Jeff Hunter, the former SVP of Motion Picture Talent at WME, passed away over the weekend. The former theatrical and motion picture talent agent died on Saturday, January 27, at age 91.
Hunter was a stalwart New Yorker and built his practice to include many stars who split time between films, TV, and Broadway. He lived in the West Village for decades before moving to a condominium tower on 57th Street. An NYU grad headed for medical school, he detoured from a planned medical career and eventually found himself in the rep biz.
Hunter took a leap of faith—as well as a number of the agency’s dissatisfied actors, including Franchot Tone —and left to start the Jeff Hunter agency. He later became a founding partner of Triad Artists. In 1992, Triad was acquired by the William Morris Agency (later William Morris Endeavor) where Jeff eventually became the Senior Vice President of Motion Picture Talent.
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His discoveries included Kevin Kline, Raul Julia and Mandy Patinkin. Hunter signed Morgan Freeman when he was a struggling newcomer on the New York stage at a time when he was moonlighting in the cast of the PBS kids show The Electric Company and remained his agent for 40 years, one of the longest running actor-agent relationships in the movie business.
Over the years Jeff’s impressive list of clients included Barbra Streisand, Harvey Keitel, Whoopi Goldberg, F. Murray Abraham, Jim Dale, Nathan Lane, Raul Esparza, Montgomery Clift, Celia Weston, Frances Sternhagen, Gloria Stewart, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, Robert Sean Leonard, Christine Lahti, Linda Hunt, Adina Porter, Donna Murphy, Rebecca Luker, Marlena Dietrich and Mary Martin.
Said his former assistant (and current WME agent) Brian DePersia: “He was an incredible human being. I’ve never known someone in this business with so much integrity and honesty. He was stubborn in the greatest of ways. Never afraid to give someone his opinion.”
Bonnie Timmermann, an industry friend for many years, said of Jeff, “I went with Jeff to many openings on Broadway, at the Public Theatre and the Roundabout which he supported. He read every script and responded openly and quickly to producers and casting directors. He gave everything to his clients and fought fiercely for each of them. That was his life.”
Hunter helped break new ground in the late 1990s when he pushed to have Morgan Freeman play the American President in Deep Impact. And when Nathan Lane left the Broadway production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum he insisted that Whoopi Goldberg would make the perfect replacement. Hunter is survived by his cousin Martin Hirsch.
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