Starting A Buzz At WMA

The cackling sound you may be hearing could be that of Hollywood agents circling wounded William Morris Agency President David Wirtschafter, who promptly lost Halle Berry and Sarah Michelle Gellar from the firm’s roster over comments about them published in the New Yorker March 13th.

The normally press-shy Wirtschafter’s remarks about both actors’ careers set off a wave of gleeful schadenfreude all over town as the WMA exec apparently forgot the cardinal rule of public relations: Don’t shine a spotlight anywhere but on your clients.

Gellar was the first to jump ship, two days after publication of the 11,000-word article in which Wirtschafter was quoted saying she was “nothing at all” before the horror movie “The Grudge.” Apparently, he forgot about a little TV phenomenon called “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

Berry bailed out March 17th after Wirtschafter characterized her career as needing “burnishing” after the bomb that was “Catwoman.” The same day, Wirtschafter issued an internal e-mail apology that was, not surprisingly, in every inbox in Hollywood within 24 hours and quickly posted on Internet blogs such as and

“As you know, I am the subject of a story in the New Yorker that has caused some problems,” the Los Angeles Times quoted the e-mail as saying. “I had personal reasons for doing the article and I recognize that these became blurred with my professional life.

“I never intended to harm any of our colleagues or our clients by participating in this story,” he continued. “While I can elaborate on the fine points of how I was portrayed and what I said, I did participate in this and want to apologize for any hurt that has stemmed from it.”

In addition, he supplied another statement to the Times, just for good measure.

“I have the highest regard for our artists; and any comment that caused them harm violates the trust between clients and agents and was a mistake on my part,” Wirtschafter wrote.

While the newly minted WMA president intended to tackle the perception of WMA – at least its film side – as, in his own words, “a lot of old Jews dropping dead in our offices,” it was comments such as those that put Gellar and Berry in a twist that grabbed attention.

Wirtschafter also reportedly called client Alicia Keys “my favorite” – a severe faux pas for an agency with a stable of high-strung A-list clients.

“Relationships with clients are the hardest to define, and they can be the most perishable,” an agent from another firm anonymously told the Times.

Wirtschafter became president just three months ago in a juggling of WMA’s executive ranks that saw the oldest of the “old guard” take their leave of the company.

While tongues continued to wag in Tinseltown more than a week after the interview’s publication, Wirtschafter’s colleagues were circling the wagons – anonymously, of course.

“This is a business that’s notorious for liars. And here you have a guy whose biggest fault is that he was honest. He’s being crucified for telling the truth,” one fearless such colleague told the Times.