Former CAA agent Jay Moloney was found dead in his home early Tuesday, just two days after turning 35. He had hanged himself.
His death is the final chapter in a career and lifestyle that at one time rivaled the youthful Jay Gatsby, with a central character seemingly blessed with money, power and good looks.
The tragedy followed a drug-fueled fall from the heights of that Hollywood power hierarchy. He made numerous attempts to kick a habit that eventually cost Moloney his place as one of the most powerful agents in Hollywood.
After a quick rise through the ranks of CAA, and before the age of 30, Moloney, reportedly was making a million-dollar salary as the dealmaker for some of the most prominent directors in the business.
Just a few years ago, Moloney, a protege of former CAA chairman Michael Ovitz, was considered one of the best and brightest of talent agents, with a client list that included Tim Burton, Steven Spielberg, Bill Murray, Martin Scorsese, David Letterman, Uma Thurman and Adrian Lyne.
The six CAA managing partners — Richard Lovett, Bryan Lourd, Kevin Huvane, David O’Connor, Rick Nicita and Lee Gabler — issued a collective statement.
“Jay was our brother,” they said. “No words can express our sadness and grief at this moment. Everyone who knew Jay loved him.”
While many of those closest to him expressed shock and sadness over his death, friends also said that they had tried to prepare themselves for such news for some time. Moloney had apparently attempted suicide at least once before and continued his bout with drugs.Some compared his demise to that of producer Don Simpson, who also had attained power, success and riches in Hollywood but was unable to handle the excesses associated with it. But in Moloney’s case, many feel he simply had too much success too soon.
Raised in Malibu and Oregon, Moloney interned for agent Fred Specktor while attending USC, and entered the CAA mailroom in 1984, when he was just 20 years old. When David O’Connor was promoted to agent, Moloney became Ovitz’s assistant and protege.
Moloney later rose to be one of the cadre of agents (and close friends) nicknamed the “Young Turks” — dubbed such in 1991 when they were first mentioned in a Premiere magazine power list — who helped the agency gain a near stranglehold on feature talent. These Young Turks eventually took control of the agency after Ovitz and former president Ron Meyer departed to join Disney and Universal, respectively, in 1995.
Handsome, affable and charming, Moloney developed a reputation as a gifted dealmaker, and was known as one of the most cultured and art-loving of the young Hollywood elite. Despite being regarded as the ringleader of the Turks, the persistent rumors about his hard partying ways were troubling.
One Daily Variety report about his first trip to a rehab clinic attributed the problem to prescription drugs he’d been taking after undergoing heart surgery, but the problems were clearly more serious. Less than one year after taking part in the purchase of CAA, Moloney resigned from the agency in May 1996 when frequent attempts to stay clean proved unsuccessful.
Moloney then kept a low profile while trying to contain his demons, reportedly spending time working on a kibbutz in Israel and even more time in rehab facilities.
Late last year, Ovitz reportedly approached Moloney about joining the former’s newly-established management-production firm, Artists Management Group. Moloney had spoken with execs about joining Propaganda Management as well.
Instead, Moloney was named this past April as president of Paradise Music & Entertainment, a publicly traded multimedia company that was focused on the music business but sought to surface with an indie film division. The company was run by Jesse Dylan, a former client of Moloney.
At that time, Moloney told Daily Variety that he did not want to return to handling talent directly, and chose the job as a way to work in the industry and stay clean. But months later, Moloney took a leave of absence and departed from the company.
It was understood that Moloney had paid a visit to friends and former colleagues at Paradise’s Straw Dogs commercials production arm offices on Monday.
A Los Angeles police department spokesman confirmed that Moloney was found hanged in his house on Mulholland Drive in the Hollywood Hills.
According to the LAPD’s Sgt. John Parquariello, a friend found Moloney’s body hanging in his shower and called 911. Parquariello said that while there was no note on the premises, officers summoned to the house from the LAPD’s Van Nuys division found no reasons to indicate his death was anything other than a suicide.
His death came just as the New York Post’s Page Six published a report Tuesday that the once high-flying agent had suffered yet another drug relapse. It has not been determined whether drugs were involved in his death. He left in his wake a shattered group of former CAA colleagues.
In a statement, Ovitz said: “I am shocked and saddened by Jay’s death. He was an incredibly talented man with a kind and gentle soul; unfortunately, his personal struggles were too great to overcome. I will cherish our friendship and his memory will remain with me always.”
Moloney, who was unmarried, is survived by his mother, Carole Johnson, and his brothers, Sean and Darren Moloney. Funeral services hadn’t been set late Tuesday.