Power Lawyers 2012

Austin Hargrave

Meet Tom Cruise's protector, Ryan Seacrest's dealmaker and the woman keeping Lindsay Lohan out of jail as THR reveals the top 100 entertainment attorneys in America.

To mix things up for this year's Power Lawyers issue -- THR's list of the top U.S. entertainment attorneys -- the honorees were asked to answer a short questionaire. One query consistently provoked the most interesting responses: "What's the worst thing someone has said to you?" From the funny (Barry Hirsch: "You mean, besides 'F--you?' ") to the heartfelt (litigator Patty Glaser noted the "unprintable" insults "from the mouths of really insecure men"), Hollywood lawyers put up with a lot of negativity. In fact, if there's one quality each attorney in this issue shares, it's the ability to solve high-profile problems against great odds, whether it's settling a major divorce in less than a week (as Bert Fields and Allan Mayefsky did in July for Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, respectively), saving a deal that's about to fall apart (as Jeanne Newman did for Mad Men's Matthew Weiner) or being first on the scene when a client dies (as Kenny Meiselas was with Whitney Houston). In its sixth year, the Power Lawyers issue has become a de facto guidebook to Hollywood's biggest problems. But after reading about these intelligent, aggressive advocates, it's hard not to be optimistic about the industry's ability to solve them.

How the List is Chosen: To determine Hollywood's 100 most influential attorneys (in alphabetical order), THR canvassed the biggest deals and cases of the past year. Lawyers were broken down into four categories -- talent dealmakers, litigators, corporate dealmakers and "troubleshooters" (divorce or criminal matters) -- and evaluated against their peers based on cases won/nature of deals closed as well as their reputation within the entertainment legal community. In-house studio, network or talent agency lawyers are not eligible (it's too difficult to gauge influence within a corporate structure). Profiles written by Matthew Belloni, Alex Ben Block, Paul Bond, Tina Daunt, Stephen Galloway, Eriq Gardner, Lesley Goldberg, Shirley Halperin, Borys Kit, Pamela McClintock, Daniel Miller and Lacey Rose.

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Karl Austen
Jackoway Tyerman Wertheimer Austen Mandelbaum Morris & Klein

Talent dealmaker: Austen is like a parent who takes great pride in his kids. Jonah Hill scored an Oscar nom for Moneyball and an unlikely blockbuster in 21 Jump Street (he next co-stars with Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese's Wolf of Wall Street); Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane proved he's a movie director with Ted; and Joseph Gordon-Levitt co-stars in The Dark Knight Rises and is making his directorial debut. Says Austen, "It's fun to represent creative, cool, relevant and expanding clients." My first client: Cloverfield director Matt Reeves, whom Austen signed out of film school.

NEW: Lincoln Bandlow
Lathrop & Gage

Litigation specialist: Bandlow makes this list for going the extra mile: He not only defends clients, he stars in movies about them. Consider Big Boys Gone Bananas!*, a documentary about Dole Food's lawsuit against Swedish filmmakers who chronicled the plight of Nicaraguan farmworkers. When Dole claimed the film defamed the company, Bandlow persuaded it to back off, prompting a follow-up movie about the legal drama. "I've been traveling around the globe speaking about the film," says Bandlow. "In Sweden, corporations can't sue for defamation, so they were simply amazed that there could be a lawsuit against these little Swedish filmmakers, and it caused a massive boycott of Dole." The free-speech advocate is now defending filmmaker Lauren Greenfield and her husband, Frank Evers, whose doc The Queen of Versailles, about difficulties facing the owners of the biggest private home in America, prompted a defamation suit on the eve of its Sundance premiere. He's also defending director Robert Rodriguez against a woman who claims she conceived the idea for Machete. My legal philosophy: "To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln: 'Discourage litigation and be a peacemaker if you can. If you can't, go kick ass.' "

Dan Black
Greenberg Traurig

Corporate dealmaker: Black has become a specialist in helping clients get the most out of properties on multiple platforms. He helped bring BBC's Dancing With the Stars to the live stage in Las Vegas and is advising Microsoft on the October rollout of Halo 4, which will include a five-episode web series. The hardcore tennis fan also took time this spring to follow his son's college baseball team around from game to game. My first client: When Black was starting out during the late 1970s, he read that Billie Jean King had bought a World TeamTennis franchise. "I picked up the phone, called information and said, 'This is Dan Black, and I would like to be part of the backroom team.' The next day, I met her and was hired. You can't do that anymore."

Harold Brown
Gang Tyre Ramer Brown

Talent dealmaker: Brown entered Steven Spielberg's life when the filmmaker was negotiating with Universal to make E.T. The lawyer, whose mother also practiced with his firm, has worked there since 1976 and admits to sometimes living vicariously through his clients. "There are a few times where I can honestly say to myself in the mirror, 'I really changed that person's life,' " he says. This year, Brown helped Robert Zemeckis make his return to live-action movies with December's Denzel Washington drama Flight, inked a bunch of deals for Dwayne Johnson, extended Craig Ferguson's deal with CBS and helped director George Miller set up Fury Road, the fourth installment of the Mad Max franchise. Worst thing ever said to me: "I had a guy who, after lying to me three times, said to me, 'You can't blame me for trying.' Well, actually, I can!"

John Burke
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld

Corporate dealmaker: In addition to co-hosting his annual croquet tournament at Cannes, Burke brokered some of the biggest movie finance deals of the year. He represented New York-based hedge fund Fortress in its acquisition of shares in a slate-financing deal with Sony Pictures. "That was a very smart transaction that was brilliantly executed by the hedge fund," says Burke. He also repped Hemisphere Capital Management -- which financed 2011's surprise hit The Smurfs -- in its credit facility with JPMorgan that will allow the company to finance the Smurfs sequel and more. My first client: The former president of Mattel Electronics. "He started a new company to create what could have been e-mail or texting -- but he was at least 15 years too early."

NEW: Richard Busch
King & Ballow

Litigation specialist: As lead lawyer in the Eminem case that will decide whether a digital download is viewed as a license rather than a sale, the Nashville-based Busch, who devotes 30 percent of his time to the nasty legal battle against Universal Music Group, stands to alter royalty rates and payouts for hundreds of successful artists. In a recent appeal, the judge ruled in Busch's client's favor, which the veteran litigator calls "an incredible moment." Other music clients include Peter Frampton, Kenny Rogers, Michael McDonald and Weird Al Yankovic. My legal philosophy: "Take it all very personally. Some might disagree, but I find the only way to be successful in litigation is to make it feel like it's your life."

Joseph Calabrese
O'Melveny & Myers

Corporate dealmaker: The dealmaker has continued his efforts in the digital space, representing exhibitor Cinemark's Latin American digital-cinema rollout. And he negotiated the $4.4 billion rights deal for the Summer Olympics in London with NBC on behalf of the International Olympic Committee in June 2011. He also represents Legendary Pictures and has worked on the company's Chinese venture, Legendary East. When he isn't working, Calabrese is tending to his Aston Martins -- a 1964 DB5 and a modern convertible -- and is on the hunt for a Ferrari 550 or 575 Maranello. Worst thing ever said to me: "Some guy called me once -- a business manager -- to represent somebody. I told him about what I could do. And he said, 'Give me some other recommendations for my client; he might not want to have an Italian lawyer.' I said: 'Well, I can understand that. It has been downhill in my country since the 15th century and the Renaissance.' "

NEW: Richard Charnley
Ropers Majeski Kohn & Bentley

Litigation specialist: In one of the year's biggest profit-participation cases, Charnley successfully represented Crash director Paul Haggis, writer Bobby Moresco, producer Mark Harris and actor Brendan Fraser against Bob Yari, producer and financier of the 2006 best picture Oscar winner. The plaintiffs were seeking about $5 million in unpaid revenue, but in July 2011, an L.A. judge awarded a $12 million judgment. Charnley, who heads his firm's entertainment practice group, has repped ABC, Fox and Disney and is defending Chris Rock against a claim by a Hungarian model who was allegedly wiretapped by Anthony Pellicano at Rock's request. Resume highlight: In a "former life," Charnley was an aspiring screenwriter.

Melanie Cook
Ziffren Brittenham

Talent dealmaker: Catching up with Cook isn't easy: She took THR's call in Shanghai, shortly after visiting longtime client Keanu Reeves on the Hong Kong set of his directorial debut, Man of Tai Chi. The daughter of a Southern California judge also works overtime for Frankenweenie filmmaker Tim Burton, MiB 3 director Barry Sonnenfeld and producer Scott Rudin, who this year won another Tony (for Death of a Salesman) and launched HBO's The Newsroom. She inked new client Carey Mulligan's deal to star in the Coen brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis, negotiated for Nancy Meyers to write and direct The Intern with Tina Fey and planned trips to Chile (to ski) and Costa Rica (to surf). She's also a big booster of THR's Big Brother/Big Sister mentorship program, with a scholarship set up in her mother's name. Worst thing ever said to me: "Not the worst thing, but the most hilarious was when [music lawyer] David Braun told me when I was just starting to practice that I had balls!"

Robert Darwell
Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton

Corporate dealmaker: Darwell represents Blueprint Pictures, the U.K.-based producer behind one of the biggest surprise global hits of the year, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (released in the U.S. by Fox Searchlight). "Just the way the deal was structured, they are doing really, really well out of it," he boasts. The globe-trotting Darwell (he has a house in Argentina and just bought in Nashville) repped Chanel in its deal to make Brad Pitt the face of Chanel No. 5 and handled The Grey producer LD Entertainment's pact with Liam Neeson and distribution deal with Open Road. A passionate supporter of the arts, Darwell helped the Broad Stage in Santa Monica launch its first original production, Our Town starring Helen Hunt. My first client: "Cynthia Garrett, who formed a record label called Bitch Records. Lenny Kravitz was producing the record for her first artist. It was kind of neat going to the studio and seeing Lenny at work."

Scott Edelman
Gibson Dunn & Crutcher

Litigation specialist: "It's been the year of television," says Edelman. He filed the high- profile CBS case alleging ABC's Glass House is a ripoff of Big Brother (a judge denied a temporary restraining order, but the case is still pending), and he successfully defended a stolen-idea case brought against FX and Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter by biker Chuck Zito. "He's actually very charming," says Edelman of Zito. "There's a reason they call him Charming Chuck." He's repping CBS against NCIS creator Don Bellisario over profits from NCIS: Los Angeles and Fox in a case brought by American Idol creator Simon Fuller over his claim on profits from The X Factor. And he's got an October trial date in a profits case for Warner Bros. against the creators of Smallville. Most satisfying career moment: "I had to cross-examine a witness who doubled-crossed me. He led me to believe he was on our side prior to the trial, but when he was called to the stand by the other side, it became clear within 30 seconds that he was out to nail us. I had to ditch my direct exam outline and cross him on the spot. He had completely betrayed me, and by the end of my cross, the jury understood that. They came back in our favor for $120 million."

Michael Elkin
Winston & Strawn

Litigation specialist: Elkin "rocked the industry"-- his words -- by winning a July 11 ruling denying an injunction against Barry Diller's TV-streaming service Aereo that had been sought by the major TV broadcasters. And it's not the first time he has stuck it to the entertainment industry: He defeated the RIAA in a 2010 suit brought against Launch Media over whether the Internet radio service needed licenses from labels and repped video-sharing site Veoh in its 2011 win over Universal Music Group on charges of copyright infringement. "We seem to be in the vanguard of the court's decisions between Hollywood and digital media companies," says the married father of three daughters, who splits his time between Manhattan and Hermosa Beach. My legal philosophy: After 20 years representing studios, record labels and artists, 10 years ago he switched sides. "I thought I could be useful to Silicon Valley, educating them about the needs of the content community. Each side needs each other."

Craig Emanuel
Loeb & Loeb

Talent dealmaker: Emanuel's longtime client Ryan Murphy can't stop pumping out hit shows -- Fox's Glee, Oxygen's reality spinoff The Glee Project, FX's anthology drama American Horror Story and NBC's upcoming comedy The New Normal, the first three of which earned additional season orders. "You anticipate one to two shows; you don't expect four different projects on the air at once," says the Australia native and avid biker, backpacker and photographer. He reps Cirque du Soleil in its expansion into TV as well as filmmakers Robert Rodriguez and Tony Gilroy and Transformers producer Don Murphy. My first client: "One of my first clients was Paul Hogan, whom I started representing before he went into production on Crocodile Dundee. To this day, he's still a client and a friend."

Bonnie Eskenazi
Greenberg Glusker

Litigation specialist: Eskenazi handles high-stakes cases like the ongoing battle among the J.R.R. Tolkien estate, Warner Bros. and producer Saul Zaentz over The Lord of the Rings revenue. But she's also representing Itzhak Perlman and other giants of classical music, a passion of hers. "They have the same issues as rock stars; the dollars just aren't quite as enormous," she notes. Eskenazi negotiated a more favorable deal for the estate of Bob Marley. The reggae legend was getting 20 percent of revenue from a CD sale but 60 percent from a licensing deal, and Eskenazi, in a case with wide-ranging implications, argued that deals Universal Music has with iTunes are more similar to the latter. She won't say what the new arrangement calls for, but "20 percent compared to 60 percent is a big swing," she says. "There are many cases like this now, and we were among the first." My first client: "I was a first-year lawyer assigned to Marlon Brando. He figured out I was the young kid on the block who knew everything about the documents, so he'd call every day at lunchtime. One time I was sick, so he calls me at home and tells me to have my people get me some Lysine. I was 25; I didn't have people. Several hours later, my husband walks out the front door, and on the step is a portly gentleman, and he's thinking, 'Looks familiar. …' There I am in my sweats, no makeup, I have a fever, and Marlon Brando walks in."

NEW: Steven Fabrizio
Jenner & Block

Litigation specialist: Since stepping down from the RIAA in 2000, Fabrizio has been involved in big content-protection lawsuits. From Napster to the ongoing wars against Hotfile and Aereo, Fabrizio argues for the major studios and record companies in an effort to shape copyright law. He also has visited third-world nations to discuss content protection. After seeking an injunction against Barry Diller's Aereo, he took off to give a lecture in the Arctic. ➻ My dream client National Geographic. "Not because of any legal issue, but because of my love of photography. I want to meet their photo editor."

Patti Felker
Felker Toczek Gellman Suddleson

Talent dealmaker: Felker calls this the "year of crossover success," citing film and TV producer clients Dan Fogelman, Greg Berlanti and Kevin Williamson. "They're literally doing everything simultaneously," she boasts. So is longtime client Jeremy Renner, who she half-jokingly suggests is "in everything," including August's The Bourne Legacy. The dressed-down New York native -- she was spotted at the June Ted premiere wearing her trademark sweat pants -- often gets together with friends to play games like Rummikub and Quiddler. To her dismay, she's had to scale back on her other hobby, bowling, but her average is an impressive 167. Most satisfying career moment: "When I told writer-producer Phil Rosenthal he could live with me. We had grown up together in New City, New York, and I saw him on the street one day. He told me he was leaving L.A. because he hadn't found work. I just believed in him, and I told him he could move in. He lived with me for a year [then went on to create Everybody Loves Raymond]."

Sam Fischer
Ziffren Brittenham

Talent dealmaker: Fischer reps Simon Cowell and his Syco joint venture with Sony Music, so he must have a great Cowell story, right? "There are too many," he says, "and none of them I can tell." In addition to bringing The X Factor to the U.S., Fischer reps The Office maestro Greg Daniels, who is developing an animation block for NBC; The Avengers director Joss Whedon ("Marvel has an option for Avengers 2, and hopefully he'll direct that," he says); and publishing house Conde Nast, which is looking to increase its Hollywood footprint. In a sign of how respected Fischer's skills are, CBS CEO Les Moonves asked him to negotiate a post-term production deal for when the mogul eventually leaves his current job. "It was actually a pretty easy negotiation," Fischer says. My first client: Director Phillip Noyce, "right after he did Dead Calm."

Ruth Fisher
Gibson Dunn & Crutcher

Corporate dealmaker: A rare female power player in corporate entertainment transactions, Fisher recently helped Madison Square Garden with its $24 million purchase of L.A.'s Forum. She represented Technicolor when it acquired assets from Cinedigm and advised on Cumulus Media's $2.4 billion purchase of Citadel Broadcasting, working on behalf of its financial adviser, Macquarie Capital. And she advised Universal when it acquired French animator Mac Guff Ligne (Despicable Me). Worst thing ever said to me: "When I was a young lawyer, I flew to New York on a deal I had been working on for months. My client greeted me in the hotel lobby, and when another man joined us, he turned and said, 'You're never going to believe it, but this little girl is our lawyer.' "

NEW: Howard Fishman
Hirsch Wallerstein Hayum Matlof & Fishman

Talent dealmaker: In summer 2011, Fishman found himself face to face with a wolf. "We bought a lakeside cottage in Wisconsin, where I'm from, and this wolf was 15 yards away from me," he recalls. So the USC Law grad drove 50 miles to the nearest Wal-Mart to buy "bear spray," only to find "it was the size of a fire extinguisher." So he instead decided to carry a whistle, which might come in handy when Fishman deals with the two-legged wolves in Hollywood ("much more dangerous," he jokes). The laid-back surfer closed such high-profile deals as Rachel McAdams' for The Vow, Noomi Rapace's for Prometheus and Hailee Steinfeld's for Ender's Game, while also repping Clive Owen and Rachel Weisz. My legal philosophy: "Stay calm and try not to get emotional.":

David Fox
Myman Greenspan Fineman Fox Light

Talent dealmaker: Fox's work for Jon Cryer resulted in the Two and a Half Men stalwart returning for the upcoming 10th season for just under $700,000 an episode -- or about $15 million. A die-hard surfer and Los Angeles Dodgers fan, he also closed deals for filmmakers Gavin Hood (Wolverine) to write and direct Summit's Ender's Game and Christopher McQuarrie to tackle Tom Cruise's Jack Reacher. Most satisfying career moment: Fox repped Saw filmmakers James Wan and Leigh Whannell when they arrived from Australia with a hot script. "We had a lot of traditional offers from traditional buyers, and we had one crazy offer from an independent. I convinced these kids to bet on themselves, and instead of taking upfront fees, they took a significant piece of the gross backend, and Saw went on to become one of the most successful independent films in history."

Russell Frackman
Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp

Litigation specialist: Thanks to Frackman, your kids can't buy "Motown Metal" Hot Wheels from Mattel. He successfully represented the storied record label against the toymaker and earned a rare precedential opinion from the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. "They've stopped using it," he says, pending an appeal. The affable music litigator -- who was on the front lines of the Napster/Grokster cases -- this year repped The Black Keys in their claim that Pizza Hut and Home Depot used copycat songs in ads. And he's repping Capitol Records against artists attempting to get higher royalties from digital downloads. Most satisfying career moment: Arguing the Napster appeal at the Ninth Circuit, which was telecast live. "The really satisfying part was that my two kids, then high school age, attended and saw me argue in court for the first time. It may have had unintended consequences: My son is now a lawyer, and my daughter works in the music business."

 

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