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Early Wednesday morning, United Talent Agency CEO Jeremy Zimmer dispatched a memo to the company’s staff trying to alleviate anxiety and anger in the aftermath of Hillary Clinton’s surprise loss to Donald Trump in the presidential election.
“Many of us will be scared and threatened and we can give comfort. Some of us will be happy because our voice was heard. Either way, it’s a challenging moment so let’s be extra sensitive and caring with others,” Zimmer wrote to the agency’s employees.
Across Hollywood, agents, studio executives, producers and thousands of rank-and-file employees showed up at work Wednesday in a daze. A majority of Hollywood’s power brokers and up-and-comers supported Clinton. Her roster of donors reads like a who’s who of Hollywood, including Universal’s Ron Meyer, Jeff Shell and Donna Langley; Warner Bros.’ Kevin Tsujihara, Sue Kroll and Toby Emmerich; Paramount’s Brad Grey; Sony’s Michael Lynton; 20th Century Fox’s Stacey Snider; and Disney’s Alan Horn. Harvey Weinstein, Legendary’s Thomas Tull, CAA’s Bryan Lourd and ICM’s Chris Silbermann also were donors, and many top figures, including Scandal creator Shonda Rhimes and stars including Leonardo DiCaprio and George Clooney, hosted events for Clinton. (Entry to an August fundraiser hosted at Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel’s house was $100,000 per couple.)
There was also super PAC money organized by Jeffrey Katzenberg and Univision’s Haim Saban on top of their personal contributions. All told, the Center for Responsive Politics reports Clinton garnered $22 million in contributions from the entertainment industry, compared to a mere $290,000 for Trump.
Now, Clinton’s stunning defeat has left Hollywood in shock — and questioning whether it is out of touch with a wide swath of the country by assuming she would win. Or, as CBS Films president Terry Press observed, “political polls are about as reliable as movie tracking.”
Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, who runs management and production company Grandview-Automatik, grouped his staff together for a company talk. “It was a heart-to-heart, and we talked through a lot of things,” says Kavanaugh-Jones, whose recent producer credits include the new interracial romance drama Loving. “One point that was brought up was that Hollywood can be a bit sheltered from the rest of the country, so it’s important that we are all open to hearing other people’s points of view and try to reach out across the aisle and hopefully they’ll reach back.”
Like UTA’s Zimmer, WME Global head Graham Taylor also sent an email attempting to rally the agency’s staff around 1 a.m. Wednesday after the news networks had called the election for Trump.
“While I had hoped for a different outcome for a myriad of reasons, I do strongly believe tomorrow we all have a united challenge to come together as a company,” Taylor wrote. “We have colleagues and clients that are both happy and upset. We have a divided country, a disrupted globe, and the level of fear and cynicism is unprecedented both in our business and the world at large.”
The major film and television studios were similarly taking stock, but top executives were loath to speak out publicly, since their companies will now have to work with a Trump administration after Democratic President Barack Obama’s eight-year administration comes to an end in January. A source inside a major studio, for instance, says there was no formal note from management, but executives “have been consoling each other,” with some employees shedding tears, says one insider.
The mood inside another studio’s animation department was akin to an Irish wake, according to an insider, with employees dressed in black, gathered in a communal kitchen nursing a collective hangover.
Another top studio executive tells The Hollywood Reporter he is “completely devastated” by Clinton’s loss. Still another notes the paucity of phone calls coming in Wednesday morning as the industry focused on Clinton’s concession speech, followed by President Obama’s live address. “Safe to say it’s been an unusually quiet morning,” says the exec.
“It feels weird to conduct business as usual,” says a producer elsewhere. “How can we focus on make-believe stories when the real world seems to need so much help?”
Harvey Weinstein of The Weinstein Co. says he hopes to see collaboration between the two political parties despite the vitriol of the campaign.
“With both Donald and Hillary splitting the popular vote of Americans 50/50, I was proud to see Hillary say this morning that she would work with Donald because that’s what our country wants to see,” Weinstein tells THR in an email. “One of the great things President Obama did was taking a page from Lincoln’s playbook — taking on rivals and working together with them in the White House. It takes a willingness from both sides, however, and our country is sick and tired of the divisiveness in D.C. It is my hope that President-elect Trump will do this with Hillary and others. It will make people less fearful, which I’m sure he wants and it’s what we need as a country.”
Elsewhere, the mood was decidedly “quiet and morose” Wednesday inside UTA, a major talent brokerage that boasts Will Ferrell, Channing Tatum and Joel and Ethan Coen among its clients. Stunned employees sat quietly in rows of desks Wednesday morning, reading Zimmer’s missive urging staff to contact clients and assuage their fears.
The question on everyone’s lips this morning was “How?” How could the vast polling and political punditry complex have been so far off — and how did no one inside Hollywood, save for Michael Moore, see this historic upset coming?
Meanwhile, the UTA financial department had its eyes peeled on the global markets, scanning intently for the kinds of economic tumult that might throw current productions into question. Perhaps most fretful were assistants, many of whom are foreign-born and employed by the major Los Angeles agencies thanks to temporary work visas. One Australian woman, an assistant to a high-powered literary agent at UTA, expresses dismay that Trump’s hard-line immigration stance might mean her deportation from the country.
And yet one established Hollywood agent has a different take, even though he voted for Clinton. “This is a town that rewards disgusting behavior, so people being upset is hypocritical,” says the agency partner. “What the cool kids are upset about is that someone they don’t like and someone who is not part of the cool kids won. Time to grow up and move on.”
Maureen Lenker, Chris Gardner, Peter Kiefer, Borys Kit, Natalie Jarvey and Ashley Cullins contributed to this report.
Nov. 9, 5:40 p.m.: Updated to include Harvey Weinstein’s comment.
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