CAA’s Big Book

The epic retelling of the story of CAA was published Aug. 9, a more than 700-page book by James Andrew Miller that was decades in the making and includes interviews with 500 people. Here’s what we knew at press time, with many of the pages unread. 

“Powerhouse: The Untold Story Of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency” was spawned out of the author’s previous books “Live From New York” and “Those Guys Have All The Fun,” the stories of “Saturday Night Live” and ESPN, respectively. Miller’s style is to compile interviews and put them into a mosaic with little to no commentary.

His previous books led to having people talk about Hollywood’s most powerful agency during the heydays of SNL and ESPN and, just as in his previous books, the one on CAA has chapters that include between five and 20 voices. CAA’s story includes full cooperation from founders Michael Ovitz and Ron Meyer as well as current chiefs Richard Lovett and Kevin Huvane (with current managing director Bryan Lourd noticeably absent). It also includes interviews with Bill Murray, Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Irving Azoff, Michael Eisner, Rob Prinz and CAA music chiefs Tom Ross and Rob Light among hundreds of others.

The story begins with a visit to CAA’s annual retreat and a treatise on how the current system of power brokers grew out of the silent movie era with, as would be expected, Lew Wasserman’s creation of the star system at MCA part of the tale.


The stories of Ovitz, Meyer and Bill Haber begin in the William Morris mailroom and their disillusionment with the old boy network that led to their defection, along with Rowland Perkins and Mike Rosenfeld, to create the powerhouse firm that would cripple their former employer.

The story climaxes in 1995 when the usually decisive Ovitz quibbled interminably with Ed Bronfman Jr. over running Universal Pictures, which led to Meyer getting the job instead, which led to the Shakespearean downfall of Ovitz.

Meyer and Ovitz are forthcoming throughout the book, with Ovitz opining how Meyer’s exit equaled the loss of his most trusted friend. Obviously, many sordid tales are probably kept off the table (many people still want to eat lunch in Hollywood) and, for the first time in the city’s history, nobody – nobody – knew that someone had a drug problem, namely partner Jay Moloney, until his suicide.

In the book, the (then) ambitious, powerful Ovitz tends to downplay his controversies while Meyer keeps civil throughout – which is par for the course for someone who is not liked but loved in Hollywood.

“If you said to me what’s the prototype agent – who has the ability to really be involved and understand the social relationship side of agenting – Ron would be number one on my list,” Azoff says in the book, “and I don’t know who to put at number two.”

Michael Cieply, a former Los Angeles Times reporter who set the book down long enough to write a column for Deadline Hollywood, was not so impressed by the book as he was by what it leaves out – the details of the story of the InterTalent defection, when David Greenblatt and Judy Hofflund left CAA, the “undercover war” between producer Ray Stark and Ovitz, and the relationship between agent Steve Roth and Robert Evans.

It does, however, give Ari Emanuel, now one of the guiding forces of William Morris Endeavor, a chance to take some shots at his former employer and now rival CAA. And, although it does not delve too deeply into the CAA music department, it uses an anecdote – when Rob Light helped revive Heart’s career with an appearance at the Kennedy Center to honor Led Zeppelin – as an example of how essential agents are to entertainment careers.