The Report: Remembrance - CAA's Marty Baum

Issue 53 - The Report: Team CAA
Judd Gunderson/Los Angeles Times/Reprinted with Permission

Baum, who died Nov. 5 at 86, was an established Hollywood player when he joined the upstart Creative Artists Agency in 1977. Here, Meyer recalls Baum’s pivotal role in building CAA, as told to THR's Kim Masters:

We were in business about a year and a half when an ad came out in the trades — a letter from Marty Baum, saying he was leaving ABC Pictures and going back to being an agent.

At that point, we were modestly successful television agents. We had some movie actors and actresses, but no movie stars. So we wanted to meet with him to see if there was something we could do together.  We acted strategically and out of fear; here was a guy who was going to compete for the same business we were after. You didn’t want him against you. He was a very tough guy — fierce and fearless, but always fair and always honest.

Before he ran ABC Films, Marty had been a legendary agent at General Artists Corp. He represented some of the biggest names: Julie Andrews, Blake Edwards, Richard Attenborough. There were famous stories about him. He would sit around at his staff meetings and demand that the agents tell him who they were signing and what they were doing. He would want to hear that you had a dinner, you had meetings, you were pursuing the client. You couldn’t lie about it.

He was a believer. There was no deal that couldn’t be made. There was a famous story about Marty having sold a dead actor for It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. He would tell that story about himself — he realized the actor was dead after the studio made an offer. He was also famous for having discovered Sidney Poitier. It was unfashionable at the time even to represent an African-American. Marty was his friend, his mentor, his agent — and they stayed together from then to the day Marty died. Then he ran ABC Films. When Cabaretwon numerous awards, everyone thanked Marty Baum.

When we approached him, it was more a no than a yes. We convinced him this would be good for all of us — that our energy and youth and his knowledge would amount to something. He was very skeptical, but he said yes.

In the beginning, he was concerned and nervous. But once Marty saw that we were able to take his client list and use it to attract the kind of clients that we attracted, he felt a great sense of pride.

There would be no CAA, in my opinion — as it existed in those days or exists today — if Marty hadn’t come with us. Marty Baum brought us credibility in the movie business, gave us a calling card that helped us to sign the kind of stars that we were able to sign. And he was very much a mentor to everyone.

Up to a couple of years ago, I’d get calls about ideas and scripts from him. Marty loved the entertainment business, and he never stopped being an agent.

Meyer is president and COO of Universal Studios.