Respected long-time talent representative Susan Smith, owner of The Susan Smith Co., died this morning at Cedars Sinai Medical Center surrounded by loved ones. She was 71. Smith, who had battled various cancers for decades, had been in the hospital since falling ill 18 days ago. On Wednesday, she underwent surgery for internal bleeding but by that time, she was gravely ill, so relatives and friends used the last couple of days to say their good-byes. “Susan is finally able to get a table in a booth next to her darlings Marion Dougherty and Phyllis Huffman in a place that was akin to her beloved “Carlyle Hotel,” Smith’s associate Charles E. Whitaker III said. Smith spent 44 years in the entertainment business, first as an agent and then as a manager, working with such long-time clients as Kathy Bates, Brian Dennehy, David Paymer and Melanie Lynskey, with whom she had a close bond. “Susan was my 2nd mum, & had represented me since I was 17,” Lynskey tweeted. “I will miss her forever.” Smith was known for her love of independence (she never worked for anyone but herself) and her great eye for talent — acting or otherwise. She famously steered client Paula Wagner from acting to agenting and groomed her for four years before Wagner went to CAA, one of many successful Hollywood agents and producers whose careers Smith launched. “Susan led the way for all the boutique agencies,” veteran talent agent Michael Greene said. “She was such a class act and a beautiful and pure example of caring about and developing artists. One of a kind – true old school.” Here are portions of a Memoriam of Smith by Whitaker, who worked for her for the past 20 months.
Susan began her career in New York City founding a little company known as Susan Smith & Associates. Through her sheer will and determination, she would go on to become one of the greatest and most respected agents this business has ever seen. Even made more impressive that she was a woman in a time when women were not expected to be leaders of industry.
Susan created more careers in front of and behind the scenes than quite possibly anyone in this business. She always said, “If I could have people remember one thing about me, it’s that I always had great taste.” And she was exactly right. In the recent documentary, “Casting By,” she remarked how she loved New York because that’s where all the real actors were. She would say, “I don’t have any talent, but I sure as shit know who does.”
She left agenting to become a manager in 2001, citing the changing dynamics of the business. At the time, she had the most Emmy, Oscar and Golden Globe winners as an agent not from one of the big 5 agencies. She was also one of the first American agents to mine the UK for talent. Even amongst giants, Susan Smith stood tall, strong and proud. (more…)