Firms sometimes find that it's best to drop stars on the riseWorking with difficult clients is a mandatory part of the PR business, whether it's Hollywood celebrities or Cleveland carpet cleaners. It's a little worse with stars, though, because the expectations that they will be demanding and spoiled often become self-fulfilling prophecies. Tinseltown firms have therefore come to expect rough waters when they go fishing in celebrity seas hoping to reel in big-name talent. And, once landed, put up with hell and high water to keep them.
But last week, I/D PR decided they'd hooked a "throwback," and tossed rising actor Vince Vaughn out of the boat. From my tenures at various LA agencies, I know that terminating a client is a last resort, ranking up there with "In an emergency, break glass." We endured tons of grief before the nuclear option was even considered. In fact, in all my years of experience, I can only recall one client who was dropped - and it had to do with things I can't even mention here.
Sacking Vaughn on the heels of his hit comedy Wedding Crashers can only mean that this guy must be some piece of work. I've heard as much from other publicists. In fact, I had dropped by the set of Crashers to visit a pal of mine and found it to be a less-than-festive atmosphere. I've worked with Vaughn's Crashers co-star Owen Wilson before, and found him to be very pleasant, so I can only assume the downer vibe emanated from somewhere else. My buddy didn't have much good to say about the whole experience. (Although he admitted the caterer was excellent.)
The wise and venerated publicist Warren Cowan once told me over lunch that the most difficult time to deal with most actors is when they are on a rapid rise up - or freefall down. Sudden fame and fortune - or sudden ignominy and misfortune - can do a number on thespian heads that may not have been screwed on too tight to begin with. ("All actors are nuts," Jack Lemmon once told me.)
I've worked with a couple of soon-to-be famous actors early in their careers who were terrific, only to hear disappointing stories a year or so later that they had become difficult and demanding. Vaughn has been a modestly successful performer for a decade now, but the buzz from Wedding Crashers has made him red hot with a bullet. I/D decided to bite down on that bullet and call the Swingers star out on strikes. I can almost hear their sigh of relief from here.