LOS ANGELES: One of the world’s largest talent agencies has scrapped its pre-Oscars party in protest at President Donald Trump’s travel ban, vowing instead to donate to civil rights groups, reports said Wednesday.
Hollywood’s United Talent Agency (UTA), which has 300 agents representing entertainers across North America and Europe, stages a lavish annual gala event at chairman Jim Berkus’s Los Angeles mansion.
But it plans this year to hold a rally instead at its Beverly Hills office two days ahead of the February 26 prize-giving and will hand $250,000 to the American Civil Liberties Union and the International Rescue Committee.
“This is a moment that demands our generosity, awareness and restlessness,” UTA boss Jeremy Zimmer said in a memo to employees, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
“Our world is a better place for the free exchange of artists, ideas, and creative expression. If our nation ceases to be the place where artists the world over can come to express themselves freely, then we cease, in my opinion, to be America.”
UTA’s highest profile clients — including singer Mariah Carey, filmmakers Ethan and Joel Coen and actors Chris Pratt, Harrison Ford and Alicia Vikander — were expected at the party.
The company said, however, that it wanted to “express the creative community’s growing concern with anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States,” Variety magazine reported.
The decision comes with an appeals court weighing whether to reinstate Trump’s executive order closing US borders to refugees and nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries.
The order, which sparked chaos at airports across the world, was suspended Friday by a federal judge in Seattle, after two US states asked for it to be overturned on grounds of religious discrimination.
Lawyers representing the Trump administration say the controversial ban was justified for national security reasons.
UTA represents Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, who is in the running to pick up a second Oscar for best foreign language film for “The Salesman” but has said he will not be attending in protest over the ban.
The company — considered one of the world’s top three talent agencies alongside William Morris Endeavour and the Creative Artists Agency — didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.