The talent agents in Hollywood are some of the most powerful people in the entertainment industry. They are responsible for representing and negotiating deals for their clients, so that their clients star in the best movies, for the most money, as opposed to a rival agent’s client. As you can probably tell, being an agent is a cutthroat, dirty business. In turn for getting their A-list clients the best parts, they get a sizable chunk of the change that their stars receive. There are four agencies in Hollywood that represent more than 70% of the entertainment industry’s actors, directors, writers, and musicians.
The biggest player is Creative Artists Agency (CAA), which was founded in 1975 by Michael Ovitz and four others. Ovitz became the face of talent agents, and he is credited with helping to carve out a larger, more competitive role for the genteel agents of that time. WME, which is the oldest and most venerable agency, is the second biggest player. Then there’s United Talent Agency (UTA), and rounding out the big four is International Creative Management (ICM). All four of these agencies are widely represented in this list of the 15 most powerful agents in Hollywood.
15. Cindy Osbrink – Osbrink Talent Agency
Cindy Osbrink is best known for representing children in Hollywood, and making them stars. She began her career when her own children started acting, and she decided she’d represent them herself, which lead to her founding the Osbrink Talent Agency.
Osbrink spotted Dakota Fanning at 5 years old and turned her into the biggest child star of this generation. She also represented Dakota’s sister, Elle, until the sisters parted ways with the agency in 2012. Some of her top clients include Lucas Till, Jake Lloyd, the two child actors in Adam Sandler’s Bedtime Stories, and the three children in Robert Rodriguez’s film Shorts.
14. Theresa Peters – United Talent Agency
Theresa Peters is one of the most powerful women in Hollywood. In 2008 she joined UTA as a partner, and has since acquired a whopping 59 clients. Peters began her career in the William Morris mailroom, like so many before her, where she told the Hollywood Reporter she, “Learn[ed] more in three months than you would in three years running around this town.”
She was able to see the whole process of selling a show when she was assigned as an agent’s assistant , and then she rapidly moved her way up until becoming a partner and the head of the talent department at UTA. Her most notable clients include Ewan McGregor and Kirsten Dunst.
13. Jeremy Zimmer – United Talent Agency
United Talent Agency is one of the top four talent agencies in Hollywood, and Jeremy Zimmer was a co-founder of the company in 1991. In 2012, he was named the CEO and managing director of UTA, where he began to focus outside of traditional business (namely finance and international representation).
With the upgrade to CEO – which he told Deadline.com was “Only 10 years overdue” – he now oversees more than 125 agents and 350 employees in Beverly Hills and New York, as well as 20 of his own clients. Zimmer began his career in the mailroom of the William Morris Agency, and became well-known years later for having great taste in material. He represents powerful players in the industry, including Barry Levinson and Christopher Guest.
12. Fred Specktor – Creative Artists Agency
At the age of 80, Fred Specktor is the oldest agent in the industry, and a true Hollywood legend. He’s a longtime agent at Creative Artists Agency. He is known around town for his exquisite professionalism, and is the type of agent who has a booth set aside for him in LA’s big restaurants.
He has represented such actors as Robert De Niro in the past, and currently represents Gene Hackman, Danny DeVito, Jeremy Irons, and Helen Mirren, among others. He recently pulled off the impossible when he stole Morgan Freeman from his 40-year representation with William Morris, which was one of the longest-running relationships between an actor and agent in the business.
11. Rick Nicita – Former CAA and Morgan Creek
Rick Nicita is a well-known and well-liked agent in Hollywood – one who has worn many hats. In 2008, he left his long-term relationship with CAA, and moved to become co-chairman and COO of Morgan Creek, where he worked for who some consider one of the worst bosses in Hollywood, James Robinson.
Nicita left Morgan Creek in 2012, and there’s even a rumor around tinsel town that he might create his own agency with his powerful, producer wife, Paula Wagner. Both Nitica and Wagner represented Tom Cruise for a time, and currently Nicita still has Al Pacino, Garry Marshall, and Anthony Hopkins under his belt.
10. Sam Gores – Paradigm Talent Agency
Sam Gores’ agency, Paradigm, may be small, but it is well-respected and prestigious. He doesn’t personally represent many big-name stars other than Laurence Fishburne, but he oversees all of the negotiations with his agency’s clients, which include Gary Oldman, Katherine Heigl, Neil Patrick Harris, Andy Garcia, Adrien Brody, and Philip Seymour Hoffman before his tragic death.
Gores helped package numerous shows, including Rescue Me, Desperate Housewives, and he also represents many musical acts like Aerosmith, the Dave Matthews Band, and the Black Eyed Peas.
All of his keen deal-making skills has helped make him filthy rich, as he’s worth $50 million. One great example of his talent came when he once played a game of golf with Andy Garcia, telling Garcia that it was his 16-year dream to make a movie about his Cuban homeland.
Garcia rejected the idea, but by the 18th hole Garcia’s billionaire brother had written a check to make The Lost City.
9. Sharon Jackson – WME
Sharon Jackson is best-known for her plethora of comedic clients and the success she’s given them. In 2008, along with two other agents, Jackson moved from United Talent Agency to WME, shocking Hollywood. She brought the smaller agency a huge comedic-windfall in her clients Jack Black, Jason Segel, Amy Poehler, Jonah Hill, and Jason Schwartzman.
Jackson has an eye for raw comedic talent, signing Jason Segel when he was just a sidekick in Freaks and Geeks, and eventually convincing him to write the script Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which she sold for a bundle and which made Segel into a sought-after screenwriter.
She is known for being a ruthless negotiator, and she reads 15 scripts a weekend while constantly scouting comedy shows. Jackson’s efficiency is why all of her talent stayed with her when she moved agencies.
8. Jim Wiatt – (Former) WME
Jim Wiatt worked for one of the top four agencies – International Creative Management – for years, before shaking up Hollywood by leaving to join William Morris for a $5 million salary and a seat on their board. He helped merged WME with Endeavor in 2009, which combined William Morris’ huge music department (Lady Gaga, Eminem, Rihanna) with Endeavor’s A-list TV talent. The merger helped make William Morris a worthy contender against the Creative Artists Agency.
Wiatt helped unveil a new William Morris $100 million fund to finance features in the late 2000s, and his ample client list included Eddie Murphy, John Travolta, Tommy Lee Jones, Willie Nelson, 50 Cent, Ryan Seacrest, and Jenny McCarthy, among others.
However, in 2010 the Daily Beast reported that he had been ‘run out of Hollywood’ and was maintaining a low profile, having been accused of spending more time hobnobbing with the A list than actually doing the job of agent.
7. Tracey Jacobs – United Talent Agency
Tracey Jacobs became the co-head of talent and one of the six partners at UTA by operating under a seemingly fool-proof philosophy: Rather than provide clients with quick, big paychecks, she sought to provide them with long-term success, and this plan has served her very well. She helped give Jason Bateman his comeback, and managed to give veteran actor William L. Peterson a tidy regular salary with CSI.
Jacobs became well-known for her ability to package movies with her clients, such as Johnny Depp with Chocolat. In 1988, in fact, she first saw her future golden ticket (Johnny Depp), when she was watching 21 Jump Street on a lonely Sunday night. Her big-name roster includes Depp, Harrison Ford, Jason Bateman, Jennifer Lopez, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Tim Robbins.
6. Brian Swardstrom – United Talent Agency
Brian Swardstrom has bounced around the industry a bit, but he’s always been well-respected within the community. He was the head of Endeavor’s talent department for 11 years, and then he moved on to a four-year stint with William Morris. In 2014 he jumped ship and moved to New York to become a partner of United Talent Agency.
5. Patrick Whitesell – WME
The top five agents in Hollywood all come from top two talent agencies. Patrick Whitesell is the co-CEO of WME. He joined Endeavor as a partner in 2001, where he was a member of the company’s Executive Committee. Whitesell and his other WME co-CEO have been credited with “rewriting the Hollywood script,” and they are two of the most powerful people in the business.
Although not given as much credit for the ‘Hollywood rewrite’ as his co-CEO, Whitesell is still worth $25 million and boasts a very impressive personal clientele list that includes some of Hollywood’s most well-loved leading men, among them Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Ben Affleck, Jude Law, and Joaquin Phoenix.
4. Richard Lovett – Creative Artists Agency
Richard Lovett is considered by many to be the most powerful agent in the most powerful agency in Hollywood. He took over as head of CAA in 1995, at the age of 41, after starting his career in the mailroom after college. He’s credited with the success of many of the leading actors in today’s blockbusters, making him very, very rich.
Back when CAA was ‘feared’ by other agencies, Lovett helped changed the face of the agency but then proceeded to ruthlessly snatch clients away from unsuspecting agencies, leading his company to become the most powerful talent agency in the world.
3. Bryan Lourd – Creative Artists Agency
Bryan Lourd, worth $35 million, has been a partner, Managing Director, and Co-Chairman of CAA since 1995. The only reason he’s ahead of fellow co-partner Richard Lovett is because Lourd’s client list is even more impressive than his partner’s already intimidating one.
2. Ari Emanuel – WME
Ari Emanuel is best known in pop culture as the inspiration behind the foul-mouthed agent Ari Gold in the show Entourage. By merging Endeavor Talent Agency with the William Morris Agency in 2009, he helped put WME back to the forefront of show business.
In 2014 Ari bought IMG Worldwide in a deal worth $2.4 billion, and helped tip the scale even further by spreading out from movie talents – IMG represents the likes of Gisele Bundchen.
Emanuel had his sights set on becoming the King of Hollywood ever since he famously planned to start his own agency with other top agents at ICM, was found out, and fired.
He left ICM to create Endeavor, and the rest is history. His larger-than-life attitude and aggressive tactics have made him a force to be reckoned with. Just ask Mel Gibson: Emanuel was the first to call for a blacklist of the actor after his anti-Semitic rantings. Emanuel has well over 60 clients including hugely impressive names like Mark Wahlberg, Martin Scorsese, and Conan O’Brien.
1. Kevin Huvane – Creative Artists Agency
Kevin Huvane is co-partner of the biggest agency in Hollywood, Creative Artists Agency. Although WME’s recent acquisitions make it a hot contender for that title, Huvane still boasts the most diverse, enviable client roster of any agent in Hollywood.
This super-agent seems to have a hold on the Hollywood elite about on who is in and who is out, more so than any other agent. In 2009, for instance, Huvane booted Paris Hilton after she crashed a CAA party. He is worth $50 million, and his clientele includes Meryl Streep, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Keanu Reeves, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Aniston, Orlando Bloom, Uma Thurman, Sarah Jessica Parker, and more.
Huvane’s brother, Stephen, is also the co-founder of the biggest PR firm in Hollywood, Slate Public Relations, so Kevin has friends in high places.