The Last of the Old-Style Hollywood Agents

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Ed Limato, a great Hollywood agent, passed away this weekend at 73, after a singular and stellar 40-year-long career, during which he never became irrelevant. His style became archaic, but never ineffective. To get his way, he would scream at you at the top of his lungs, tell you he was never speaking to you again, and hang up—and then send you flowers the next day.

This is how I was finally cut from Ed's glamorous Oscar party after 20 years of happy continuous attendance:

For a sweet shining moment a while ago, I had a development fund at Paramount, where I whimsically—it seems now, anyway—developed a very good script of my favorite book, Philip Roth's American Pastoral. The fact that I did things then like develop my favorite tragedy makes me simultaneously laugh and cry now, but I digress. So for that millisecond, and the further millisecond in which I controlled the script (long, hideous story) Ed and I had one of our calls that Did Not End Well.

Another important digression: Throughout my career, I knew I had a good piece of material, if, when I came into my office in the morning, I found a call from Ed on my phone sheet. This was one such Monday morning.

"How is that American Pastoral? I hear it is wonderful." His basso profundo voice dragged on like gravel.

"Thank you, Ed. I love it. It will be very hard to get made."

"I have your solution. Mel Gibson should play the Swede." The Swede, as you probably know, is the novel's great American Jewish hero.

I almost fell out of my chair. This was in the height of the controversy over The Passion of Christ, which had set back Jewish-Catholic relations hundreds of years, if not merely prior to the second Vatican Council. Obviously, Ed knew all of this.

My problem is, I engage. I should have played the game.

It's not that I am not ecumenical. It's not that I am closed-minded or one of those Jewish people who cannot see all sides. On the contrary. Take my word, or don't. It's just that this was the stupidest idea I had ever heard.

I know what I should have said. If I were a wiser, wilier producer, or even one who lived to stay on Ed's list, I would have said, "Interesting...Let me think about it. Let me talk to my director! " Not that Ed would have let me get away with that. He's too good for that nonsense.

But I couldn't help it, it just came out. Something like, "Really?... Seriously?" I could hear his blood start to boil.

Now let me think this through. Had I been a what we shall call, for the purposes of this blog, a New-Style Producer, which I strive to be these days, Mel would have a) gotten the picture made? And then 6 months later run into a cop while drunk in Malibu and accused the Jews of starting all the world's great wars? Or b) Been on-set and completely sober when he made those comments, and Ed would have saved his career and the movie would have been made? You tell me. Anyway, I still would say the same thing, now because, frightfully, I am me. So Ed being Ed, he flipped out, screamed and yelled at me, told me what good this could do for Mel and "MY PEOPLE!!"

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Lynda Obst is a producer and writer who has made 15 films in her producing career, at almost every major studio. More

Lynda Obst was recruited to Hollywood from the New York Times Magazine in 1979 by Peter Guber, for whom she developed Flashdance and Clue, as well as beginning the development of Carl Sagan’s Contact. In 1985, Obst partnered with producer Debra Hill, forming Hill/Obst Productions at Paramount Pictures. They soon made the iconic teen pic Adventures in Babysitting. Then the duo produced Terry Gilliam’s Oscar-nominated The Fisher King, starring Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges.

Obst then began a solo-producing career, where she produced Nora Ephron’s directing debut, This Is My Life, and executive produced Ephron’s second film, Sleepless in Seattle. Obst then produced The Siege, Hope Floats, One Fine Day, and Someone Like You. One of Obst’s earlier projects came full circle when she came on Contact for Warner Bros. in 1997, directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Jodie Foster. In 1999, she executive produced NBC’s Emmy Nominated, two-part miniseries The 60s. Then Lynda moved back to Paramount Pictures, where she produced such films as How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Abandon.

Obst’s most recent film was the September Warner Bros. release of Ricky Gervais/Matthew Robinson's directorial debut The Invention of Lying, starring Gervais and Jennifer Garner. Her notable upcoming projects include Steven Spielberg’s Interstellar, a sci-fi feature from The Dark Knight scribe Jonathan Nolan, based on a story by Obst, Nolan, and Dr. Kip Thorne; What Was I Thinking, starring Leslie Mann, Elizabeth Banks & Jennifer Garner; and Getting Rid of Matthew, starring Jennifer Aniston.

She has long written about the movie business for magazines and blogs, including a long running Oscar dialogue with New York Magazine critic David Edelstein.

Lynda Obst’s magazine writing, as well as more information on her films, can be found on her website: visit http://lyndaobstproductions.com/.

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