Talent agency divided on whether to dump Will Smith over Chris Rock’s slap

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Executives at Will Smith’s talent agency, Creative Artists Agency (CAA), are reportedly divided over what to do with the actor after he slapped Chris Rock at this year’s Academy Awards.

Smith smacked the comedian in the face after he made a joke about his wife’s hair loss. Jada Pinkett Smith has been open about her struggle with alopecia, a disease that often causes bald spots.

The incident has created a division between CAA chiefs Bryan Lourd, Richard Lovett, and Kevin Huvane, who represent countless A-list stars throughout media and sports.

According to an account of the incident’s aftermath in The Daily Beast, a furious debate took place within the agency over whether Smith should be dropped.

The discussion even spilt over into a leadership retreat last week at the luxury oceanfront Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, which saw about 100 agents and talent executives gathered at the property – the industry’s first large gathering since the pandemic.

Lourd reportedly wanted to remove Smith from CAA’s roster. Lovett, meanwhile, wanted to keep Smith on board – though he appeared ‘frazzled’ by the entire episode and subsequent fallout, insiders told the publication.

It appears that Lovett came out on top and that Smith will remain with the agency for now.

A spokesperson for CAA denied any divisions within the agency’s ranks, telling The Daily Beast: ‘There is no truth to any of it. Simply never happened.’

The talent agency can look to history for lessons in how to deal with the fallout following Smith’s on-stage assault.

WME dropped Mel Gibson in 2010 after he was caught on tape saying the N-word during a traffic stop. WME also dumped Brett Ratner and Bryan Singer over sexual-misconduct allegations.

Megyn Kelly was dumped by CAA after the former Fox News anchor defended the use of blackface while live on her own NBC television show.

Former Fox News star Bill O’Reilly was also dropped from UTA following revelations he had paid $32 million as part of a settlement of one of a number of sexual-harassment claims against him.

Smith is facing production backlash over his outburst, with his upcoming Netflix film Fast and Loose and Bad Boys 4 both being put on hold, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Fast And Loose was originally to be helmed by Deadpool 2 director David Leitch, but he had withdrawn from the project just a week before the Oscars.

A source told THR that both Netflix and Universal had been competing for a new project from Leitch, but the traditional studio appealed to him more than the streaming platform.

Following the loss, Netflix started urgently searching for a new director to take over on Smith’s project.

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