EXCLUSIVE: After an erosion in the relationship, the partners at UTA have decided they will no longer do business with manager Shelley Browning and her Magnolia Entertainment. This immediately leads to the exit of Slumdog Millionaire star Dev Patel, who will stay with his manager, Stephanie Comer. She was an agent at UTA before she became a manager at Magnolia. About half a dozen clients will have to make a choice, and the highest profile beyond Patel is Daniel Espinosa, the Snabba Cash helmer who directed the Denzel Washington-Ryan Reynolds hit Safe House and is directing an adaptation of the Tom Rob Smith novel Child 44, with Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Noomi Rapace and Joel Kinnaman. Since Espinosa is shooting a movie, I don’t think he will be asked to make a decision until he is up for air.
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The agency would not comment on why this has happened, but the frosty relationship began months ago and this move occurs after UTA watched several of Browning’s highest-profile clients exit. They include The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo‘s Rapace and Kinnaman, the latter of whom stars in the Robocop reboot. Others who have exited are Rachel McAdams and Rosamund Pike. Pike left right after she won the coveted female lead role opposite Ben Affleck in the David Fincher-directed Gone Girl.
This is a highly unusual move. In fact, the last time I can remember an agency swearing off doing business with a manager was when CAA banned its former head Michael Ovitz after he started the management/production company and poached longtime CAA agent Mike Menchel and his client Robin Williams, who back when this happened in 1999 was one of the agency’s biggest movie stars. At the time, CAA head Richard Lovett said the agency simply regarded Ovitz as a competitor, not a collaborator, and that the agency would not share clients.
The circumstances are different here, but the earth is just as scorched. I was unable to reach Browning at the late hour but will add her side to the story if she cares to provide it.