CAA partner Beth Swofford boasts the best director’s list in Hollywood, from studio titan Chris Columbus to Richard Linklater.
While Swofford’s helmer clientele is the envy of Hollywood, she is still willing to fly to Berlin to check out a small art film like “The Lives of Others” and scoop up rookie writer-director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck when no festival would book him. His film wound up winning the Oscar for best foreign-language film. He’s now writing his first English-language picture.
After Swofford persuaded DreamWorks to buy the spec script for Oscar hopeful “Things We Lost in the Fire,” the agent packaged two of her clients together as the film’s producer and director: Sam Mendes and Danish director Susanne Bier (“After the Wedding”).
Her ability to introduce an arthouse sensibility to mainstream Hollywood is beyond prescient: Just as she plucked Mendes from the West End and Broadway stages and introduced him to Steven Spielberg, who hired Mendes to direct the Oscar-winning “American Beauty,” she also pushed Brit director Paul Greengrass into the studio realm with the “Bourne” series and “United 93.”
“The CAA advantage is that you work with a lot of good people who raise each other’s game,” she says. “We’re at the center of all the information. We know what’s going to happen before the studios do.”
Her latest coups involved catapulting David Yates from British TV to helm the fifth and sixth “Harry Potter” pics; convincing screenwriter Scott Frank (“Out of Sight”) to direct his first feature, “The Lookout”; and signing Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu after a five-year courtship.
“I felt I would rep him someday,” she says of Inarritu. “I waited. You let them know you’re there.”
Vocation: “To help get interesting movies made.”
Recent breakthrough: Commandeered the precedent-breaking deal with U that gave Mexican directors Inarritu, Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron extraordinary independence, backend gross and film ownership.
Role model: The late Brit agent Judy Scott Fox, a mentor at WMA
Career mantra: “You sign people when the light in your eyes matches theirs.”
What’s next: Guiding her stable of helmers through their next films.