agents can make or break an actor's career. They're that important. I don't
know any working actor, in film or TV, or doesn't have one.
My first agent, Robert Raison, was totally responsible
for starting my career. I would have been a basketball coach all my professional
life it he hadn't given me his card that day in the fifties. I believe
in "happy accidents." That was one.
I've always envied actors who have an agent that is also
their friend. Tom Selleck is one. There are many others. They are very
There is an old saying in Hollywood about agents: "Changing
agents is like changing deck chairs on the Titanic." Like any old saying,
many time it's not true.
Actors get old. Happily, in my case, my gray beard and
wrinkles are working for me. Gray hair or no hair, weather-beaten faces,
weight gain or loss, beards and limps, new teeth and glasses happen. If
an actor still wants to work as this aging process happens, his agent submits
him for older roles.
A thing called timing is involved. The agent who represented
you in your youth tried to cast you in totally different roles from the
roles you are right for years later. It's unfair to blame your agent for
not getting you parts at any phase of your career. You're changing, the
parts available are changing, the casting directors are being changed,
and the viewing public's tastes are changing.
Examples - Blond, blue eyed, scar-faced men were in demand
as the bad guys when we were at war with Germany, the same with Oriental
actors when Japan was our enemy. Cowboy types made good careers when there
were twenty-six Western TV shows on per week. There's not one Western TV
series on now, unless you count reruns.
Is it a mystery that very few actors have film careers
that last ten years? The most asked question in show biz: "Whatever happened
to what's his name?"
So an agent who is also your friend -- is a gift. When
you're turned down for an acting job, it's a one hundred percent rejection.
You weren't turned down for a bad sales pitch for the car you're trying
to sell. You didn't get the part because they didn't like the fit of the
shoes you peddle. You didn't get the job because they didn't think YOU
fit the part. If you can't deal with that much rejection, get out of town.
Actors at ALL levels of success have to deal with pure rejection. It ain't
easy, but most of them are dreamers and it takes a lot to kill a dream.
Here's where an agent who is your friend enters the picture.
Friendship doesn't happen overnight. Good friends get through all your
baggage layer by layer and still stick around. It takes time. And when
rejection strikes, a friendly agent gives you support.
When I got sick and incapable of holding my job, David
Moss was there. HIs frequent phone calls propped me up when I needed propping.
When I had regained my health, David called one day and
said, "Now that you're feeling good, why don't I call your old boss and
see if he's interested in working with you again?
The thought hadn't entered my mind and I told him
so. "You mind if I give him a call?" David asked.
"I think that'd really be a long shot." I mumbled. Not
working for so long left me with a short supply of self-confidence.
"I'll call him," he said.
Two weeks later I was on a plane to New York. The screen
test went well. Well, I guess it did because I returned to my old job.
My whole life was turned around. Why? Because David Moss is my agent and
he is also my good friend.
I forgot to mention, David made a living in his youth
as a toreador. No bull. In Spain, when he was a young man, he fought bulls
in the ring. He faced death every Sunday. He almost bought it twice when
he was gored. He still fights bulls into his senior years three times a
year in northern Mexico. I'm pretty sure he's the only agent in the history
of agents that fights that kind of bull. So he's not only my good friend
and my agent, he's a fearless S.O.B. That fearless part comes in handy