Posted by Danielle Berrin
Ari Emanuel is possibly the only contender to become the next big Hollywood mogul.
The young, brash, uncompromising superagent is on the ascending arc of his career: he is the architect of the new powerhouse agency, William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, which he will run, and has a direct line to the White House through his Chief-of-Staff brother, Rahm Emanuel. But Emanuel is most famous—or perhaps infamous—for inspiring the character of Ari Gold on HBO’s Entourage, who seems to embody both the Hollywood dream and what’s despicable about it.
When he’s not a shark in a boardroom, Emanuel is part of a tight-knit Jewish family, with established roots in Israel. According to Wikipedia, he is the son of Israeli-born Dr. Benjamin Emanuel, a pediatrician, who was active in the Israeli Irgun and Marcia Emanuel, a civil rights activist and one-time owner of a Chicago night club. They raised three exceptionally ambitions sons (the eldest is Ezekiel, an oncologist and bioethicist who advises the Obama administration on healthcare), but placed great emphasis on family time. According to an interview the three Emanuel brothers did with Charlie Rose, they were “never allowed to miss Shabbat dinner”; that was just “not acceptable.”
But the dinner table wasn’t just about the food. The Emanuel brothers were expected to come to dinner with something interesting to say. And argumentation was considered high art: “It’s a sign of love to take someone’s view seriously and want to persuade them that [yours] is more accurate,” Ari Emanuel said to Charlie Rose.
That’s what we hear he’s real good at.
Find out what makes Emanuel tick in the The New York Times story below (for which Emanuel, and brother Rahm, obviously declined to interview):
In 1992, Ariel Zev Emanuel, a young operative with the struggling InterTalent agency, had a problem with the rent on a $639-a-month walk-up in the city’s modest Fairfax district. The landlord took him to court seeking eviction, and won.
Today, Mr. Emanuel has a $10 million home in the Brentwood neighborhood…
Long known as a hardball player of considerable skill, Mr. Emanuel, 48, has emerged in the last six weeks as the pre-eminent power player in a Hollywood that has often bemoaned the sunset of colorful moguls from an older generation, including Michael Ovitz and David Geffen.
As the co-chief executive and principal architect of William Morris Endeavor, formed in late April by the merger of Mr. Emanuel’s Endeavor with the venerable William Morris Agency, Mr. Emanuel has finally stepped into their shoes — assuming he can hold his venture together. He spent much of the last week in mixers meant to help hundreds of wary colleagues from the newly joined agencies get comfortable with one another.
Hollywood, meanwhile, is still struggling to get comfortable with Mr. Emanuel and his aspirations — and to figure out exactly what makes him tick.
“It’s about respect,” offered J. C. Spink, a young producer who, with his business partner Chris Bender, has been a protégé of Mr. Emanuel’s. “With nine out of 10 people, if not more, they tend to be in this business for respect.”
Others queried in the last week mentioned power, money, an itch to surpass the Creative Artists Agency, and, most intriguing, a surge of ambition that came with the return of Mr. Emanuel’s brother Rahm, a former Clinton adviser, to the White House with President Obama. “Ari wants an empire,” said one associate, who insisted on anonymity to protect his relationship.
If empire is indeed being born here, it is being shaped by a restless achiever who hungers for the bold stroke — as when Mr. Emanuel and three colleagues in 1995 started Endeavor with a nighttime raid on their own office files at International Creative Management — even when that leaves a mess to be cleaned up afterward. In the case of their I.C.M. caper, James A. Wiatt, then president of the agency, caught and fired the four before they could quit.
“Nobody wants to be on the wrong side of Ari Emanuel, especially now that his brother is running the White House,” said one television executive, who asked for anonymity to preserve harmony with him.
Sharon Waxman calls Emanuel “the king of the world” on The Wrap:
Michael Ovitz should officially hand over the keys of the kingdom to a fast-talking, trash-mouthed, steam-rolling successor to his Hollywood dominion.
It is a rare moment in time and space that allows Ariel Zev Emanuel to hold the kind of power that even Ovitz could only dream about, chronicled today on the front page of the New York Times and concurrently noted by Kim Masters at the Daily Beast.
Here’s what’s unique about this moment: Over 18 months of hard-selling, Emanuel has just pulled off a “merger” that had William Morris paying Endeavor millions of dollars. And in a matter of weeks he’s turned it into a takeover, firing dozens of Morris agents, while leaving Endeavor more or less intact.
He has quickly shoved Morris chairman Jim Wiatt to the sidelines, with the Times reporting that Wiatt has decided to leave the agency in the coming months and one rumor suggesting that the agency ex-chief may go work with Chase Carey at News Corp. (An individual close to Wiatt denied it.)
The stage has been set for some time. Emanuel cannily figured out how to create positive spin in the blogosphere as he plotted—with a hotline to agency-central’s Deadline Hollywood Daily that guaranteed Nikki Finke’s scoops, while ensuring Emanuel positive coverage throughout the merger-takeover process.
He already has a television avatar in Jeremy Piven’s Ari Gold, who channels Emanuel’s testosterone temperament with barely a touch of hyperbole. (I nearly choked when I heard a teenager say the other day that they wanted to be just like him.)
Finally, Emanuel holds an ace in the hole that most could only dream about: His brother Rahm runs the White House.
Mike Ovitz, Lew Wasserman and Louis B. Mayer would all have to tip their hats before this kind of power play.
But then Waxman wonders about his tragic flaw—“Where is Emanuel’s Achilles heel?” she writes. “Every power broker has one. Emanuel has an awful lot of them, but it’s too early to say which character trait—which so far has catapulted him to a rare perch—may also do him in.”
You’d think a Hollywood story might enjoy the luxury of a Hollywood ending. Maybe in the movies, but not in their town.
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June 10, 2009 | 5:12 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
After deeply divided negotiations that went on a full year after actor contracts expire last June, the Screen Actors Guild has finally settled on a new contract. Unsurprisingly, SAG prexy Alan Rosenberg, whom I profiled last March, called the contract “devastatingly unsatisfactory” for its failure to improve compensation on the internet.
He’s still a one-man band trying to chart a course the majority of SAG’s 120,000 members do not want to travel.
But at least, for now, the crippling stalemate is over. Of course, because of their mishigas, SAG’s contracts will expire out of step with the other lead unions (AFTRA, Writers Guild, Directors Guild) precluding any chance of a unified force against the studios.
Members of the Screen Actors Guild approved the agreement with 78 percent of the votes cast in favor, the union said today in an e-mailed statement. The accord, which runs through June 2011, excludes retroactive pay increases for the time since the last contract expired on June 30, 2008.
The vote is a defeat for union hardliners who sought a tougher stance in negotiations. The studios exploited the rift to limit the guild’s advances on pay and jurisdiction for shows made for the Internet. Talks for the new agreement began after directors, writers and producers concluded their negotiations, leaving actors with little leverage.
“If we’ve learned anything in the past year, it’s that we’re stronger when we’re unified,” Ned Vaughn, head of Unite for Strength, a faction that supported ratification, said before the results were made announced. “That means working in partnership with the other unions.”
The contracts provide more than $105 million in wages, pension contributions and other benefits for actors, the guild said.
The agreement with the studio bargaining group, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, sets rates for work performed on the Internet, provides a 3 percent increase in minimum pay in the first year and 3.5 percent in the second year.
“The members have spoken,” Guild President Alan Rosenberg, who opposed ratification, said in an interview after the results. “Now we’ll live under the terms of this contract and see if they’re as devastating as I think they will be.”
Rosenberg said he would start discussions with other unions to plan for unified talks in 2011.
June 10, 2009 | 2:47 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
I’m much more interested in the Bar Refaeli I can chastise for dodging Israeli army service than I am in the supermodel who’s dating Leonardo DiCaprio. But these are times in which speculating about the status of celebrity love lives is actually newsworthy. The problem is, I can’t seem to find any definitive statement about their relationship status, from any reliable source.
According to People, “Leonardo DiCaprio and Bar Refaeli Take a Break.” According to Us Magazine, they’re “still together.” Access Hollywood, Extra TV and the ever dependable gossip artist Perez Hilton have them “split” while TMZ.com yelps “Leo & Bar Are Not Broken Up, People!”
Fortunately, if you google them, there are 61 articles you can scour to make your own determination. But my celebrity gawking is coming to an end because I’m in the middle of “Eat, Pray, Love” and I’m learning how to mediate! (PS - If you caught yesterday’s Variety, the movie version will star Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem, who is gorgeous.)
June 9, 2009 | 8:07 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Today the internet is ablaze with news of Adam Lambert’s self-outing in Rolling Stone magazine. I find the outpouring fascinating and confusing, while the news itself of course, is utterly unsurprising. “I don’t think it should be a surprise for anyone to hear that I’m gay,” Lambert admitted to Rolling Stone. Which is one reason why it’s fascinating: absent any kind of shock value, Lambert’s coming out is being treated like a triumphal celebration. Imagine telling that to Harvey Milk.
The idea that a singer’s sexuality is so darned newsworthy and important is an ironic comment on the gulf between American pop culture and American politics.
Two weeks ago, the California Supreme Court upheld the Prop 8 ban on gay marriage. Today, rock music’s most promising new star poses seductively on the cover of an iconic American magazine to declare he’s gay and he’s proud. But while the headline promises, “The Liberation of Adam Lambert,” the visual conveys a different message. Rolling Stone touts its subversive appetite with the pointed placement of a snake—the bible’s most sinister creature—heading straight for Lambert’s groin. It’s as if it’s saying, ‘Who cares that a snake is heading for your private part? You’re on the COVER of Rolling Stone!’ Unfortunately, gaydom’s new cover boy harbors no ambitions for advancing the cause: He tells Rolling Stone, “I’m trying to be a singer, not a civil rights leader.”
Lambert held out for the Rolling Stone platform because he thought it would be “cooler” to come out to a rock magazine than a melee of reporters. But why is it so significant? Is it because Lambert has finally been liberated from the tight-lipped environment of American Idol, and can dress in drag without consequence? Because his being gay challenges the archetype of the virile, guitar-smashing, womanizing rock star? Or is it exciting because this is this how Hollywood’s liberal populists thumb their noses at conservatives in power? That much would make sense, considering the year’s track record: Hollywood responded to the Prop 8 ban by awarding “Milk,” a film about the assassination of a gay activist and politician, with a screenwriting Oscar.
Option D: All of the above. Lambert can’t marry who he loves, but he can canoodle with them in West Hollywood, unafraid of paparazzi; he can be a sex-crazed rock star who is crazy about a different sex; and yes, even as gays are denied basic civil rights, Lambert can be praised for coming out and given pop culture’s brightest spotlight. And even if he doesn’t want to, or mean to, Lambert can send a message to people who don’t support gay rights that being gay is—as Lambert might say—cool.
June 8, 2009 | 2:49 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Ed Zwick has the antidote to those embarrassing barbs about Jewish male virility (something to do with size…). Zwick, who last directed a bunch of robust Jewish males in the resistance film “Defiance” has since discovered the importance of Viagra—and not simply for its mechanical enhancements. He will direct “Love and Other Drugs” an adaptation of the nonfiction book “Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman” by Jamie Reidy. The story is autobiographical: Reidy was a traveling salesman for rival pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Eli Lilly in the 1990s before he wrote a memoir revealing internal practices. According to Reidy, “When his book, debuted in ‘05, those enemies finally agreed on one thing: fire that MoFo!” Jake Gyllenhaal will play the disgraced salesman and Anne Hathaway co-stars as his Parkinsons-stricken lady love.
According to Wikipedia, Gyllenhaal considers himself “more Jewish than anything else.” Other reports suggest that his sister Maggie, also an actress, identifies more strongly than he does. Here’s the family breakdown, you decide:
Gyllenhaal was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of film director Stephen Gyllenhaal and film producer and screenwriter Naomi Foner (née Achs). Maggie Gyllenhaal, his sister, is also an actress, and played his sister in the movie Donnie Darko. Gyllenhaal’s father was raised in the Swedenborgian religion and is a descendant of the Swedish noble Gyllenhaal family. His last native Swedish ancestor was his great-great-grandfather, Anders Leonard Gyllenhaal. Gyllenhaal’s mother is from a Jewish family from New York City. Gyllenhaal’s Bar Mitzvah celebration took place at a homeless shelter because his parents wanted to instill in him a sense of gratitude for his privileged lifestyle. Gyllenhaal has said that he considers himself “more Jewish than anything else.” Gyllenhaal’s parents insisted that he have summer jobs to support himself. He worked as a lifeguard, and as a busboy at a restaurant operated by a family friend.
Oh, and he’s environmentally conscious, which he demonstrates by recycling regularly.
More from The Hollywood Reporter
June 3, 2009 | 5:05 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Why are U.S. billionaires absconding for London? The tax rate there is substantially higher for the wealthy than in the U.S., clocking in at 50%. But who cares, says Edgar Bronfman, heir to the Seagram fortune and who also belongs to one of the Jewish world’s most dedicated philanthropic families. He’s movin up and out: Bronfman will move his family of six from New York to London where he will take over Warner Music, the world’s third largest music company.
From the Times online:
Madonna may have rediscovered her appetite for the Big Apple, but the American media mogul who runs her former record company has decided that life may be a little better on this side of the Atlantic.
Undeterred by the rise in the higher rate of income tax to 50 per cent, Edgar Bronfman, the billionaire heir to the Seagram fortune and the chief executive of Warner Music, is leaving his native New York for a house in Kensington, West London, with his wife, Clarissa, and four young children from his second marriage.
He plans to run Warner Music — the world’s third-largest music company, home to Green Day and R.E.M — from both London and New York, in a move that is a coup for the British capital, which had been losing ground to its American rival as the City struggles amid the credit crunch.
Mr Bronfman said that his principal reason for moving was to give his children some experience of life outside the United States and he plans to stay in the UK “for a period of one or two school years”. His presence will help to boost Warner’s faltering British operations, which have performed worse than its American business.
June 2, 2009 | 3:55 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
The hilarious and high-profile stunt orchestrated by Sacha Baron Cohen and Eminem at the 2009 MTV Movie Awards was indeed staged, but it’s still stunning.
“As publicity stunts go, it might not have been the most imaginative, but you had to admire the precision of its execution and targeting,” writes Ben Child in The Guardian.
Child’s brilliant synopsis (which was almost as good as the real thing) describes Sacha Baron Cohen “in the guise of his flamboyantly gay fashionista alter ego Brüno” making a grand high-wire entrance “in full angel costume with a gold jockstrap and bare derrière” who lands his spread-eagled buttocks in the face of Eminem, a rapper known for his anti-gay lyrics. A disgusted Eminem shouts profanities at Bruno and then storms out of the auditorium with his bodyguards.
After it happened, the blogosphere went ballistic as to whether or not the stunt was real or staged. If it wasn’t completely authentic and improvisational, perhaps it wouldn’t have been as funny, the worries went. But when the L.A. Times reported that Scott Aukerman, the head writer of the MTV Movie Awards announced on his blog that it was all an act, the stunt gained added gravitas.
If it hadn’t been staged, it would have been the usual homophobic offensiveness that thrives in popular culture. But the fact that it was planned, purposeful and practiced is what makes it so interesting. According to Child, “If Baron Cohen’s impending film Brüno, a mockumentary about the eponymous presenter for the fictitious Austrian Gay TV, has any higher purpose beyond pure entertainment, it might be the lampooning of homophobic attitudes in the US and beyond.” The idea that one of the music industry’s most vocally anti-gay artists would participate in such a stunt proves this theory true—it wasn’t Bruno’s flaming queen being mocked, it was Eminem’s homophobia. That Eminem agreed to this kind of exposure, in which a public mockery is made of his homophobia proves Baron Cohen has something wise up his sleeve.
Baron Cohen’s characters are themselves, offensive, obnoxious and absurd. But in this case he proves even the ridiculous can have a meaningful impact.
June 1, 2009 | 1:55 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
A new spate of Holocaust films are finally letting Jews have their revenge.
This comes after decades of Hollywood’s preferred Holocaust, in which Jews diligently parade to their deaths and evil Nazis escape to Canada. But lately, a handful of filmmakers are imagining a new ending. And this time, it’s the Nazis who are in danger.
In Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds,” Brad Pitt and his cadre of Jewish-American commandos are tasked with a Nazi killing spree.
The only problem is, with the world so accustomed to Jewish victimhood, no one’s sure how to receive this new fantasy.
Some critics are praising the film for being subversive. Others condemn it for rewriting history. Patrick Goldstein from the L.A. Times quoted one of the film’s stars, actor/director Eli Roth, who called the film “kosher porn”.
“It’s almost a deep sexual satisfaction of wanting to beat Nazis to death, an orgasmic feeling,” Roth explained to Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic. For his part, Goldberg criticized the film for its excessive brutality and wrote that torturing Nazis “doesn’t sound like the Jewish thing to do.” Daniel Mendelsohn, who wrote the formidable tome, “The Lost” about his relatives who perished in the Holocaust, argued in Time that the film’s masterful accomplishment (or horrifying failure, depending on your outlook) is that it turns Jews into Nazis.
The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw named it a “WW2 shlocker...[that] is achtung-achtung-ach-mein-Gott atrocious.”
Next up is “This Must Be the Place,” written by an Italian duo that puts Sean Penn on the prowl for his father’s Nazi-killer. Penn will play an aging musician who trades in retirement for first-degree murder. (Apparently, Penn is exploring his Jewish side—he won an Oscar last February for playing the Jewish activist Harvey Milk and recently found himself lip-locked with Israeli-born actress Natalie Portman, who denied their fling.)
Whether or not these ideas gain further momentum remains to be seen. Rewriting history is no small feat. But the idea of a retroactive Jewish fantasy in which Nazis pay for their crimes is certainly welcome entertainment. After all, Hollywood itself was created by Jews who wanted to escape their pasts and live a better future.