An unprecedented number of A-list celebrities have been very publicly dropped by their agents in recent weeks.
Actors Shia LaBeouf and Armie Hammer, MMA fighter-turned-The Mandalorian star Gina Carano, country music singer Morgan Wallen and shock-rocker Marilyn Manson have all, in the past fortnight, parted ways with some of the most powerful talent agencies in Hollywood.
Of the two splits that have made the biggest headlines – Carano’s and Hammer’s – the former's has had the most far-reaching consequences.
Following a series of right-wing tweets sent during the recent election unrest in the US, the star of Disney+ hit The Mandalorian was not only ditched by her agency UTA, she was dropped from the show – losing between $20,000-$50,000 per episode – and also resulted in a planned spin-off for her popular character, Cara Dune, shelved by producers Lucasfilm.
And if that wasn't enough, her The Mandalorian action figure was pulled by toy maker Hasbro, with Amazon following suit on a lot of Cara Dune products.
What does it take for a star to get dropped?
Money, lack of progress, marketplace, unprofessionalism, work ethic, schedule, unrealistic expectations, being a time sucker, having bad energy, being shady with money, ignoring advice and appearance changes are the 12 main reasons talent agent Anna Lewkowska cites for agents dropping their clients.
"I put my reputation in the hands of my actors, but if an actor arrives late to appointments, isn't prepared, isn't put together or isn't behaving appropriately, then I need to remove my name from their resume ASAP," Lewkowska told actorsforlunch.com.
“Actors sign with agents and managers because they supposedly trust their expertise. When an actor ignores advice from their reps, and instead keeps doing what their actor friends, acting coach or others tell them, there’s obviously a lack of trust.”
And it appears a range of issues combined to bang the nail in the coffin of Carano’s previously bright future at Disney.
"I don't know what people at Disney personally believe or don't believe with regard to politics, but as a corporate entity, they want to stay as trouble-free as possible. And anything that's going to offend the left is a problem," crisis PR rep Juda Engelmayer told The Hollywood Reporter.
What was behind these recent star splits?
The Man From UNCLE star Hammer was not only dropped by his powerful LA agency WME, but also by his personal publicist following allegations by a series of women of emotional abuse, manipulation and coercion. The actor's team have called these claims "patently untrue".
Elsewhere, country singer Wallen was suspended by his record label and dropped by his agency WME after being caught on camera using a racial slur.
Disposable Teens singer Manson was ditched by CAA following several allegations of physical and sexual abuse, and the agency also parted ways with Honey Boy actor LaBeouf amid claims of sexual abuse and battery by his former partners, including a lawsuit filed by his ex-girlfriend, British singer FKA twigs.
A source, however, told The Hollywood Reporter that it was LaBeouf who decided to end the business relationship.
"It's very tricky to get an agent who's interested in you and has the power to make a difference in your career," says Breaking and Entering actress Alex Spieth, who has written about her experience of being dropped by her agent. "It's the intense shiver of, 'Oh ... my career doesn't want me anymore.' There's no one to talk to or to hash it out with – it's just over."
What does an agent actually do?
Agents are among the most powerful people in Hollywood, alongside studio heads, directors and managers. Talent agents steer a star’s whole career, as they have the contacts and connections with studios, writers, directors and casting agents to land their clients the roles they want.
They can also turn around an entire career, as Matthew McConaughey can attest.
"My agent did a good job saying no, no, no," he told The Guardian of the decision to shift away from the romcoms he had become famous for. "Then the studios got the message and quit sending them. Then there was an impasse of nothing. And there was nothing for about eight months."
Fortunately the risky move by Jim Toth, former co-head of motion picture talent at CAA and husband of Reese Witherspoon, paid off, setting McConaughey on the path to meaty roles and his 2014 Best Actor win for Dallas Buyers Club.
Fans rally against ‘cancel culture’
As artists including Guardian of the Galaxy director James Gunn, and actor and director Mel Gibson can attest, being dropped by the Hollywood powers-that-be is not a career-ending catastrophe – especially in a town that loves a second act.
When Disney fired Gunn in July 2018 after old tweets of his resurfaced that joked about abuse, he was rehired the following year to work on the third instalment of the franchise. His lament to Deadline that "it felt as if my career was over" proved unfounded.
It is doubtful, then, that Carano, Hammer et al will suffer any long-lasting effects to their careers.
Wallen actually saw sales for his album, Dangerous: The Double Album, surge in the wake of his racial slur, prompting the country star to tell his fans: "There's no reason to downplay what I did."
As for Carano, she recently announced that she is producing a film with American conservative news website and media company, The Daily Wire.
"I am sending out a direct message of hope to everyone living in fear of cancellation by the totalitarian mob," she said on Friday. "I have only just begun using my voice which is now freer than ever before, and I hope it inspires others to do the same."
And if that fails, The Hollywood Reporter notes: "[Cara] Dune action figures are seeing brisk sales on eBay at prices well above the original list prices."