CAA apparently considered dumping Will Smith in the wake of the Oscar Slap

As we discussed, in the wake of the Oscars Slap, Will Smith’s upcoming projects have been paused or shelved indefinitely. To be clear, Will wasn’t booked back-to-back following the critical acclaim for King Richard – he was working on his passion project, Emancipation, for much of the past year, and he put a lot of time and effort into his Oscar campaign this year. I still think there’s a good chance Will wants to take a step back and take some real time off following the Oscar Slap, but the news is coming out as “studios are punishing Will Smith.” I still don’t know. But I find this news disturbing: apparently, Will’s talent agency, CAA, has considered dumping him in the wake of the slap.

If you’re CAA, one of the most powerful talent agencies in the world, and Will Smith, one of your biggest A-list clients, lights his career on fire by slapping Chris Rock on live TV while the world watches, what do you do? You can look at history for starters.

WME dumped Mel Gibson as a client in 2010 after the Mad Max star was caught on tape saying the N-word during one of his many tirades. That agency, led by super-agents Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell, also dumped clients Brett Ratner and Bryan Singer over sexual-misconduct allegations. CAA ditched Megyn Kelly when the former Fox News anchor defended blackface live on NBC; and UTA cut Bill O’Reilly loose after revelations he paid $32 million to settle one of many sexual-harassment claims against him.

Last week, it was CAA’s overlords Bryan Lourd, Richard Lovett, and Kevin Huvane in the hot seat again as the famed talent and sports agency grappled with what to do about their own slap-happy star client. An internal debate over whether to drop the Fresh Prince took hold at the same time roughly 100 agents and executives descended upon the chichi Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes for CAA’s first leadership retreat since the plague, Source Material has learned.

Lourd expressed to several attendees at the confab that he believed CAA, in the process of acquiring rival agency ICM (which reps Rock, by the way), should ditch Smith, according to three people who spoke with him. Meanwhile, Lovett, who personally reps Smith, was described as “frazzled” throughout the fallout from the Oscars spat, but wanted to keep Big Willie aboard the CAA roster.

The trio want to be seen as being on the right side of history, especially in light of CAA’s association with Harvey Weinstein, but ultimately they decided to stick with Smith as there is seemingly no doubt—despite his resignation from the Academy—that his status as a bankable movie star will one day return. A spokesperson for CAA told Source Material: “There is no truth to any of it. Simply never happened.”

[From The Daily Beast]

I swear to God, if CAA fires Will Smith over this mess, I will be beyond disappointed. Again, before the Oscar Slap, Will was one of the most popular and bankable stars in the world. He was extremely popular within Hollywood for his professionalism and the fact that he made a lot of people rich, including his f–king talent agency. CAA taking their 10% (probably more) from Will for decades only to dump him at the first sign of difficulty reeks of disloyalty, bias and racism. But is it surprising coming from CAA? These are the agents who covered up Harvey Weinstein’s abuses for decades and funneled young actresses to Weinstein, knowing full well what he was doing.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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47 Responses to “CAA apparently considered dumping Will Smith in the wake of the Oscar Slap”

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  1. Jessica says:

    They have every right to discuss it but I think it would be an overreaction.

    • Dutch says:

      It would honestly be a surprise if they didn’t at least discuss it, maybe even informally poll other clients to gauge their feelings about it. But without a client uproar, Smith has banked enough goodwill for his agency to ride this tempest out.

    • Catlady says:

      This feels very performative. They aren’t going to dump Smith.

    • Ronaldinhio says:

      I consider cake for breakfast every daxm morning but eat fruit instead
      Consider means someone told us we needed to seem busy

      This is racism – until every white predator and abuser domestic and sexual has a problem, it is just racism
      White mean beating women is daily given a pass
      Louis CK just gets a Grammy

  2. girl_ninja says:

    These fools are wiling out. I cannot wait to plunk my dollars down to purchase an overpriced ticket for the next Will Smith film.

  3. Case says:

    If agencies dropped clients for poor on-set behavior, rude behavior with the press, and the like, I would understand them dropping Will. Unprofessional behavior at “the office,” and all that.

    But they quite clearly DO NOT do that and have protected far, far more damaging behavior, which makes this completely and utterly absurd.

    • Arizona says:

      I mean, to be fair, he did assault someone on live TV. which is not the same as being rude.

      I don’t think they should drop him or he should face further repercussions, though. I think him dealing with the public fallout will be enough.

      • Case says:

        I guess I’m talking more about like Christian Bale screaming abuses at crew members, Jared Leto sending his coworkers dead animals to get “in character” as the Joker, stuff like that.

        I totally, fully agree that what Will did was wrong and doing so in such a public manner means it needs to be addressed.

      • Jessa says:

        I think that’s the key point here – it was on live TV. It was undeniable. It wasn’t just ‘whispers and rumours’ (purposefully in quotes because we know full well that 99% of the time those rumours are true, but it gives the big boys an escape route).

        100% in agreement the double standard is disgusting and unfair but at the same time understand (even when I don’t agree with) the different approach in this case.

    • AlpineWitch says:

      Jess, there’s plenty of examples of people who did wrong on video and have faced immediate rehabilitation afterwards (didn’t Orlando Bloom punched Justin Bieber on video too?) so there’s an incredibley huge double standard at play here.

      • Arizona says:

        yes, but again – that happened while they were out at a bar.

        I think people are really downplaying the fact that this was a WORK EVENT for both of them. it’s the difference between you slapping a dude out at the bar because he said something rude, and you slapping your coworker during a televised company Christmas party. you’d lose your job for the second one, not the first.

        again, I don’t think Will should be dropped, but he assaulted someone at a work function on live TV.

  4. phaedra7 says:

    Can’t this debacle get any worse for him? I’m sure that there were a number of other celebs (TV/ film industry, music industry, political arena, etc.) who have committed more heinous things–even conspiracies to destroy groups of certain people–and their representatives didn’t make the decision to any longer have any business dealings with them! Case in point (a comment I posted very recently): John “Ole Rooster Cogburn” Wayne was not kicked away from his representatives, especially after he tried to damningly physically attack actress Sacheen Littlfeather who represented Marlon Brando at the 1973 Oscars.

  5. Lemons says:

    I stand with Will and will be buying a ticket to his next film and purchasing his memoir. Matter fact, let me go put on one of his films on Netflix.

    • Imara219 says:

      I really want to just add that Will by Will Smith is an outstanding autobio and it’s an incredible journey on audiobook.

  6. minx says:

    They didn’t dump him, though.

  7. MariettaJones says:

    This is BS. I’d say if there were ever talk, Will would never have a problem finding other representation. Mel Gibson is currently with APA, so yeah…

  8. court says:

    violence against women is apparently fine, but Will dared slap a man. Will has been an agent’s dream and made these folks rich, they can deal with it.

    • WiththeAmerican says:

      Yep. And wow, the racism in that article : “ slap-happy star client”

      Will Smith is not slap happy. He slapped one time, one person, who had been abusing his wife for decades. ONE TIME.

    • kirk says:

      court – Thanks for the pithy comment that so neatly summarizes my disgust with all the comments from bloodthirsty Karens howling about Will Smith’s ASSAULT, disregarding proportionality. Learned a bit about the meaning of intersectionality in this mess.

  9. ThatsNotOkay says:

    Actors of Smith’s caliber don’t need agents anyway. The agency needs him, not the other way around. He should dump THEM and KEEP ALLLLL his earning and make bank as they watch through a rain-streaked window.

    • Cava 24 says:

      The CAA packages a lot of films and would steer directors to someone else if they cut ties with Smith. Smith would still get work but it would be a different landscape. Supposedly they are doing less packaging after an agreement with the Writer’s Guild in 2020 but I am not sure how that works. They still represent Shia LeBoeuf, they gave him a timeout last year but didn’t drop him, (news articles are titled like they did but read the fine print, they didn’t) but the public nature of this makes it trickier.

      • ThatsNotOkay says:

        Right. from the WGA standpoint, packaging is off the table and no longer permitted. Will Smith has his own production company and as long as he can get eager artists on his slate, he’ll be fine. Plus, there will be plenty of people interested in writing star vehicles for him, a few projects of which could actually be quite good. Truth be told, if I had Smith’s resources, I’d consider creating a new agency myself–the way UA was founded. There are too many agencies folding together, eliminating competition, and that’s bad for the industry.

    • Blinkb says:

      That’s not how it works, but you go off about actors dumping agents 🙄 the work agents do is badly misrepresented and maligned. If you only knew the sh!t we have to put up with!!!

  10. Becks1 says:

    This seems like damage control for CAA, right? they didn’t dump him, and probably were never going to dump him, but they want people to know that they did think about it!

    • Cava 24 says:

      That is most likely correct. They never dropped Shia LeBeouf last year but they made it seem like they “parted ways”. They didn’t, he was on a temporary hiatus. So this is just optics for them.

    • Pix says:

      I agree. I’d even bet that they all agreed (including Will) to let it leak that they “considered” dropping him to save themselves the potential backlash from the Karens.

  11. Anastasia says:

    What a bunch of racist nonsense…I can’t with this. Poor Will.

    • CherriePie84 says:

      Agreed….watching this all unfold is….something else. 1 step forward and 20 steps back is the routine these days. Some things just never change unfortunately. I hope he is getting support and counselling…Jada too because clearly they had other issues going on long before the Oscars.

  12. NCWoman says:

    Will’s physical violence cannot be condoned IMO, but a heavy “let’s punish the black man” stench is starting to come off all of these people. He caused no lasting damage to Chris Rock. I don’t understand why so many people are talking like he should not have the opportunity to come back from this–and instead needs further punishment–when he has apologized unreservedly and has no patterns of physical violence. Everyone else mentioned, even the blackface news lady, showed patterns of behavior and no remorse. Trying to equate what Will did with those other people suggests that Will must meet much higher standards of conduct. Why? The only reason I can think of is that he’s black.

    • Becks1 says:

      Yeah. He apologized. He resigned from the Academy. He definitely will not be there next year to present. The night that should have been the absolute pinnacle of his career will be forever linked to this action – “the night Will Smith won an Oscar and slapped Chris Rock.” He messed up and he knows it, what more do people want from him?

      Hollywood (and the gossip world) needs to move on at this point IMO. I get that this is “different” bc it was on live TV. But there comes a certain point (and we’re definitely there) where its obvious that all this hand-wringing and such is because he’s a Black man.

  13. Wilma says:

    Honestly this whole thing has been such a hypocritical mess. The only thing that has made this an urgent issue is the live element.

    • Honora says:

      Good point. Like didn’t a celebrity do something much worse to Megan the stallion

      • Cava 24 says:

        Tony Lanez was scheduled to be in court for that today, not sure if it has been pushed back. – Lanez is currently facing charges of felony assault and carrying an unregistered firearm, which he has adamantly denied for the past year. He pleaded not guilty to the charges, which stem from the shooting of Megan Thee Stallion’s feet in the summer of 2020.

  14. Sue E Generis says:

    Talk about a lack of proportionality. They are equating a slap with sexual predation and racism? This is ridiculous. The slap was dramatic, the slap was wrong, the slap was just a slap. Enough already. He apologized and resigned from the academy. He has never put a foot wrong in decades. This is not a sustained pattern of behavior. This is too much.

  15. Sasha says:

    At this point I’m wondering if the slap might even help his career as he’s going to get so much sympathy for the ridiculous, racist overreaction from the ‘traumatised’ spectators at the event (ugh, please!) to his projects being shelved and now his agency possibly dropping him.

  16. els says:

    I didn’t agree with Will’s action but I think those reactions are taking too far when some got away with worse for so long. Will is such a great actor and him finally winning an Oscar is amazing. Unless he had an history of violence revealed, I doubt all of this are necessary.

  17. ArtMaven says:

    Nothing has happened to Will. He resigned from the Academy, so he won’t be able to vote. No criminal charges, some PR musing about slowing some projects. No one is going to lose money on projects that have already spent $$$. Aside from the gossip, it’s really been nothing.

  18. Veronica S. says:

    LMAO, I can’t believe how stupid Hollywood is being about this. The Oscars have been more talked about than ever. Everybody apologized. Shit has moved in, and they want to drag this out like this man can’t possibly rebound from it. Absolutely absurd. Everybody involved could have turned this into amazing PR, but they instead turned it into sturm and drang like this dude shot someone on live tv. The most baffling of all should have been Chris Rock, a COMEDIAN, who should have been running with this as new material.

    Tells you how seriously they take themselves. People out here dying in an unprovoked war, and they want to keep going on about dude drama where nobody was seriously injured.

  19. kira korr says:

    Will deserves better. I can’t help but play it out in my head if it was a white actor in his shoes. I don’t think the repercussions would be so intense. I think its truly fucked up. Will is endlessly talented and he made a mistake but all this pomp and circumstance surrounding the academy deciding to take away his Oscar or not. If they take it away, it will truly show how out of touch and ridiculous the academy actually is. If they let Weinstein and fucking Polanski keep their oscars and take away Wills not only will it be a complete travesty and failure on the part of the academy but it will also highlight their archaic values steeped in racism.