A Top Agent Explains Why A-List Actors Do Theater (Q&A)

Adam Schweitzer Headshot - P 2013
Courtesy of subject

Adam Schweitzer Headshot - P 2013

Adam Schweitzer, co-head of talent at ICM Partners, explains what a Broadway run can mean for his clients, and why some star-driven shows fizzle.

This story first appeared in the June 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

The Hollywood Reporter: What does a Broadway run do for a star?

Adam Schweitzer: When you come into a play in New York, and it recoups quickly and it's a big event -- whether it's Al or Denzel or Tom Hanks -- that doesn't necessarily translate immediately to movies or a big career boost, but it keeps them relevant. For someone like Chris Rock to come and do The Motherf---er With the Hat, that's a role he's not necessarily going to get to play in movies, so it's an opportunity to be seen differently.

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THR: Why do some star-driven shows fizzle?

Schweitzer: You have to have the right material and the right chemistry between actors and director and play. Sometimes there's an oversaturation of a playwright in the market -- too much Eugene O'Neill or whomever it may be -- or the play was done too recently.

THR: Would Scarlett Johansson have done better in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof five years from now? There was another very recent revival.

Schweitzer: When there's a play that was done recently, it almost gets a target on its back. Glengarry Glen Ross with Pacino, whom we represented at the time -- that had a target on its back from day one. Part of it was because the production that Liev Schreiber and Alan Alda did seven years [earlier] was received very well. With that production and the movie still being in people's minds, there just wasn't enough separation, and people were out to get it.

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THR: Pacino's Glengarry Glen Ross still did very well financially. Audiences flocked to it regardless of what critics said.

Schweitzer: People love David Mamet, Al is a huge event on Broadway, and Bobby Cannavale's hot right now. Is the measurement of success box office or based on Tony nominations? Is it based on reviews? Is it based on how long it runs? Some shows check all the boxes, and some don't. I'll Eat You Last is a real big thing; I'm shocked that it wasn't nominated for a Tony. Not to say that if you're a movie star and you show up you get nominated, but this wasn't a heavy-hitter actor year -- this is not as competitive a year as in the last few years -- and still Bette Midler wasn't nominated.

THR: Again, audiences seem to be going. And it was a critical success, too.

Schweitzer: And it's very good for a career, especially given that Sue Mengers was such a Hollywood insider. It's the kind of show that people in this business are all going to run and see because they have their memories or their interest in Sue -- and Midler is great in it. With or without a Tony nomination, this is a situation where it does help her career.

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THR: Tom Hanks did get a Tony nomination and could earn about $3 million for Lucky Guy. Still not a lot compared with, say, $15 million for Toy Story 3.

Schweitzer: If you can get that kind of a payday, then doing the theater is not a bad trade-off financially -- but it's the exception. Then again, the pay structure of movies for actors has changed drastically, and $20 million paydays are very few and far between right now. How many guys out there can command what Tom Hanks can command for a movie? You can count 'em on your fingers.