Hollywood's Stealth Support of the D.C. Gun-Control March: "It's Important This Not Be the Celebrity Show"
A-listers from Oprah Winfrey to Steven Spielberg are signing checks and stepping back as agencies sponsor travel to Washington and Parkland natives across the industry rally support for the massive March for Our Lives on March 24.
Hollywood for once is ducking publicity. While much of the entertainment industry has thrown its support behind the March 24 March for Our Lives in Washington — and the larger gun-safety movement launched in the wake of the Feb. 14 shooting that killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida — stars, reps and execs are purposely downplaying their involvement.
"It's important that this not be the 'celebrity, Hollywood-savior-coming-in show,' " says Tascha Rudder, executive director of Endeavor Foundation, which advises Everytown for Gun Safety, one of the nonprofits involved in the march. (Endeavor began working with Everytown in October, after the Las Vegas mass shooting survived by WME employees and clients including Jason Aldean.)
The discretion arises in part from sensitivity to the life-and-death nature of the issue but also from awareness that gun-control detractors can point to Hollywood involvement as evidence of a big-money liberal agenda, thereby discrediting the work of such students as Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, who, organizers insist, truly have been driving the movement.
"Anything that I or my company is doing is insignificant compared to what these kids are doing," says ICM motion picture lit co-head Harley Copen, who graduated from MSD. "The kids have helped craft this narrative, and the story has been distinctly rejecting everything having to do with celebrity and politicians." This included a suggestion that they look into attending the Oscars, which the students declined to pursue. "The kids don't want to be famous," says the agent. "They want change."
Though stars like Jimmy Fallon have said they'll attend the march, others — including the Clooneys, the Katzenbergs, the Spielbergs and Oprah Winfrey, who have each given $500,000 — feel their most powerful impact begins and ends with writing a check, says one donor. Lending logistical aid are such industry figures as Scooter Braun, cited by organizers for his fundraising efforts, and Dancing With the Stars producer Deena Katz, who filed the permit application for the D.C. march.
CAA, WME, UTA and ICM Partners all have made financial contributions and are providing transportation from Florida to Washington for students and chaperones. "We had approximately 700 [MSD] kids that wanted to go," says actor Mary Van Luven, who is coordinating efforts by L.A. MSD alumni. Gabby Giffords' organization, Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence, is providing trips for 200. "The agencies stepped up to cover the costs and the logistics involved in getting another 500 teenagers to the march."
Van Luven adds that organizers have met their initial $75,000 goal thanks in large part to "a substantial donation from an entertainment entity who prefers to remain anonymous" and have set a new goal of $150,000 in order to get more students to D.C.
In addition, WME is helping put together Stay Amped, a D.C. benefit concert the night before the march featuring Fall Out Boy alongside G-Eazy, Bebe Rexha, Lizzo and others. Proceeds will benefit Everytown and Giffords, and WME is working with individual and corporate patrons to enable students to attend for free. Charlie Puth will perform at March for Our Lives L.A., one of at least 371 sister marches. And Lin-Manuel Miranda is dedicating a portion of proceeds from March's Hamildrop (his monthly Hamilton remix track), a mashup duet with Dear Evan Hansen's Ben Platt.
Van Luven notes that ICM's Copen, WME's Todd Jacobs and UTA's Jonathan Beckerman, all MSD alumni, have been particularly active in drumming up support. "When you move from a small town 3,000 miles away," says Jacobs, "to see the outpouring of support from this creative community that has become my other family is really an extraordinary feeling."
This story first appeared in the March 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.