CAA apparently considered dumping Will Smith in the wake of the Oscar Slap

by Susan Ryant

As we discussed, in the wake of the Oscars Slap, Will Smith’s upcoming projects have been paused or shelved indefinitely. To be clear, Will wasn’t booked back-to-back following the critical acclaim for King Richard – he was working on his passion project, Emancipation, for much of the past year, and he put a lot of time and effort into his Oscar campaign this year. I still think there’s a good chance Will wants to take a step back and take some real time off following the Oscar Slap, but the news is coming out as “studios are punishing Will Smith.” I still don’t know. But I find this news disturbing: apparently, Will’s talent agency, CAA, has considered dumping him in the wake of the slap.

If you’re CAA, one of the most powerful talent agencies in the world, and Will Smith, one of your biggest A-list clients, lights his career on fire by slapping Chris Rock on live TV while the world watches, what do you do? You can look at history for starters.

WME dumped Mel Gibson as a client in 2010 after the Mad Max star was caught on tape saying the N-word during one of his many tirades. That agency, led by super-agents Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell, also dumped clients Brett Ratner and Bryan Singer over sexual-misconduct allegations. CAA ditched Megyn Kelly when the former Fox News anchor defended blackface live on NBC; and UTA cut Bill O’Reilly loose after revelations he paid $32 million to settle one of many sexual-harassment claims against him.

Last week, it was CAA’s overlords Bryan Lourd, Richard Lovett, and Kevin Huvane in the hot seat again as the famed talent and sports agency grappled with what to do about their own slap-happy star client. An internal debate over whether to drop the Fresh Prince took hold at the same time roughly 100 agents and executives descended upon the chichi Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes for CAA’s first leadership retreat since the plague, Source Material has learned.

Lourd expressed to several attendees at the confab that he believed CAA, in the process of acquiring rival agency ICM (which reps Rock, by the way), should ditch Smith, according to three people who spoke with him. Meanwhile, Lovett, who personally reps Smith, was described as “frazzled” throughout the fallout from the Oscars spat, but wanted to keep Big Willie aboard the CAA roster.

The trio want to be seen as being on the right side of history, especially in light of CAA’s association with Harvey Weinstein, but ultimately they decided to stick with Smith as there is seemingly no doubt—despite his resignation from the Academy—that his status as a bankable movie star will one day return. A spokesperson for CAA told Source Material: “There is no truth to any of it. Simply never happened.”

[From The Daily Beast]

I swear to God, if CAA fires Will Smith over this mess, I will be beyond disappointed. Again, before the Oscar Slap, Will was one of the most popular and bankable stars in the world. He was extremely popular within Hollywood for his professionalism and the fact that he made a lot of people rich, including his f–king talent agency. CAA taking their 10% (probably more) from Will for decades only to dump him at the first sign of difficulty reeks of disloyalty, bias and racism. But is it surprising coming from CAA? These are the agents who covered up Harvey Weinstein’s abuses for decades and funneled young actresses to Weinstein, knowing full well what he was doing.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

MADRID, SPAIN – JANUARY 08: Us actor Will Smith attends ‘Bad Boys For Life’ photocall at Villa Magna hotel on January 08, 2020 in Madrid, Spain. USA, UK, AUS, NZ ONLY Photograph: © Alter Photos/PacificCoastNews. Los Angeles Office (PCN): +1 310.822.0419 UK Office (Avalon): +44 (0) 20 7421 6000 sales@pacificcoastnews.com,Image: 562895621, License: Rights-managed, Restrictions: , Model Release: no, Credit line: Alter Photos / Alter Photos / Avalon MADRID, SPAIN – JANUARY 08: Us actor Will Smith attends ‘Bad Boys For Life’ photocall at Villa Magna hotel on January 08, 2020 in Madrid, Spain. USA, UK, AUS, NZ ONLY Photograph: © Alter Photos/PacificCoastNews. Los Angeles Office (PCN): +1 310.822.0419 UK Office (Avalon): +44 (0) 20 7421 6000 sales@pacificcoastnews.com,Image: 562895695, License: Rights-managed, Restrictions: , Model Release: no, Credit line: Alter Photos / Alter Photos / Avalon CENTURY CITY, LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, USA – MARCH 13: Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith arrive at the 27th Annual Critics’ Choice Awards held at the Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel on March 13, 2022 in Century City, Los Angeles, California, United States.,Image: 669532669, License: Rights-managed, Restrictions: , Model Release: no, Pictured: Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, Credit line: Xavier Collin / Image Press Agency / Avalon Oscar® nominee Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith during the 94th Oscars® at the Dolby Theatre at Ovation Hollywood in Los Angeles, CA, on Sunday, March 27, 2022.,Image: 673515422, License: Rights-managed, Restrictions: Avalon Licensing Ltd. do not claim any Copyright of the attached image WORLD RIGHTS- Fee Payable Upon reproduction – For queries contact Avalon sales@Avalon.red London +44 20 7421 6000 Los Angeles +1 310 822 0419 Berlin +49 30 76 212 251 Madrid +34 91 533, Model Release: no, Credit line: Avalon.red / Avalon Will Smith attends the 2022 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Radhika Jones celebrating the 94th annual Academy Awards at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on March 27, 2022 in Beverly Hills, California,Image: 673579164, License: Rights-managed, Restrictions: , Model Release: no, Pictured: Will Smith, Credit line: – / JPI Studios / Avalon Will Smith attends the 2022 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Radhika Jones celebrating the 94th annual Academy Awards at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on March 27, 2022 in Beverly Hills, California,Image: 673579181, License: Rights-managed, Restrictions: , Model Release: no, Pictured: Will Smith, Credit line: – / JPI Studios / Avalon