Chris Pine’s legal throwdown
It’s one of my core tenets when it comes to this business: Hollywood is not a team sport. Loyalty is all well and good in its place, but at the end of the day, your business is YOU. “Sentiment is a chemical defect found in the losing side” (name that quote), and it has no place in this business.
Case in point: Chris Pine dropped his longtime agency, SDB, back in November, despite publicly stating in 2009 that he was all about loyalty (another core tenet of mine is do not speak in absolutes, you will eventually go back on your word) and was sticking with his boutique agency. However, in an email cited in the complaint, Pine states that he expressed “frustration” at an in-person meeting before officially axing SDB in that email. So the first issue is that he broke up with his long-time agency via email. I get that this will rub some people the wrong way—it seems cold and impersonal—but when was the last time you wrote a letter? All my business correspondence, no matter how formal, occurs via email. So to me, that’s a non-starter. Especially since it does sound like they had a face-to-face meeting at which Pine expressed his concerns, and SDB was made aware of his intentions.
The second issue is that of his fees and the unpaid commissions. The complaint outlines some big time contracts for Pine. Star Trek’s salary is not disclosed but SDB discloses he’s getting $1.5 million for Star Trek 2, which is about to start filming, and would get $3 million for a third installment. And that’s not including back end and merchandising. Similarly, Pine has been tapped for a reboot of the Jack Ryan franchise and he stands to make up to $12 million for one film in that series. The commissions on these contracts are substantial. However, my interpretation is that SDB is overreaching in claiming “millions” are owed to them. An agent gets an actor the appointment but unless SDB was also acting as Pine’s legal counsel, the contracts themselves are handled by lawyers, not agents. They might have some money coming their way but I don’t think they’ll get the millions they’re after.
But the real issue here is SDB’s attempt to make this look as bad as possible for Pine. Just look at the timing—they filed the week that the critically panned This Means War is stumbling into theaters after a series of last-minute scheduling changes. As if the coverage for War isn’t already running negative, now they’re piling onto Pine with one of the whiniest complaints I’ve ever read. Going back to my anti-sentiment stance, SDB has to ask themselves which is more important: Setting Chris Pine’s hair on fire or maintaining the kind of reputation people will want to work with. The complaint is melodramatic and overly personal—it reads like a bitter break up note—and is loaded with useless digs at Pine. Boutique agencies have a hard enough time holding onto top talent—Pine was courted by the biggies for years and didn’t succumb, to everyone’s surprise—but burning bridges in this public way doesn’t encourage positive relations with other talent. How do you trust them, knowing they could turn on you in this way?
As for Pine, I think his motivations are clear. He’s fronting Star Trek but those Jack Ryan movies are taking forever to materialize and he’s not really separating from the herd as well as he’d like. He reminds me a little of Jake Gyllenhaal like that: the pieces are all there for action stardom, but it doesn’t seem like audiences are in agreement about making that happen for him. His decision to leave SDB looks like a move toward more aggressive management and the kind of self-generating opportunities the one-stop-shop, conglomerate agencies can provide. Of course he needs to square any outstanding fees owed, but business-wise, it’s a good move for him. Chris Pine is in the business of Chris Pine, not the business of Making SDB Happy. Right now, it looks like Pine made the unsentimental, tough decision to move on and SDB is stamping their feet and throwing a tantrum at losing such a lucrative client.
Hollywood. It’s not a team sport.
Attached - Pine on The Tonight Show last week.