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Longtime Talent Agent Susan Smith Dies

Susan Smith - P - 2013
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She represented such character actors as Brian Dennehy, Kathy Bates and David Paymer and convinced future studio chief Paula Wagner to give up acting.

Susan Smith, the longtime talent agent turned manager who represented such actors as Brian Dennehy, Kathy Bates and David Paymer, died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after a long battle with cancer. She was 71.

Smith closed her Susan Smith & Associates in September 2001 after 32 years in business to concentrate on a cadre of character actors that also included Bob BalabanGraham Greene and Richard Masur.

Dennehy and Smith worked together for decades, and the barrel-chested actor often referred to her as his best friend. He visited Smith in the hospital in her final days, friends reported.

"Early on, in what I should laughingly refer to as my career, I made the decision that for me -- and my agent Susan Smith -- rather than make any kinds of career choices, that what we would do is worry about the acting, worry about the work," Dennehy said in a 1987 interview.

Smith famously convinced another client, Paula Wagner, to give up acting and become a talent agent. After working for Smith for four years, Wagner landed a job at CAA, where she repped Tom Cruise, Liam Neeson and others before moving on to a stellar producing career and serving as chief executive of United Artists.

Smith, who had a keen eye for talent, opened her first agency in New York in the 1970s and remained fiercely independent through the years. She fostered great relationships with casting directors, and one of her closest friends was the late Marion Dougherty.

A native of Kansas City, Mo., Smith attended boarding school in Waltham, Mass., and spent three years at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. She graduated from New York University with a degree in art history.

Smith was the recipient of the Washington-based Women in Film & Video's Women of Vision Award in 1998 and served on the board of trustees at Antioch University Santa Barbara.

Survivors include her brother, Roger.