Wait, wasn’t CAA’s Bryan Lourd supposed to be able to bend studios to his will? That was the lesson of Scarlett Johansson’s mid-pandemic standoff with Disney over Black Widow, right? Johansson, a Lourd client, was forced by C.E.O. Bob Chapek to sue for her box office bonuses, and 18 months later, ScarJo got paid, Chapek was out, and Lourd was celebrating himself as dealmaker of the year. With CAA gobbling up ICM Partners and Lourd stealing Charlize from Ari Emanuel, he sent an unsubtle message to executives who dared to say no to him: Don’t.
But now that Netflix film chief Scott Stuber has passed on the rare opportunity to spend $150 million on a Nancy Meyers romantic comedy, $20 million more than Stuber was prepared to shell out, Lourd finds himself in fix-it mode on another movie money blowup involving Johansson, one that also says a lot about the state of the industry. And in this fight, Lourd, Meyers’ lead agent Craig Gering, and the rest of Team CAA, don’t seem to have the town on their side.
When I first broke the news on March 5 that Netflix was holding the budget line for Meyers’ Paris Paramount at a still-surprising $130 million, my texts blew up with messages from producers and executives who couldn’t understand why that sum wasn’t sufficient. After all, the logline—two filmmaker exes are forced to work together, based in part on Meyers’ relationship with former collaborator Charles Shyer—didn’t scream action-adventure or C.G.I. “This was not just a huge number—it was an insane, unthinkable, unrealistic sum,” my pal Stephen Galloway, dean of Chapman’s film school, told the LA Times today. One producer texted me three pig emojis, suggesting that CAA, which reps Meyers and Johansson, as well as her probable co-star Penélope Cruz (UTA has Owen Wilson and Michael Fassbender is agent-less), was being piggish in demanding an $80 million trough of above-the-line talent deals, including producers and such.