Commentary: Scenes from the Nicita-Wagner home

A coming-of-age drama in two acts

Some of the most interesting pillow talk in Hollywood probably takes place in the Rick Nicita-Paula Wagner home, especially in the past month or so. That's when the longtime CAA co-chairman decided to leave the agency fold and in a sense follow in his wife's footsteps by becoming a producer. And they have more than that in common: Tom Cruise was Nicita's client and is Wagner's producing partner.


RICK: I've been thinking about things quite a bit, and you know what, I think it's time ...

PAULA: Have you said anything to Tom?

RICK: Not yet. I wanted to make sure you were comfortable with this first.

PAULA: Well, I think you'll be much happier -- not that working as a producer is a piece of cake, but at least it wouldn't be the 24/7 grind of the agency.

RICK: Yeah, plus it really isn't quite the place it was once we settled down after the Michael and Ron post-departure psycho-drama. ... The guys want to take it in different directions now, and Kevin has this rapport with Tom, and you know, it's a little disjointed for me there.

PAULA: What is it Sherry keeps saying to friends -- "don't retire, rewire" -- perhaps that's what you could be doing over at Morgan Creek. They actually manage to make movies, don't they?

RICK: Well, of late not such good ones, but that's the challenge, isn't it? After all, you and Tom are starting from scratch, and there are a lot of naysayers. And yet, you seem to be having more fun at UA than when you were agenting, or dealing with Sumner.

PAULA: I'm not sure I'd call it fun exactly, but we've been given a mandate, and we don't have to read every last graphic novel or scrounge all day for money. ... It's not quite those "Mission: Impossible" days, but there are moments that are really exhilarating. Did I ever tell you? Berlin was great: Tom was up -- well, not too up, but focused -- and the eyepatch thing worked, and the people seemed to embrace the shoot.

RICK: So, you're still calling it "Valkyrie"? Don't you think the Wagner reference will drive them away?

PAULA: Well, some of them won't even get that, but you're right, the title is difficult. Vollman will have to get his arms around this and give us some other options. We still have a little time. ... Speaking of which, it's really late and I have a 7:30.

RICK: Me too. Good night.


PAULA: So, how did it go at work?

RICK: Seemingly well. The ones who wouldn't mind seeing me leave were overly gracious, and the ones who were really sorry, were, well, really sorry. In any case, they know how to handle these things at CAA, and within 10 minutes they were already rejigging things so as not to miss a beat. They were on the phone to Kevin, Nicole, Anthony and Al within five minutes.

PAULA: So, how about Tom?

RICK: We spoke. He was cool, very Tom. He's good at this: a lot of 'Jerry Maguire' and just a little 'Collateral.' He understands self-realization, right? Still, you never know. ...

PAULA: No, we don't. They're actors -- we are too, sometimes, but not in the same way, to the same degree, of course. Anyway, the other agencies must be salivating over the situation.

RICK: Well, maybe. Yes, but then again, we're not so young anymore; nor are the clients. ... I mean, think about what's working today: "Swing Vote" is not exactly "Iron Man." And too, UTA's got Miley; Endeavor's got Shia and one of the James; WMA has the other; Paradigm's got Hayden. I guess they'll make a run for one or another of ours, but as for Tom, I mean it'll all depend on what happens after "Valkyrie," or whatever you're going to call it. And when or if there's another "Mission: Impossible" -- for him to star in, that is.

PAULA: It's not nearly as bad as everyone thinks.

RICK: What? The thing with Tom?

PAULA: No, the movie. "Valkyrie," that is. He'll be proud of it; we'll be proud of it. Whatever it grosses.

RICK: What about Harry?

PAULA: He's made a point of publicly lowering the expectations for us, as he has for MGM, and the money, he keeps saying, is still there for more movies. You know, we're lucky that way. You're getting out from under the agency thing, and you're going to a company that's got money to make movies.

RICK: Yeah, it could be worse. Jim is no Harry Sloan, of course, but he's said all the right things, and I have greenlight power. Now all we have to do -- you and I -- is prove that there's still an audience out there somewhere between that for "Dark Knight" and that for "Juno."

PAULA: And relate to Tom.

RICK: That's now more your job than mine.

PAULA: Hmmm, I think we should have him, them for dinner -- and soon.