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JUN
25
4 WKS

Oscars Shake-up: Weinstein Co. Splits With Longtime Awards Campaign Guru (Exclusive)

Veteran strategist Lisa Taback is now a free agent following a rift that started last season when TWC execs learned she was working on Disney's "Saving Mr. Banks" campaign outside of the parameters of her contract with them.

Harvey Weinstein Lisa Taback Inset - H 2014
Jon Furniss/Invision/AP Images; Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
Harvey Weinstein and Lisa Taback

This story first appeared in the July 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

In a major shake-up that could impact the Oscar race, The Weinstein Co. and its longtime awards consultant, Lisa Taback, have called it quits, bringing an end to one of the most successful alliances in recent film history.

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Taback has worked with Bob and Harvey Weinstein since 1994 (first at Miramax Films and since 1999 through her own company), helping to bring home the gold for such Oscar-winning movies as Shakespeare in Love, Chicago, The King's Speech and The Artist.

Insiders say she lately had told colleagues she was going to take a break from TWC and the demanding Harvey and that she would be handling other clients during the 2014-15 awards season. But the breakup isn't that simple, with sources saying TWC initiated the split.

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The rift goes back to last Oscar season, when Weinstein execs learned that Taback was representing Disney's Saving Mr. Banks in what the company believed was a violation of a contract that called for her services to be "semi-exclusive" to TWC. In previous years, she had been permitted to rep indies such as Winter's Bone and Precious, which weren't deemed direct threats to TWC's slate, but under the terms of her 2013 agreement, there were explicit limits placed on which non-TWC movies she could handle. While animated movies were OK, and she was specifically allowed to work on George Clooney's The Monuments Men (which ended up being moved out of awards season), the Disney side deal set off alarms.

Taback was confronted with her extracurricular activities and reportedly apologized. But the company was furious. At that point, it decided to retain her services for the remainder of the season, since she was privy to its awards strategy, but resolved to sever their relationship moving forward. (At the end of the day, Banks failed to score a best film nomination, while TWC landed 11 noms, including one in the best picture category for Philomena.)

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Taback, reached on vacation in Italy, had no comment, but sources say she has finalized a deal to work with DreamWorks Animation, which will be fielding How to Train Your Dragon 2. She also is said to be close to signing on to consult with Paramount's awards team on a slate that includes Christopher Nolan's Interstellar.

As for TWC, which also declined to comment, it has such potential contenders as The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch; Tim Burton's Big Eyes; and a new Macbeth, starring Michael Fassbender. The company now plans to take on several new consultants, whose efforts will be coordinated by president of publicity Dani Weinstein.

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg, @GKilday