Jodie Foster at UTA Rally: "It's Time to Show Up. It's Time to Engage"

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Jodie Foster

The 'United Voices' rally was held in place of the agency's annual Academy Awards party.

Despite the unseasonably cold Los Angeles temperature, a large crowd of more than 1,500 agents, clients and allies gathered in the plaza outside UTA's Beverly Hills offices on Friday afternoon for the agency's "United Voices" rally.

In lieu of its annual Academy Awards party, UTA announced earlier this month that it would instead hold a rally to protest the administration's recent anti-immigration orders and to show its support for freedom of speech and artistic expression.

Before the rally began, attendees could help themselves to 'United Voices' shirts and a variety of food trucks, as well as freshly made pizza from the popular restaurant Jon & Vinnys, making the rally look more like a Sunday farmers market as opposed to a political protest. But people quickly crowded the stage when speeches started.

The full slate featured speeches from Michael J. Fox and Keegan-Michael Key, as well as performances by DJ Cassidy, performance painter David Garibaldi and rock band the X Ambassadors. UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer and California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom also spoke at the rally, along with Iranian-American author Reza Aslan and Wilmer Valderrama.

Key, the first to speak at the event, delivered an emotional introduction for UTA's Zimmer. "We have the ability to inspire," he said. "We have the ability to effect change, to bring people together and to even, sometimes, bring light when there's a whole lot of darkness."

Zimmer said he was humbled by the turnout. "Wow, this is a moment indeed," he added of the clients and artists who came out, which included Bill Nye, Jai Courteny, and Retta, among others. 

Jodie Foster told those who came out for the rally that she isn't "very comfortable using my public face for activism" but that "this year is a very different year, and it’s time to show up. It’s time to engage."

"I’m proud to stand here today in support of values and principles that I admire," said Fox when he addressed the crowd. "You have people who have given up everything, who have lost everything they have. They are struggling to keep their families alive and keep food in their mouths and disease away from their bodies and took tremendous risk to get to this country, and we say no?"

UTA also said it would donate $250,000 to the American Civil Liberties Union and the International Rescue Committee, and has set up a Crowdrise campaign to solicit further donations. At press time, the campaign had raised $319,388 in total. ACLU of Southern California head Hector Villagra and IRC CEO David Miliband were both in attendance on Friday.

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, whose movie The Salesman is Oscar-nominated for best foreign-language film, spoke via video message from Tehran. UTA credited Farhadi, a client, as partial inspiration for the rally after the filmmaker said last month he would skip the Oscars following President Donald Trump's executive order banning travel from Iran and six other majority-Muslim countries. The United Voices rally was his first public appearance since that announcement.

"It is comforting to know that at a time when some politicians are trying to promote hate by creating divisions between cultures, religions and nationalities, the cinema community has joined the people in a common show of unity to show its opposition," Farhadi said. "I hope this unity will continue and spread to fight other injustices. Filmmakers can break stereotypes around the world by turning their cameras to capture shared human qualities."

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