UPDATE: I finally put together what happened, and it’s a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of Team De Niro. My sources say when Robert De Niro first came to WME in 2008, he was coming off 2 low budget and low salary and low prestige Avi Lerner pics which CAA claimed at the time was all it could secure for him. But estimates are that the 66-year-old actor made $35M with WME’s Ari Emanuel in less than 2 years. That included the big payday for the 3rd Fockers installment which WME put together, the movies Stone with Edward Norton and Machete with Robert Rodriguez, as well as Another Night In Suck City for Focus Features with Paul Weitz directing, a showy role playing Gov George Wallace in Precious director Lee Daniels’ next pic about desegregation, plus mid-development on another Midnight Run, and other film projects. Plus 2 to 3 TV series for Bob’s Tribeca production company. Plus an advertising deal with American Express. All this ka-ching also included WME securing him one of the lead roles in Edge Of Darkness. But then, my sources claim, “he was fired because he didn’t memorize his lines”. (Bob’s people wouldn’t confirm or deny this.) Even so, WME secured his full pay for him. “That bad situation had a good effect on him. He’s a great actor, but he lost his way about what’s important. And there was his constant need for money, planes, everything,” my source noted. “He re-focused himself. And Ari re-established him.”
From what I’m hearing, De Niro started to be handled more by Chris Donnelly than Ari personally. That’s when De Niro’s longtime Tribeca producing partner Jane Rosenthal, despite the big money Bob was making with WME, initiated calls to CAA. She started negotiating the actor’s return to that agency. On the phone with me today, Rosenthal took full responsibility for guiding De Niro back to CAA. “It’s not about money. I have been friends and still colleagues with CAA and that’s what it’s about. It becomes about personalities who you end up working best with.” But my sources said this was also more about Rosenthal’s fears for her own future than De Niro’s career.
9:45 AM: Well, this is surprising. I’ve just been told that Robert De Niro has returned to CAA where he will be represented by a team headed by Richard Lovett, Josh Lieberman and Dan Aloni. De Niro was last represented by CAA in 2008, when the actor jumped to what was then Endeavor. (Robert De Niro Has Fired CAA) It had been a major signing coup for the boutique agency, especially given the word that De Niro was dissatisfied with how CAA had serviced his production companies in film, television, etc. But the very idea of him leaving CAA, where he’d been a client for such a long long time, was astonishing. I remember when Bryan Lourd, Kevin Huvane and Richard Lovett made it a top priority as soon as they took over CAA in 1995 to do everything they could to keep De Niro since he had been tied so closely to departing Michael Ovitz. Then Endeavor’s merger with William Morris took place. Now De Niro is gone from WME back to CAA. It’s not about money. It’s about prestige. This really is a 2-agency war going on.