2nd UPDATE: *Two Jim Carrey meetings this coming week: Endeavor and CAA. First, I was told Jim Carrey’s manager Jim Miller called UTA’s Nick Stevens to fire him as the star’s 15-year-long agent. Then the truth came out (when people stopped trying to shield the client): it was Jim Carrey himself who Wednesday morning called Stevens and said he was going to take meetings with other agencies. Immediately, I hear, UTA realized “that the fix was in” for Carrey to sign with CAA, where one of Carrey’s managers, Eric Gold, just X’ed on the dotted line for exclusive representation as a movie producer, and where the other manager, Jimmy Miller, has steered most of his clients. But here’s the juiciest part: I’m told that Nick Stevens, in a last-ditch bid to foil CAA’s chances of bagging Carrey, actually called up rival Ari Emanuel of Endeavor and gave him pointers on how to sign the actor if his agency scores a meeting. Emanuel and Miller are tight, and Endeavor handles Miller clients Sacha Baron Cohen and Adam McKay, among others. For some time now, CAA has been after another Stevens’ client, Judd Apatow, who also is managed by Miller — to the point of promising “there’s $400 million out there for you to make movies.” (Hear that, CAA client Tom Cruise?)*
Some further updates mixed in below…
So I’m told that Jim Carrey has fired United Talent Agency. Few agents have ever worked harder for a client than Nick Stevens did for Carrey for seemingly eons (some 15 years). Carrey will stay with long-time managers Jimmy Miller and Eric Gold, who recently dissolved their management and production partnership. (They’re at different companies, in the same building but on different floors.) Together with Stevens, the three-member Team Carrey, as they called themselves, were known for their strategic planning and savvy deal-making that saw Carrey jump from earning a few hundred thousand dollars for Ace Ventura, Pet Detective, to being offered an Industry record of $20 million for The Cable Guy 18 months later. In turn, Carrey gave back, even one year buying the trio spankin’ new Porsches after the success of How The Grinch Stole Christmas.
Nick has devoted a huge part of his life to Jim (agent and client have homes something like 600 yards from one another, and Carrey was treated like part of Stevens’ immediate family), and this is a sad, sad, day in the annals of agenting because Stevens did nothing wrong. Let me repeat that: nothing wrong. After absorbing this shocker, some Hollywood types insisted to me (and still do) that Carrey has not chosen another agency, but that might just be wishful thinking. I’m told he’ll be on his way to CAA. This follows a similar move by his pal, director Jay Roach, who left ICM for CAA just a few days earlier and is also managed by Miller. Earlier, Will Farrell left UTA for CAA to follow his agents there, and he, too, is managed by Miller. Uh, get the picture? On the other hand, Miller is tight with Endeavor’s Ari Emanuel, who would move heaven and earth to bag Carrey (and is probably doing so right now). Meanwhile, let’s not forget that Carrey nearly signed with CAA after he became a breakout star on Fox’ Living Color. But that agency demanded to rep the actor’s entire biz — the TV show as well as his successful stand-up — and not just movies. But Nick Stevens believed in Carrey’s talent so much that the agent was fine just handling Jim for movies. So, in the middle of the night, Carrey changed his mind and signed with Stevens.
In any case, Carrey is a handful: he requires someone with an advanced degree in bizarre personalities. So much has never come out publicly about Carrey’s behavior: for instance, the fact that Jim signed on to Dreamworks’ Over The Hedge and spent considerable time in the booth until, I’m told, “he couldn’t bear the process.” Understandably, some threats of a lawsuit were thrown around by Jeffrey Katzenberg, who ultimately replaced Carrey with Bruce Willis. And I hear it took almost round-the-clock cajoling by everyone on all sides of the project just to get Carrey to keep going much less finish Sony’s Fun With Dick and Jane.
Carrey is also a phenomenal talent, yet he’s had many ups and downs at the box office (especially in pics where he’s not clowning) over the years. But his uneven career suffered a huge setback in May when 20th Century Fox and Sony Pictures pulled the plug on the movie Used Guys. Carrey and Ben Stiller — whom Stevens also reps — were to star, and Roach (of Austin Powers and Meet the Parents fame) set to direct. But Carrey was aplaying the no-pressure second banana comic foil. This wasn’t his movie: if anything it was Stiller’s, who was producing and starring. The reason for the cancellation was the budget. Even though gobs of money already had been spent, sets were ready in Santa Fe, and all was on track for production to start on what seemed to be a can’t-lose project from the reigning superstars of comedy. But Used Guys was about to be one of the most expensive original comedies ever made.
As media reported at the time, in an industry with crushing marketing costs and Triple-A stars taking a huge chunk of every ticket sale (first dollar gross, in most cases), the studio decided the math didn’t add up, to the surprise of filmmakers who were on the verge of shooting. Hollywood thought Carrey might leave UTA because of this, but he stayed put. Now that’s he’s left, the pressure will be on UTA to merge with another agency. After once having a lock on movie comedy, UTA within the past 18 months has lost too many agents and clients to CAA, which continues on its quest to represent all of Hollywood. That means UTA needs to do a deal sooner rather than later with either Endeavor, ICM or Morris. So does Endeavor, in my opinion, with UTA, ICM or Morris.
This is going to be a growing problem for agencies now that the studios are trying to shut down the percentage of box office revenues that big stars command. Example: at an over-$100 million budget, the talent is making $60 million before the studio can recoup its costs. To the studios, the economics of that make no sense. It remains to be seen, for instance, whether Paramount will get Carrey’s postponed Ripley’s Believe It Or Not off the ground. What really happened here is that Carrey read the script and decided it wasn’t “unbelievable” enough and sent it back into development. On the one hand, it’s an agent’s job to try to get as much money for clients as possible. (And Stevens has always negotiated top dollar for his stars.) But it’s also hard for an agent to explain to actors accustomed to receiving $15+ mil a picture that they’re going to have to take an upfront pay cut even though they’re still drawing audiences. On Used Guys, I’m told Carrey went from pay or play $20 mil down to $13.5 mil, and still the studio wouldn’t do the pic.
I know that Nick Stevens was personally and professionally devastated when Carrey lost the Used Guys project, and I can’t imagine anyone else doing a better job of agenting for the actor in that situation or throughout his career. Stevens went to the mat with the studios again and again. The New York Times‘ Sharon Waxman wrote an in-depth story on the Used Cars debacle that showed just that. There, Roach and the stars of Used Guys had already sharply cut both their upfront fees and their expected participation in revenue. Even so, the compromise meant that the three principals would take 27 percent of the studio’s gross box-office revenues. Carrey’s next project is The Number 23 teaming him with director Joel Schumacher for New Line, which made the comic’s breakout hit The Mask. Carrey also is voicing the title character in Horton Hears A Who, Fox’s CGI animated adaptation of Dr. Seuss.