In general, I try to avoid the day-to-day awfulness of entertainment “journalism,” because if I made a habit of thinking about Variety’s hacky, stupid prose or Michael Ausiello’s shameless abuse of the word “exclusive,” then my head would explode. But one aspect of the trade occasionally needs to be reiterated: Deadline.com founder Nikki Finke is a self-serving, vindictive bitch.
Case in point: on Friday, The Hollywood Reporter had an exclusive story about “Boardwalk Empire” star Michael Pitt leaving UTA (United Talent Agency) for WME. Ninety minutes later, Finke posted this undercutting smear job:
I received a phone call earlier this week that UTA on Tuesday fired actor Michael Pitt who plays Jimmy Darmody on the HBO series. “If you decide to post about someone (probably WME) signing Michael Pitt, who is one of the stars of Boardwalk Empire, please note that UTA fired him as a client yesterday because he’s really difficult on set and otherwise.” I felt that Pitt was too small a name to bother posting this bad news (I’d never heard of him) or that he had landed at WME. But since the news of the WME signing is now out there, I thought Deadline readers deserved to have the complete story. I understand that UTA agent Billy Lazarus spent “many years” making Pitt into a working actor. So it’s safe to assume that Pitt must have really pissed off the agency big-time.
I can’t know what happened with Pitt — whether UTA fired him, or whether that’s what they’re saying because he left for a rival agency. But I live adjacent to a street where “Boardwalk” filmed this summer, and I saw Pitt near his trailer twice while I walked my dog. Both times I found him to be warm and considerate — both to strangers and the security guard outside his trailer, whom he knew by name. And I know someone else who worked on the show who says that Pitt was always friendly, engaging in low-stakes blackjack with members of the crew. True, my side of the story is anecdotal and doesn’t reflect what his interactions might have been with his former agency, but this isn’t the portrait of someone who’s difficult on set (or otherwise).
What it DOES look like is that Nikki Finke is happy to publish a one-sided smear job of an actor if it undercuts the news organization that scooped her on a story. Here’s her article, translated:
Sure, I could have had an exclusive story on Michael Pitt going to WME, but I had never even heard of this small-name star of a popular and critically acclaimed HBO series. However, someone at the agency he just left told me that he’s a pain in the ass and they fired him, and their account is true because they told me. Again, it wasn’t important enough for you to know, but since someone else wrote about it, I thought you should know THE WHOLE STORY, from ME, NIKKI FINKE, who ALWAYS KNOWS EVERYTHING FIRST. TOLDJA TOLDJA TOLDJA!
Ugh, she’s the worst. The world will be a better place when she dies.