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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Interview: Manager Marc Epstein: To Die For

Marc Epstein worked with film producer Elliot Kastner from the early 1970s, and then became story editor at United Artists. He started managing actors with Bill Truesch in New York. His next move was to LA in 1986, when he partnered in the management company Mclean Epstein. He moved to the Sandy Gallin Company and then partnered with Brian Swardstrom and Mickey Liddell. He then worked at Propaganda films. He represented actors Nicole Kidman, Ben Chaplin, Sam Neill, Rupert Everett, Corey Parker, Janet MacTeer,  Dan Hedaya,  Sam Trammell, Kathleen Turner, Peter MacNicol, Julia Sweeney, and  Martin Donovan.

Marc Epstein:

'Being a talent manager from the 80's to 2006, all the actors I worked for came entirely from belief. My belief in them and their belief in me. I always felt that my talent was in my ability to enter a room and make others feel comfortable. And I always had a meticulous approach to detail when handling a deal--when an offer was received, whether for a film or a pilot.  It’s not always an easy process. Sometimes I would make a call and I just received an offer, other times I had to fight very hard to get my client seen and then go from there. You have to change people’s minds. There was one time while I was managing Nicole Kidman, that I found out that the great screenwriter Buck Henry,  (The Graduate, Catch 22, What's Up, Doc?) had written a new screenplay entitled TO DIE FOR.  I have always been a fan of his, so the moment it was delivered to my door, I turned off the phone and sat at my home in the Hollywood Hills; for that time, all I knew in the world was that script. I wanted to really absorb the essence of it as well as the characters, and the dynamic of their relationships. Half way into it, I knew in my gut that the lead role was right for Nicole Kidman.  I called the producer, Lauren Ziskin, but  she replied, "I don't think so Marc, we want Patricia Arquette. "  This is the moment that a good manager follows his gut and brings transformation. (You never know, but you believe and follow that belief.) I said, 'No, there is no one else but Nicole for this role.' 

Laura felt there was a stigma with Nicole--who was married to Tom Cruise at the time--being ‘Miss Cruise.’ I left the conversation with a smile. Something deep down inside me said, “Marc, you are going to get this for her.” 

So, I sent Nicole the script with the news that the producers wanted Patricia, but no offer was out yet.  Nicole was very driven, as much as I was.  After she read the script, this is what she said, "Marc there is no one but me for this role. You must get this for me!”

Now, I believed and Nicole believed. I called my assistant and asked him to find Gus Van Sant , the director, so I could turn this deal in a better direction, to find my way in.  The next day Gus Van Sant called me back in my office.

I said, “Hi Gus how are you?”  Silence.  “Gus, please know how much I adore your filmmaking and if you could just have one phone conversation with Nicole, you will know why she is right.” Finally, he spoke. “ OK, here is my number, have her call me.”

I immediately called Nicole to tell her, she was so excited and was going to make the call.  I am sure she was in character on the phone with him, that character is not much different from who she is anyway. Then I had a really constructive call with Buck. Next thing I knew Gus was calling me. "Marc, I cannot believe the call I had with Nicole, you are right she is the only one!”  

The news was delivered to Nicole and we both felt hope. You see, then the Studio had final say, along with Ms. Ziskin. But Gus could not see anyone else. He had been stained with her drive and willingness. The intensity of her will is quite remarkable. Her discipline and hard work have come in handy with many directors, convincing them of her ability and potential in each and every situation. She does not quit.

But the deal isn’t over yet. It is just beginning. Over the next 6 weeks or so,  Laura would tell me, "I still want Patricia. I will let you know if things would change."  I knew it was time to bring in Michael Ovitz, who at that time ran CAA and was considered one of the most powerful people in Hollywood.  He eventually slam dunked this for Nicole. It is a coordinated effort. Neither Mike Ovitz nor Nicole’s agent, Kevin Huvane had taken any notice of this script, or made any calls until I brought it to her. This is part of what a manager does, he works his ass off, paying attention to the details that will offer the client opportunities to shine, opportunities that would have been missed.   

In Cannes, TO DIE FOR premiered to great reviews for Nicole. She told me to go take a vacation in the south of France and that she would let me be.  I did go to a small village facing the sea. It was truly a great moment.  Only one thing, Nicole never stopped calling me, thanking me and, of course, telling me of her reviews--one at a time.

“I love you!” she said, as I stared at the sea. It was time to start thinking about going back to LA, about the next script, about being always in pursuit of the scripts and of the actors that made me believe.'



  1. Marc is a wonderful and talented man and deserves the recognition not only for To Die For but for all of the other roles Nicole Kidman got including the Oscar for the Hours.
    He retired from the business for health reasons and when he needed the most of his client star she had moved on. That is a detail not mentioned in your article. Marc is now recovered and needs all of the support from those that he helped on their way up! He is as savvy and magical as he ever was and has a heart of gold.

    1. What a nice, (and true) comment, Ms. Orlandi...I saw Marc only just last week, he has returned to Hollywood, and I saw him on the day the movers were shifting his house to a unit right in the heart of Hollywood. I for one am pleased that Marc will be more handy, and look forward to having lunch with him soon...he always gives so freely of his time and wisdom, Marc is a treat and a treasure!


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