Aleen Keshishian knows a thing or two about nurturing careers. The Brillstein Entertainment partner-manager has repped Natalie Portman dating back to before “The Professional” (1994). Early on, Keshishian put Portman in a room with her then-client Darren Aronofsky after the young actress expressed an interest in making a dance movie. Ten years later, she watched Portman’s dream come true when she won an Oscar for “Black Swan.”
Keshishian also helped turn Paul Rudd into a leading man in films like “Our Idiot Brother,” directed by her client Jesse Peretz and co-starring another client Emily Mortimer, who beat out several bigger names for a coveted lead role in Aaron Sorkin’s upcoming, as-yet-untitled HBO series about a cable news network.
She helped get Laura Linney the lead in Showtime’s “The Big C” after a stint on Broadway, which led to Linney landing an Emmy nom and winning a Golden Globe. Likewise, her client Mark Ruffalo landed his first Oscar nod for his work in “The Kids Are All Right,” which led to a starring role as the Hulk in next summer’s superhero extravaganza “The Avengers.”
Not only has her client Zoe Saldana been making a name for herself as an action star after “Colombiana,” but another, Jennifer Aniston’s, doing back-to-back comedies including “Just Go With It,” “Horrible Bosses” and David Wain’s upcoming “Wanderlust,” which co-stars Rudd.
Keshishian’s goal is to change people’s perceptions of her clients by having them exhibit range in their work, which is why she encouraged Portman to host “Saturday Night Live” and ushered Gwyneth Paltrow into an Emmy-winning guest stint on Fox’s “Glee” after her well-received turn as a singer in “Country Strong.” And yet for all her efforts, Keshishian, like most of her peers, prefers to keep the focus on her clients, whose accomplishments are indicative of the hard work she does behind the scenes.
To her, it’s about getting a great piece of material and shepherding it from beginning to end. Keshishian describes herself as an old-fashioned manager who fosters her clients’ passion projects while helping them balance their careers.
Job title: Partner-manager, Brillstein Entertainment Partners
Role models: Sam Cohn, Cecile Keshishian, Alexander Ovechkin
Career mantra: “Don’t take no for an answer”
Leisure pursuits: Extreme Beer Pong, Nude Luge
Philanthropic passions: FINCA (Foundation for International Community Assistance), which aims to create employment, raise family incomes and reduce poverty worldwide.