UPDATED with video montage and more quotes, 7:45 PM: “The rights of the press and artists and the right to seek a better life is what this country is about,” UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer told a crowd gathered in the heart of Beverly Hills as his agency hosted a rally at its headquarters. He also joked about getting a tweet from President Donald Trump that read, “UTA best company in the world. Rally so sad.”
Check out a video montage of the days events above.
Jodie Foster was among the celebrity speakers at today’s event, which the agency said was designed to “express the creative community’s support for freedom of speech and artistic expression and stand against policies of exclusion and division.” “This year is a very different year, and it’s time to show up. It’s time to engage,” she told the crowd, which grew throughout the nearly two-hour rally to an estimated 1,500. “As the very, very dead Frederick Douglass one said, ‘Anytime is a good time for illumination,’ and this is the time for illumination. I believe this time is filled with light.”
Foster called the rally “a La La Land moment.” “You’re going to remember where you were today and what you did,” she added. “It doesn’t matter where you born, who you voted for. … All the colors in the identity rainbow — this is our time to resist. It is the time to show up and demand answers. It’s all of us trying to tell our elected officials to do their job.”
UTA, like fellow agencies WME and CAA, usually hosts a lavish party for its clients on the Friday night before Oscars, but it ditched the idea this year after Trump tried to implement a travel ban affecting seven predominantly Muslim countries. UTA client Asghar Farhadi, an Iranian whose film The Salesman is the front-runner to win the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, is boycotting the Academy Awards because of it. He addressed the UTA rally crowd via a taped message from Iran.
“I am grateful to the civility of my fellow filmmakers and the UTA family who have reacted responsibly to discrimination and injustice,” Farhadi said. “Filmmakers can break stereotypes around the world by turning their cameras to capture shared human qualities. Your actions are heartwarming.” Watch his video here:
The large crowd erupted in hollers and applause throughout the address by California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who said Hollywood drives the right “a little crazy” and that the Golden State lets the entire country “see that it’s possible” to have diversity. “We are a sanctuary city,” he said from the stage. “It must drive them crazy as it’s a California cause, a California movement — a proud, proud universal state. And I just want to close on this: The word of the day is pluralism. As Los Angeles goes, so California goes, and as California goes, Donald Trump, so goes the United States of America.”
Michael J. Fox drew some of the biggest cheers of the day before and during his speech. “One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered,” he said. “Today we stand united: We will never surrender our shared values of compassion and human dignity and of freedom of expression, religion and the arts.”
Iranian-American Reza Aslan told the crowd: “We must stand united and insistent that our United States continues to be bound together by certain principles that make us all American. If we allow our nation to declare that these values no longer apply to one group, then we put all our rights at risk.”
Said Hector Villagra, executive director at the ACLU of Southern California: “The president build his campaign on fear-mongering and scapegoating. You know the list — Mexicans, Muslims, immigrants, women, transgender people. He attacked the media and even mocked a reporter with a disability. He told the nation that Muslims threatened our security, that the Muslims who are our neighbors and friends are to be feared, registered and watched. He said those Muslims outside the U.S. should be banned from entering. He told the nation that Latino immigrants are murderers and rapists and drug dealers, that all 11 million undocumented should be rounded up. … We are fighting now, and we will never back down.”
Other speakers at today’s event included Keegan-Michael Key, Cynthia Erivo, Wilmer Valderrama, DJ Cassidy, David Garibaldi, Sam and Casey Harris of X Ambassadors and International Rescue Committee President and CEO David Miliband. Singer-songwriter Ben Harper closed the event with a surprise concert set.
Said rally attendee Ariana Joyce of Santa Monica, whose grandfather came to the U.S. from Costa Rica: “An attack on immigrants is an attack on all of us, so I think it’s really important to make this the top priority. I think entertainers making a statement and coming out here to promote a rally instead of going to a Hollywood bash is really powerful and important for all of us to support.”
UTA also has collected north of $320K for refugee relief and civil liberties nonprofits. The ACLU, which has two executives speaking at the rally, and International Rescue will (as previously reported) receive a $250K donation from the talent agency an another $50K so far collected through UTA’s CrowdRise campaign.
The idea behind the event was not only to rally against policies that discriminate but also to show a united voice for artistic freedom. It comes after Seth Oster, who worked in the Obama administration and was heavily involved in nonprofit work for Paul G. Allen at Vulcan, joined UTA as global head of communications last month.
Erik Pedersen and David Janove contributed to this report.
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