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Parents of child stars have been making A-list demands since the days of Shirley Temple, but the father of one of the breakout stars of Netflix’s Stranger Things has taken the concept to a whole new level.
Millie Bobby Brown, who plays superpowered runaway Eleven on the smash summer series, has not had a talent agent since she left Paradigm’s kids division earlier this year. Given the 12-year-old Brit’s status as perhaps the most buzzworthy young actor on a hot new show, there is intense interest from all the major agencies, which have mobilized in recent weeks to sign her.
The one hiccup: Brown’s father, Robert Brown, has been demanding what amounts to a signing fee for the privilege of representing his daughter. Sources at five separate agencies tell The Hollywood Reporter the elder Brown, who goes by Bobby, made it clear in conversations with them that a sizable cash payment would be necessary for Millie to sign with that agency. Two sources say the number floated by Brown was $100,000 up front.
The move is raising eyebrows among even the most seasoned agents because, while not necessarily illegal, “it is completely unorthodox,” says one agency source. Agents have been known to reduce the traditional 10 percent commission charged clients in order to sign in-demand talent, but a payment up front “would open a Pandora’s box,” says another veteran of a major agency, “and we just would never go there.”
A rep for the Browns confirmed Robert had made the requests for payment but said it was “ill advice from someone outside the industry that was said in jest.” Brown is said to be close to several sports agents in the U.K., where payments in exchange for representation are common. Millie’s manager, Melanie Greene at Affirmative Entertainment, is said to have been unaware of her client’s father’s requests.
Millie Brown was a popular figure as her family made the rounds in Los Angeles during the weekend of the Emmys in September. Millie and Robert were spotted at several agency parties (THR chatted with her briefly at about 12:30 a.m. at the WME event at Catch in West Hollywood). Millie attended the Emmys ceremony Sept. 18, singing “Uptown Funk” with her Stranger Things castmates before the show started and handing out PB&J sandwiches during a bit orchestrated by host Jimmy Kimmel.
The Brown family demand, whether real or in jest, highlights the struggles many young actors face. Robert, an estate agent in the U.K., said in a recent interview that he made major financial sacrifices to help secure an acting career for his daughter. According to the interview the Brown family gave to the Daily Mail, Robert moved his wife, Kelly, and two of his four kids from England to Florida but was forced to return to the U.K. when money ran out, after which Millie and her family lived with an aunt.
“It was very hard,” Millie told the tabloid. “There were lots of tears along the way.”
Greene, Brown’s U.K.-born manager, reportedly lent the family money during the period. Millie then began booking small roles on such shows as Modern Family and NCIS before her breakout role as the mostly wordless Eleven on Stranger Things, which has been renewed for a second season.
In the interview, Robert said he is trying to maintain a sense of normalcy for his daughter amid the Hollywood hoopla. “It’s important for Millie not to feel under pressure,” he said. “She’s a kid. She has to do her homework and chores. Everything else is a bonus.”
In the past few days, the Browns have added veteran attorney Steve Warren and publicity firm Shelter PR to Millie’s team. Millie is expected to choose an agency in the next week, and sources say no money will exchange hands.
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