Talent Agent/Manager Susan Smith Dies at 71

Susan Smith Obit
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Talent agent turned manager Susan Smith, who represented stars including Kathy Bates, Brian Dennehy, Melanie Lynskey and David Paymer, died Saturday, Oct. 12 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. She was 71.

The youngest woman to ever start an agency, she launched Susan Smith and Associates in 1969 in New York City. She then spent 32 years as an agent before moving on to become a manager in 2001. Her agency had more Oscar nominations than any other independent agency.

Along with her high-profile client base, she also famously convinced a client, Paula Wagner, to leave acting to become an agent. Wagner went on to work at CAA and represented Tom Cruise, Liam Neeson and others before moving to United Artists as chief executive.

Some of Smith’s more than 100 clients stayed with her for more than 20 years, and she kept her agency small to keep management one-on-one. She also fostered long relationships with those in the industry, and one of her close friends was late casting director Marion Dougherty.

Smith received Women’s in Film’s Women of Vision Award in 1998, was on the board of trustees at the Antioch University Santa Barbara and participated regularly in industry events, including the Santa Barbara Film Festival and the Savannah Film Festival.

Originally from Kansas City, Missouri, Smith spent three years at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio before graduating from NYU with an art history degree. Smith’s survivors include her brother, Roger.

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