Talent Agency Dumps Susan Sarandon Over Israel Comments

And more uproar in Hollywood related to Israel-Hamas war
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 22, 2023 12:30 AM CST
Talent Agency Dumps Susan Sarandon Over Israel Comments
Actress Susan Sarandon speaks at a campaign rally for Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Friday, Feb. 14, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C.   (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

Hollywood is increasingly divided over the Israel-Hamas war, and for weeks now, there's been talk in some circles comparing the situation to McCarthy-era blacklisting. Two particularly big names are involved in the latest round of headlines: Susan Sarandon and Tom Cruise. Read on for more:

  • Sarandon's comments: The five-time Oscar nominee, one-time winner has been dumped by her talent agency after speaking out at a pro-Palestinian rally in New York last week, the New York Times reports. The New York Post published a video of her saying, "There are a lot of people that are afraid, afraid of being Jewish at this time, and are getting a taste of what it feels like to be a Muslim in this country, so often subjected to violence." She also reportedly said she's against both antisemitism and Islamophobia, adding, "There's a terrible thing that's happened where antisemitism has been confused with speaking up against Israel."
  • United Talent Agency's reaction: The talent agency said Tuesday it no longer represents the actor, though it did not expand on why.

  • Tom Cruise's secret meeting: According to a source who spoke to Variety, the actor "took the rare step of going in person to show support" for his agent, Maha Dakhil, after her social media comments decrying Israel's actions in Gaza sparked controversy (among the remarks: "What's more heartbreaking than witnessing genocide? Witnessing the denial that genocide is happening"). Creative Artists Agency ultimately removed her as co-chief of the motion pictures department but, likely thanks in part to Cruise making it clear he backed her, did not fire her as an agent. (Another notable client, Aaron Sorkin, did drop Dakhil as his agent.)
  • More upset at CAA: The Dakhil issue reportedly split the agency, where a group of assistants threatened to quit over the way she was treated (they did not actually end up quitting) while some agents reportedly felt "disillusioned" that she was not fired over her posts. CAA did cut ties with an employee (an assistant who said all Israelis are white supremacists and called Israel a fascist regime) and two clients over social media posts speaking out against Israel.
  • Those clients: The clients dumped by CAA are anti-racist authors Saira Rao and Regina Jackson, and Rao tells Variety that Hollywood is "punishing people of color for speaking out" against what's happening in Gaza.

  • Melissa Barrera: The Scream actor was dropped from the horror franchise following her own social media posts, including what Variety calls a reference to an antisemitic trope about Jews controlling the media. "Western media only shows the [Israeli] side. Why do they do that, I will let you deduce for yourself," she reportedly wrote, as well as calling Israel a "colonized" land and comparing what's happening in Gaza to being "like a concentration camp. ... THIS IS GENOCIDE & ETHNIC CLEANSING."
  • Spyglass' reaction: The production company said in its statement announcing Barrera's removal, "We have zero tolerance for antisemitism or the incitement of hate in any form, including false references to genocide, ethnic cleansing, Holocaust distortion or anything that flagrantly crosses the line into hate speech."
  • Scream director's reaction: Christopher Landon tweeted, then deleted, a reaction to Barrera's removal stating, per Deadline, "This is my statement: [broken heart emoji] Everything sucks. Stop yelling. This was not my decision to make."

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  • Other big names involved in controversies: La La Land producer Marc Platt reportedly flagged, to agency WME, a post by writer-director Boots Riley in which he said a screening showing footage of the wreckage of the Hamas attack on Israel at LA's Simon Wiesenthal Center is "murderous propaganda" and that Israeli officials would one day be "at The Hague for war crimes, massacres and genocidal actions." (Platt remains a WME client.) And some have reportedly called for UTA to release Ta-Nehisi Coates as a client after the author's involvement in an open letter highlighting "the catastrophe unfolding in Gaza." (Coates remains a UTA client.)
  • Concerns over Hollywood's stand, or lack thereof: Meanwhile, some are calling out Hollywood for not making more of a stand. The Writers Guild of America, for example, declined to make a statement denouncing the Hamas attack. "There's just no excuse for not condemning Hamas and demanding the release of the hostages. Hollywood was quick to declare Black Lives Matter, as they should, and Time's Up, as they should, and myriad other important causes," Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tells Variety.
(More Israel-Hamas war stories.)

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