32 Hollywood Actors, Producers, Execs Recommend Holiday Gifts for Colleagues

9:00 AM 11/24/2018

by Edited by Ramona Saviss

Actress Olivia Munn, editor Lee Smith, exec Dana Walden and actor Mahershala Ali give tips for the holidays.

California Christmas The Grove - Getty - H 2018
Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images

Sony Pictures Classics co-president Tom Bernard knows what stars really want for the holidays: “Pictures of themselves.” For directors or producers? “Money.”

It’s tough to find the perfect gift that has the right amount of extravagance and sends the right message (writer Stuart Beattie offers for stars: “I'd give them a clock, so they can make sure they turn up on time”), while Olivia Munn says she’ll take anything but another Bose headset.

This holiday season, you can give your agents the go-to gift box from Helen’s Wines or opt for a creative approach. Marin Hinkle (Mrs. Maisel) buys hand-blown glass jewelry boxes; Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family) gave portraits of his castmates sitting on sandwiches.

If you want to go the sentimental route — “I just always appreciate a well-written card,” Mahershala Ali adds — it may be too late, as actress Kat Dennings starts jotting down knitted gift ideas in June. But to really do a good job on a personal gift, Jesse Williams contends, “you have to be a damn good listener.”

The Hollywood Reporter asks industry insiders what to get for casts, crews, studio executives, directors and agents ahead of the holidays.

  • Food and drink

    Actress Judy Reyes (Claws, Scrubs): “[For directors and producers] Gift bags, that's it. Wine and booze. We like to get everybody hammered and relaxed for the new year. Tequila is everything this year."

    Actress Shiri Appleby (UnREAL): “I just have to say that Helen’s Wines has wonderful gift boxes that I give every year. It’s wines, Polaroid cameras. It’s like things that can be personal and really charming.”

    Actress Busy Phillips (Busy Tonight): “Helen’s Wines here in Los Angeles does these beautiful gift boxes for the holidays. I’m telling you honestly, it’s the best gift for agents, managers, like people that work for me, everyone gets the Helen’s Wines. I pick different ones for different people. They are so beautiful and they’re just like so classy and Helen really knows what she’s talking about in terms of wine, so that’s like my go-to for, like, sort of corporate-y gifts.”

    Writer Justin Simien (Dear White People, creator): "[For talent] You know what I love? I got everybody in season one [of Dear White People] like these little custom whiskey snifters, with a James Baldwin quote on the back. There's quite a few companies that do specialized glass pieces, and that was great. Oh, my God, studio executives? You know what? Listen, when I was in the studio, I wanted this, so this is what I give: It's cookies, donuts, cupcakes, it's whatever's the hot bakery that I don't think they just had." (Laughs.)

    Actress Anne Winters (13 Reasons Why): I usually do a gift basket of different chocolates or flowers or wine or whiskey, depending on which agent. … I went to a distillery in Kentucky when I was filming a movie, Mom and Dad, with Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair, and I made my own whiskey bottle and put my own label around it and bottled it and everything. That was pretty cool, and I gave that to all my reps and agents, and that was like a handmade gift.

    Writer Stephen Canals (Pose, co-creator): “[For studio execs] A nice bottle of wine. With my agents, probably flowers."

  • Accessories

    Actress Zooey Deschanel (New Girl): “Well, I think the best gifts are really personal gifts. I did get [co-star] Lamorne Morris a LeBron backpack once ... he’s a big LeBron fan, so it was, I think he appreciated it.”

    Producer Nate Berkus (The Help): “There’s, like, a Ralph Lauren carry-on that I gave one year to my manager that was awesome. And years before that, a vintage Hermes Birkin for a manager.”

    Producer Simon Kinberg (The Twilight Zone, Deadpool 3): “A studio executive, I'll get them like a watch or something like that, because they're a little bit less, let's say, artistic or creative."

    Producer Bruna Papandrea (Big Little Lies, The Undoing): "I do often struggle with that very question [for stars] ... You know what I gave recently, actually? I think it's a killer gift. It's a Sydney brand — and I love to give Australian — called Creative Escape, and they make these amazing bags that can go in the washing machine. So I say, it doesn't matter how many bags a movie star has, that everyone who I've given them to, and a lot of actors, they're like, 'I love this bag, it's amazing.' So that's my latest killer gift.”

    Interior designer Jeremiah Brent (Nate & Jeremiah by Design): “I got my manager a Birkin this year. I don’t suggest that, though.”

    Actress Rachel Bilson (Jumper): “I’ve gotten personalized jewelry with [daughter] Briar’s name on it from my agents, and that’s just the most special. Anything to do with my daughter.” 

  • Technology

    Actress Olivia Munn (The Predator): “The representatives will give you Bose headsets a lot. Like every version of a Bose headset. If you’re starting a new show, get a Bose headset. It’s your birthday, get a headset. And then sometimes you’ll get a little piece of jewelry. And sometimes you get the flowers ... I think that CAA just has like a Bose warehouse and they’re just like, ‘It’s Olivia’s birthday.’ I end up giving them back to somebody else, who then probably gives it back to me. They’re great. I just don’t need, like, 30.”

    Producer Bruna Papandrea (Big Little Lies, The Undoing): “On this movie I just made that's partly about space, we gave them all telescopes, which I thought was a really cool gift. It's Noah Hawley's movie [Pale Blue Dot]. I thought that was kind of an inventive gift, so I'm thinking that I'll just kind of do that myself now and give a telescope as a gift, because who doesn't want a telescope?"

    Busy Philipps (Busy Tonight): “Crew gifts are so funny and you always want to try to be creative. One year on Cougar Town, we gave our entire crew bikes because we wanted to give something different than just a zip-up hoodie. We all banded together and did it — that was the best one we ever gave. But I don’t think first year on Busy Tonight they’re getting bikes. Sorry. Maybe next year.”

    WME partner Richard Weitz: "A good gift [for talent], I would say the new iPad. I would want it. I think it's for special clients."  

    Actress Kat Graham (The Vampire Diaries): "I'm somebody that likes to know somebody, and then find something really, really special and particular for them. Candles are always safe, and watches are always great, but I did this voiceover thing for Ninja Turtles for Google Home, where I can be your alarm when you wake up. So maybe I'll do that, and it's really obnoxious and amazing."

    Editor Lee Smith (Inception, Dunkirk): "[For a director or producer] An Aston Martin? Or do you want something a little smaller? I wouldn't give them that, personally. I'd just give them some healthy advice. Yeah. That's what they employ me for."

    Writer Stuart Beattie (Tomorrow, When the War Began): "[For stars] If anything I'd give them a clock, so they can make sure they turn up on time. They're notoriously late, the stars."

    Actress Judy Reyes (Claws, Scrubs): "I like to give an agent electric toothbrushes. Because it's a cool gift.”

    Actor Damon Herriman (100 Bloody Acres): [For a director] Portable cellphone chargers. These really small credit card-sized ones, TravelCard. Look how wide and thin that is. So, you take that with you and you're like, 'My phone's going to run out. That's fine, I've got this little thing.'"

    Actor Justin Chambers (Grey’s Anatomy): “I got this clock, this little travel clock with my initials on the cover of it. You can travel with it. It’s not a digital, but it’s the hand. I got it from my agent, Steven Hirsch.”

  • Relaxation and wellness

    Model Heidi Klum (Project Runway): "I think we all love great-smelling candles. They come from small to very big and very fabulous, so it depends on how much money you want to spend. But I think that's always a great thing."

    Chairman of Disney TV Studios and ABC Entertainment Dana Walden: "I like to give a lot of different things, but travel items: soft blankets to travel with, a travel pillow or something that helps in busy lives for people to feel comfortable."

    Writer Stephen Canals (Pose, co-creator): "For actors on the show? A gift card to a spa always goes really far. They'll get a facial, they'll get a massage.”

  • Homemade or sentimental

    Actor Mahershala Ali (Moonlight, House of Cards): “I just always appreciate a well-written card. I really do. The gifts are great but I just appreciate people and their contribution to my life and my well being. And every now and then you might receive a letter that shows how much someone appreciates you, and I've gotten a few of those that have always been very touching.”

    Actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family): "Oh, my gosh, it's so hard shopping for my cast. Last time I got them presents, I got them portraits of them, caricatures of them sitting on sandwiches. It's an Instagram name, it's called @celebsonsandwiches, and I got them all their own little portrait, sitting on their favorite sandwiches. It was very difficult to shop for them.”

    Actress Marin Hinkle (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel): "Years ago when I was a little girl, I got this extraordinary glass jewelry box that you opened up and it felt magical. And I found a place online, and this is going to sound like I'm plugging Amazon, but Amazon happens to have these gift boxes which are handmade — the glass is hand-blown — and I give gift boxes, glass, to everyone I can. Yes, to agents, to actors, to producers. And the only thing I do is I always cross my fingers when I'm giving the gift that it doesn't break from when it got from my hands to them. … And I don't know if I should say this, because the people will be, like, 'Wait a minute, she didn't spend a lot of money?' But very inexpensive.”

    Actress Kat Dennings (2 Broke Girls, Big Mouth): “The cast and I of a film went and got into a photo booth and we made like a design where we held up different signs that said different things, and we framed it and gave it to the director and he loved it. So that’s a fun, cheap thing to do. I tend to do a lot of homemade gifts. I really like doing that. I knit a lot of scarves and a lot of cute little things. I’m one of those people who makes a list in June if I hear someone mention something — I’ll write it down and get it for them."

    Director Kimberly Peirce (Six): "I don't know what a star wants. I know what I want: my best shirt, or [a trip to] my favorite restaurant, or a night out with my buddies. … Find people's favorite shirt or favorite restaurant or place to go.”

    Actor Jesse Williams (Grey's Anatomy): “I find that the most impactful and effective gift are the ones that blow their mind and they are, like, ‘Oh, you were listening and you noticed that little thing that I need. Or that I said I liked.’ Things that communicate that you really are present to them. And to do that, you have to be a damn good listener. And that really is the measure of friendship, listen to the hard parts, not only the easy parts.”

    Actress Ariel Winter (Modern Family): “I find meaningful gifts are the best, an inside joke or something and you make it."

    Producer Simon Kinberg (The Twilight Zone, Deadpool 3): "[For stars,] it's hard because they have everything and they get a lot of it for free. I tend to try to make things for them. So it's a little bit like when my kids make me little drawings. I'll make them a little drawing, or a little lame poem or something, and send that to them. I'm terrible [with art/poems], but it makes it better, because it's more handmade.”

    Model Tess Holliday: “I tend to buy vintage stuff from eBay. I mean, See's candies, that's kind of what you give everybody during the holidays if you live in L.A. ... But I like finding the weird stuff that people don't normally see. Doing something thoughtful rather than something store-bought.”

  • Causes

    Head of Amazon Studios Jennifer Salke: "A few years ago at NBC, we were finding one of those causes that the talent really care about, and then making specific donations to those causes. And that to me is the gift I want to receive. I feel just as great giving it to someone … and so many people care about so many things that they're trying to amplify."

    Fox 21 Television Studios president Bert Salke: "So many of them are doing charities. It's really what they want."

    Producer Our Lady J (Transparent): "A lot of people in my family voted for Trump in rural America. So I'm getting them all subscriptions to The New York Times and The Washington Post, and I'm donating to LGBT organizations in their name. In 2016, I donated to Planned Parenthood in everyone's name, and I know that that mailing is impossible to get off of (laughs). So give the gift that keeps on giving, and remind them that we all need to stay awake and political and we need to really be conscious of who and what we're voting for.”