,” helmed and penned by Frank Flowers, for El Camino Pictures.
(Gabriel Snyder contributed to this report.)