Judy Coppage Interview
Hollywood Global Entertainment Network
A few months ago, Judy Coppage and I hung out at my house and had a great
time chatting about her experiences in the entertainment industry. A
well-respected veteran, Judy’s lack of ego, confidence in her ability,
and her strong sense of loyalty, commitment and passion have no doubt served
her well and have contributed to her success and longevity in a business where
success, loyalty and solid friendships are fleeting at best. Her clients, many
of whom with which she has no contract have been loyal…and have stayed
with her for years. A pioneer of sorts who virtually initiated the concept of
‘packaging’ and fought to bring the box-office blockbuster
franchise, Die Hard to the big screen, she’s also a devoted wife, mother
and ally…and there’s more to come yet…
ITL/SL: You’ve enjoyed a long and fruitful career in the entertainment industry, how did you come to be involved?
JUDY COPPAGE: Oh well I crawled onto a television set and into movie theatres living in Seattle, Washington when I was a very young child and that was it. My father encouraged me. And probably because of the weather -- the rain – there was no doubt in my mind I wanted to be in show business…
ITL/SL: As an actress or a singer?
JUDY COPPAGE: Originally as an actress, yes, -- no, not singing. I was in a lot of theater in junior high and high school. I did the senior play and all that. Then I applied to three colleges, but my only choice was UCLA -- closer to Hollywood -- why go to Northwestern or Cornell when you want to be in Hollywood? I got into UCLA, so I came at eighteen and I’ve been here ever since.
ITL/SL: I noticed that you graduated cum laude from UCLA.
JUDY COPPAGE: Yeah, that’s right, as an undergraduate.
ITL/SL: And you also got an award in acting?
JUDY COPPAGE: Yes, I actually did. I got the Hugh O’Brian Acting Award. I have that trophy in my office because when they quit doing the award, the head of the playwriting department confiscated it and then brought it to my office.
ITL/SL: Is it a big trophy?
JUDY COPPAGE: Yeah, it is big -- I hang things on it. I think it’s such a hoot. Then I also got a technical theater award – the Oren Stein Technical Theater Award. I had to do all the technical theater before I could get anybody to notice me to get a chance to act.
ITL/SL: Did you ever think at some point you would like to be in the technical field in show business or pursue acting because you got this award?
JUDY COPPAGE: Well, I really wanted to pursue acting. After I won the Hugh O’Brian Acting Award, I took the money and went to New York and studied with Sandy Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse. But I realized I really hadn’t learned anything in all these years -- getting these acting classes privately and otherwise…. even in Seattle… and doing some plays at the University of Washington. So, I really realized at that time that it was not for me. I couldn’t sit around waiting for someone to call me -- I got too nervous about it, you know. There isn’t enough control. But in the technical world you learn how to be organized and how to get things done and you have more control. I knew I had other talents. I am much better literarily. I’m a doer and so I really think I’ve found what I do the best.
ITL/SL: Which is representing talent?
JUDY COPPAGE: Well, yes. It’s really about putting things together, being the motivator and making things happen. I’ve been a producer because I was a studio executive as well – and as an executive in charge of production, this job is exactly the same.
ITL/SL: Yes it’s true – organizing, coordinating and putting stuff together is essentially producing.
JUDY COPPAGE: Exactly. It’s identifying something you think is commercial and then just going after it relentlessly until you get it done, so its really all the same job.
ITL/SL: Do you write as well?
JUDY COPPAGE: I have written. Again, it’s not what I should be doing. I am better at reading, critiquing and developing.
ITL/SL: Now the Coppage Company is predominantly a literary company?
JUDY COPPAGE: Yes.
ITL/SL: Is it a literary management company or literary agency?
JUDY COPPAGE: Management. I was an agent from 1984/5 up until about two years ago. I switched over mainly because I have a tendency to be able to see what the handwriting is going to be on the wall with our business and there are very few small agents left. It’s so competitive now. Also I find the flexibility of being a manager better for me. I can take things to bigger agencies to package if need be. I can produce which you can’t do as an agent, and I actually like the idea that I don’t have any contracts anymore. I mean if someone doesn’t wanna hang out then, goodbye.
ITL/SL: You just say bye. Really?
JUDY COPPAGE: Yeah, although there is a risk factor within that too. But there is a risk factor to everything. I just think that it gives me a lot more flexibility and I like it better. So at this point it’s management.
ITL/SL: I managed talent actually for over nine years and I liked the flexibility as well. So what are some of the jobs you had before you broke into show business?
JUDY COPPAGE: You mean before show business?
JUDY COPPAGE: Well, I actually started in show business immediately after I graduated with a Masters degree from UCLA. I was twenty-two. I basically got a job two weeks later as a production assistant. Actually, I got the job through somebody at the UCLA placement center who happened to be the counselor of the Fine Arts department and the only reason I met her is because one day she -- and it’s a funny story -- she calls me up and she goes, ‘well you need to come into my office right away’ and I went, ‘why?’ and she says ‘I just wanted to meet you because you’re the only one that is always on the Deans List and that has never happened in theater arts. I just had to meet you.’ So she then moved over to the placement center and there was a job that came up. Basically, she called me, you know, like 7:30 in the morning and said ‘Take a look at this job. You call them I’m gonna take the card off the board and if you don’t get the job I will put it back up, but in the meantime no one else is gonna be going for this, but don’t tell them how educated you are because…’
ITL/SL: You will not get the job.
JUDY COPPAGE: Yes. So anyway I got the job. A Middle Eastern guy
named Don Bustany…
ITL/SL: I know Don Bustany.
JUDY COPPAGE: Yeah, well, he is the one that hired me. I just ran into him at Iroha, a few months ago.
ITL/SL: Small world.
JUDY COPPAGE: Very small, yeah. So I worked with him. We were doing B productions for Hollywood Beauty Sweepstakes, aye aye aye!
ITL/SL: What were those?
JUDY COPPAGE: They were some syndicated show, like a beauty pageant a strip show -- meaning not strip strip but strip syndication -- so any way, the guy that was doing that then hired me to just keep working with him and he was doing Darker Than Amber with Charlton Heston. I then met his agent who then hired me and so I became his assistant -- in those days “secretary” -- for about a month and I read everything in the office and became an agent very quickly. I did that for maybe a year, year and a half. The little girl that we hired, or I basically I hired, had worked with Stirling Silliphant. He had run a full page ad and she brought it to my attention. I zoomed over there and I got the job and ended up working with him for about four years. I was doing all his development -- they really weren’t development people -- all his reading, traveling. Half the time he would leave and let me take network meetings. I was on every set, I got on every location.
ITL/SL: So you got a lot of experience in a lot of areas.
JUDY COPPAGE: Yeah. He would take me to all the high powered meetings at the network. So here I am, sitting at the head, and I am the only woman in the room. Sometimes before meetings he would say, ‘well, wear that really short mini skirt’ and I didn’t feel like I was being used. I thought it was just a game, but my job really was to sit there and listen and take notes and then afterward he would ask what happened.
ITL/SL: But that was invaluable opportunity to learn and see how the “players” did business.
JUDY COPPAGE: Invaluable. Then there was a writers strike. I had met a bunch of people by then and a guy named Quinn Martin who had a zillion series on the air hired me -- not my most exciting job though. An agent named Stu Robinson came in and said you’re way too funny to be doing this, so she introduced me to a guy that was hiring at a company called Johnny Carson Paramount. I had been on the Paramount lot with Silliphant for several years, so I went there and I was developing and producing. Then Barry Diller came in, got rid of that company and I was inherited into that Paramount television regime. So I spent a number of years there. I really developed drama, I developed mini series. I actually pushed myself into the half-hour cause that was the only area that I hadn’t done. So I spent a number of years till the end of the seventies and then I ran into Joe Barbera -- Hanna Barbera -- he hired me and I became Vice President and Executive In Charge of Production.
ITL/SL: So you ventured into animation?
JUDY COPPAGE: Well he was looking to do live action. I decided that wasn’t for me. I met my husband, I was burnt out, got married wanted to have a baby.
I needed to take a break and figure out what I wanted to really do with my life and when my son was about a year and a half, he was born in ’81, I just started with a folder and opened my own company. I almost went to work at William Morris as a packaging agent. People at William Morris have come after me several times -- at this point now they’re not -- but I just really didn’t want to work for anybody. I did that and I just thought you know what it’s time to be my own boss.
ITL/SL: And you enjoy heading your own company now?
JUDY COPPAGE: I really do, I really do. At times I’ve had more employees I, but I think, most people really can’t do it. It’s too hard and it’s too self motivating. I just really prefer to have a small clientele and do what I do. I wanna get a lot more projects produced and I’d rather spend a lot more time on each one than just be representing people and sticking them on shelves, I’ve done all that too. Every decade’s been like a different job.
ITL/SL: So what was the job you enjoyed most before the one you have now?
JUDY COPPAGE: Well, I think Paramount -- I mean with Silliphant. That was fabulous but I was younger. I love, I love, I really love being in a studio. I mean I really function very well in that environment. I love being a team player. I just loved that job, you know, I really did, but I kept getting inherited with regimes and the regimes got tougher and tougher… heavier handed. After a while it changed, cause when I was at Paramount, there were two of us in development, I mean there was nobody, all except Max Goldensen, Lorraine’s sister [Loreen Arbus] who joined us briefly.
ITL/SL: Is that how you met Lorraine [Arbus]?
JUDY COPPAGE: Well, yeah, through her sister who was an executive.
ITL/SL: Since most times you were the only woman in the room, did you find it difficult, or was that a non issue?
JUDY COPPAGE: Well, yes and no. I never competed, you know, with men. I always was just gonna be a girl first even though I happened to have two brothers and I’m a bit of a tom boy, but the point being, yes there was a double standard in that men got paid more and they got promoted more,
and it was a boys club, but it never bothered me really. I think as I got older it bothered me more because I could just see where, hey, I’m not going to make any headway here.
ITL/SL: It was glaring?
JUDY COPPAGE: Yeah. It was hard to get any raises, you know. I mean they had good health coverage but I never had a pension, until I went to Hanna Barbera, when I did consult with a lawyer. Before that I just made my own deals, you know, I was just like, well whatever; but again, I don’t regret anything.
ITL/SL: That’s good. How many people can say that they have no regrets? So, to whom would you attribute your biggest break?
JUDY COPPAGE: Well, Silliphant, definitely. I was very lucky to get that, and he wanted to hire a woman. Now I can tell you why. It was great. He brought me to everybody. It was really great.
ITL/SL: I would think that was a wonderful opportunity.
JUDY COPPAGE: I was maybe twenty, by then twenty-four -- might have been twenty five. It was just phenomenal.
ITL/SL: That’s great.
JUDY COPPAGE: I met tons of people. I traveled. I didn’t travel all over the world, but I traveled all over the country and Canada…and I got to meet all these people.
ITL/SL: You knew them, and more importantly, they knew you?
JUDY COPPAGE: Yes. I remember Jim Wiatt hustling me once and saying “Oh you know, so and so at Fox wants to hire you”, but it was a lateral move. I never looked for -- never went out and looked for jobs. I wasn’t looking for my next job because, you know I kinda got into it anyways by accident. I mean it wasn’t something where I ever said, “oh I want to do this job” kind of thing.
ITL/SL: Maybe that’s why they came to you -- the jobs just kinda came to you because you weren’t really looking.
JUDY COPPAGE: I think so, yeah. Well I had a little teeny break between Quinn Martin and Silliphant because it was abrupt. There was a writers strike, but yes, they always did and then it was usually always time [to move on] but I was never searching…I was always too busy…well who had time? But I also was entrepreneurial on the side, I started a children’s book publishing company.
ITL/SL: Oh really, do you still have that?
JUDY COPPAGE: Ah, I still get money from it, yeah. The stock has all been sold off because Putnum ended up buying the entire thing, but I did very well financially. Then I got into real estate meaning I bought my house way before most women were doing that -- before I was married. We’ve now bought more but, I was always hedging my bets.
ITL/SL: So, what is the most rewarding thing about the work you do?
JUDY COPPAGE: I think getting people started or selling projects that just seem impossible.
ITL/SL: Now, what’s the most creative thing you’ve ever done to generate interest in a project or to get it sold?
JUDY COPPAGE: Well, that’s a good question. I mean I think basically being relentless. Die Hard was a prime example. I mean nobody wanted to buy that. It was the relentlessness and really being smart about how to move things along. I had a project TNT wanted to buy -- they’re not gonna make it unfortunately -- they didn’t buy it, so what I did because I was a manager not an agent, is I took it to William Morris and said hey you want to package this? Well yeah. So they got Patrick Swayze into the mix and so forth. I’ve done quite a bit of that kind of thing.
ITL/SL: Do you have a problem with your colleagues, other agents, now that you’re a manager, because I know when I was managing talent there was always this tension between agents and managers.
JUDY COPPAGE: Not anymore. I think that’s all changed. In fact I was talking to a guy who represents John Updike, a guy named Ken Sherman. We were chatting and I said ‘wow you’re one of the few boutique [agencies],’ you know, and he was saying ‘well I’m thinking of maybe becoming a manager.’ I think that it’s really changed. I mean even Larry Becsey recently became a manager. He was partnered with Joe Gotler, so I think it’s really the only way that certain people that aren’t with the bigger companies are going to be able to survive.
ITL/SL: In what way?
JUDY COPPAGE: I think as a small agent -- especially if you are handling performing talent -- if that actor, actress breaks they’re gonna be….gone!
ITL/SL: You just prepare them for the big ones to come grab them?
JUDY COPPAGE: Exactly, so as a manager I think you have a little bit more control.
JUDY COPPAGE: A lot of my actors don’t even have agents. They have commercial agents but not any other kind of agent and I am not opposed to that. But then its sort of like, well, if the agent alone is submitting -- because you can’t double submit -- are they really doing their job, and how can I really follow up on that…and part of that might be because I’m a bit of a control freak.
ITL/SL: When I managed talent myself, ninety-nine percent of the calls that came to my office came directly, as a result of my efforts because I wanted to make sure my clients got called in and were seen. I mean I always had the bookings negotiated through the agent, but I couldn’t sit and just wait around for the agent to make my clients a priority. Is that how you feel about it?
JUDY COPPAGE: That’s right. That’s the thing. It’s tough but again, I think at a certain level if they can be packaged by a big agency -- and again I don’t think the agencies take advantage of their packaging skills very much at all – that’s a way to go. That’s been the one area where I thought ‘wow’ about the William Morris thing -- and I don’t regret it, but I thought it really would have been fun to be able to see how much damage I could do internally [laughter] -- cause you know, I did that at Paramount, I started it…
ITL/SL: Started the whole packaging thing?
JUDY COPPAGE: Well, yeah. Basically Garry Marshall had all these writers and they were just on shows and I went and I spent time in that building, ‘cause I kept moving around before I ended up where I ended up. They kept shifting offices and people and so I got to meet them all and I’d get them all together and I’d say, let’s have that idea, let’s go pitch it and all these people started writing pilots. Then through Hoyt Bowers who did the casting – he was the most modest guy and a dear friend of mine -- we started a talent holding deal, way back then when people weren’t doing it at all.
ITL/SL: So, you’re a pioneer?
JUDY COPPAGE: Yeah, basically and a lot of those people were put in Bosom Buddies. I left, you know, right about that time, Wendy Sperber was there and a whole bunch of others and um, er, you know, I think now I’ve forgotten the entire question [laughter].
ITL/SL: [laughter] -- the question? Anyway, go ahead.
JUDY COPPAGE: Anyhow, you know you do have the ability to package and it’s just being smart about what you do. Scattershot doesn’t work anymore -- you really have to be more precise. I have a book that I am really dying to sell but I won’t even let anybody read it unless I think they are going to (a) read it themselves and (b) I know I have to find the right person. Otherwise I’m just going to waste a lot of time and I don’t want to do that. As it is, it’s out of print so I have to keep having to order them.
ITL/SL: To send out?
JUDY COPPAGE: Yeah. I don’t want to xerox that kind of thing. I get them on Amazon…but I’m waiting for the right … person.
ITL/SL: Right person?
JUDY COPPAGE: Well I have a list and I debate who to send it to. The guy who wrote it is eighty-eight, I am thinking of time and he said to me ‘I am not going anywhere for a while.’
ITL/SL: Well, if he says he’s not going anywhere who is to say that he is?
JUDY COPPAGE: Not me [laughter].
ITL/SL: We talked about Die Hard -- you how did that come about?
JUDY COPPAGE: Well, Roderick Thorp was introduced to me by another one of my clients. He had written The Detective which had been a best seller -- I’m a sucker for book writers -- and he was an eccentric guy, but I liked him. I still represent the estate. Anyhow I read it and it was a page turner. I thought ‘this is a great book,’ but it was already ten years old -- well lets see, by the time the movie came out it was a ten-year old book, so by the time I read it, it was probably a seven year old book, something like that. What I also realized about it is that Fox owned the character. In other words, what he [Roderick Thorp] had done -- and I think smartly so when he wrote it, there is also another irony to it -- he had taken the character from The Detective. The Detective, which is Robert Evan’s first movie, I believe, or claim to fame, starred Frank Sinatra. He had taken that character and aged him and so when he wrote this book fifteen, twenty years later he’d just taken the guy and made him forty-something or fifty maybe and so, obviously in the movie they changed the age back down which is no big deal. Anyway, I knew Fox owned it, so I just, knowing me, it’s like, oh, good I will just sell it to Warner Bros. and I will get sued. So, I waited. I finally got it to a guy named Lloyd Levin who worked for Larry Gordon and he really dug it. They were looking for something for this writer but he literally said to me, ‘you know what, now is not the time, call me in six months.’ Well I’m the kind of person who will write that down and do it. If the guy from Bruckheimer says call me Thursday, I call Thursday.
When I sent it back, I think Larry Gordon saw the book cover and thought my, it looks like a one sheet. Anyway, they picked that book up, and again not for a whole lot of money in those days, it was before the bidding war days. I’d never seen anything move as fast in my life as that.
JUDY COPPAGE: I mean they got Jeb Stewart to write the first draft. It was rewritten, it was greenlit I believe by Scott Rudin and they brought in DeSouza to do the rewrite and I believe they were thinking of either Gere or Willis… and Willis, basically they paid him five million bucks to become a movie star but that, I mean…
ITL/SL: That was great casting.
JUDY COPPAGE: It was, I thought. I went to the premiere which was really something. I still have my Die Hard sweat shirt. I don’t have a hat but tee shirts and stuff like that. It was just a great film and of course we get paid when they make the sequels too.
ITL/SL: Well that was my other question. When you sell the rights, does the agent get paid on any sequels?
JUDY COPPAGE: The writer does, yeah. Oh sure, sequels are remix hands down, they get half of the purchase and if they make, Die Hard what have they made, three or four…
ITL/SL: I think three.
JUDY COPPAGE: Yeah, maybe three. If they make four, which is in development, we’ll get paid again.
ITL/SL: So that’s not a bad investment.
JUDY COPPAGE: Not at all. Again, we didn’t, I didn’t get a huge amount for the purchase. I could have pumped it up, but he [Roderick Thorp] was so excited about it…and it really brought him into the focus again. I mean he had another big win in his life aside from having a book on the best seller list, you know. And so, it started a whole new action genre, and it certainly did not hurt my career.
ITL/SL: And launched Bruce Willis as well.
JUDY COPPAGE: Yeah.
ITL/SL: I think it’s a great achievement.
JUDY COPPAGE: I am very proud of a lot of stuff that I sold. There was a thing on TNT called Purgatory. It’s a fabulous movie that took me four or five years to sell. I sold a lot of original material and I am really proud of it. I still plan to sell more although it’s harder in this market than it ever was.
JUDY COPPAGE: Well, because the market is so glutted and there is so much of everything that it’s really hard to find things that are unique. I think the studios tend to want things that they can develop as opposed to just finding spec scripts because I think they want a tinker. I think that they’re looking for things that are marketable so if it’s got a built in title -- if it’s Stephen King or if it’s a true story that makes a difference. I mean, look at the state of the industry... I think you can figure it out.
ITL/SL: Yeah, but even the movies of the week are pretty much dead aren’t they?
JUDY COPPAGE: They’re gone. Lifetime is doing them and then they’re doing some direct to video. Well Hallmark Channel buys up stuff that CBS used to do. I have a couple of projects over there. But beyond that, it’s almost all over. I mean it’s interesting because things like..Here, TV Logo, the gay themed networks or whatever they’re called are picking up that pace too…and then a lot of things are going Direct to DVD.
ITL/SL: There’s a market for that too.
JUDY COPPAGE: Yeah. It’s a killer and I [laughter], I had a huge movie of the week business in the ‘90s and I saw it shift and I went..hmmm..o.k., now what? So y’know, time to shift again.
ITL/SL: At one time, was it Long Island Lolita -- there were two or three versions of that and after a while it started to become ridiculous, and I think people got tired of watching those true stories one after the other. One minute it was in the headlines, and the next minute it was a TV movie.
JUDY COPPAGE: Right, but they still do them, honestly. I think CBS does… and they’re all looking for big events you know. I mean, I represent Patti Davis and ..
ITL/SL: The Patti Davis – the heiress who was kidnapped?
JUDY COPPAGE: No. Reagan’s daughter. We have “The Long Goodbye” in development over at Lifetime and that to me would be a big event you know, based on her book and everything. And this is told from her point of view. I think it would be fascinating. I think the audience would be huge on that. She did a beautiful job though. Gavine Polone is the one that’s executive producing. But yeah that market’s tough…very difficult.
ITL/SL: So if they want things that are pretty much big events, what happens to the young writer who wants to get in?
JUDY COPPAGE: [laughs]
ITL/SL: I mean Hollywood is not aware of him or her and Hollywood does not know that they can write and they probably can write, but how do they… break in?
JUDY COPPAGE: Well, I think you end up like ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ or ‘Blair Witch’. Remember with high def and things being programmed for your cell phone, I think that the way for those people is to simply take their power and make their own projects.
ITL/SL: I believe in that route. I am a strong proponent of that.
JUDY COPPAGE: I agree and that’s one of the things that I’m doing now. I’m working with a lot of people that have access to money or, get rebates from the States. I’m trying to put together right now a motor cross movie that one of my writers wrote. It’s extreme free style, and I dig it because I’m thinking, well there’s never been one like it. In fact we’re working on a script right now, have a meeting on it Tuesday, but we will probably put together the funding ourselves.
ITL/SL: That’s good. Taking control …. Have your vision be executed the way you want.
JUDY COPPAGE: We found a director. We have everything. We’re gonna get one of these kids that is a huge star to be in it. I’ve go the producer, I’ve got the director. We have access to the star. I’ve got the scripts, so...
ITL/SL: You’re ready to go.
JUDY COPPAGE: Yeah, pretty much.
ITL/SL: Now, are you gonna produce?
JUDY COPPAGE: Probably on that one, I will be, yes…but again, I won’t be on the set everyday. That’s not my job. That’s really a line producer.
ITL/SL: So you’ll in essence be exec producing?
JUDY COPPAGE: Yeah. It’s something that I’m going to keep going at until I get it made. I mean this is not going to win any Academy Awards, but sometimes you don’t care about that, you just know what the audience wants. Y’know, that’s another thing. I mean when I was in France some years ago, I was watching T.V. and they had the Power Rangers on. It was a Japanese show dubbed in French, which I don’t speak. I looked at it and I couldn’t understand a word, but I looked at my husband WAY before it got here and I said ‘This is a hit!’
JUDY COPPAGE: So, sometimes you have that instinct. You just know when something’s gonna work and when I feel that way I refuse to give up.
ITL/SL: Now do you think that this is something that’s inherent or something you develop?
JUDY COPPAGE: I think both.
ITL/SL: An innate sense?
JUDY COPPAGE: You have that but I think you learn it as well. It’s interesting because I’m working with a producer named Mark Sennet. We were at the Arts the other day and Garry Marshall and Penny Marshall were doing an interview. I know Garry really well. He came over and I introduced him to everybody. And, it was interesting as he was leaving, I hear Senate say to himself ‘Well he could play the Mummy’ which is a script we have and I get an email saying ‘You better read this over the weekend for Garry Marshall.’ So, you see here’s somebody who’s thinking on his feet every single time when he’s out there and that’s kinda what it’s about. It’s taking advantage of what’s there in the moment.
ITL/SL: And that’s you client?
JUDY COPPAGE: Well, I work with Senate. I represent him on the clandestine. I have an Ellroy piece that Jeff Berg is putting together. It was at TNT and we’re moving it out of there. So I only represent him on certain things.
ITL/SL: Is that your typical relationship with the producers you represent?
JUDY COPPAGE: I represent actually a lot of producers that way because I’ve worked with them for a lot of years and I think it’s just that they trust how I do what I do. I’m always on things. I don’t let a lot of time slide.
ITL/SL: That’s good.
JUDY COPPAGE: I mean I’m online all day long. A client emails me (snaps) there…they’re gonna get a response back in ten seconds if I’m in the office.
ITL/SL: Yeah, I noticed that when we were communicating. That’s one of the things I like about you…quick response.
JUDY COPPAGE: Yeah, that’s just who I am. I’ve always been extremely efficient (laughs). I can’t help it. If you can get good support fine, but I do a lot on my own. I mean there are things that need to be done but most of it I’m doing online all day -- printing out scripts – all the scripts are electronic download. I mean, I just type my own letter, right there print it out and put it in to be logged ‘cause I have a log book you know. I keep records. It’s important. Most people aren’t that motivated, but you know what, when I was a graduate student nobody was motivated. They used to boo me.
ITL/SL: Boo you?
JUDY COPPAGE: ‘Cause I’d bring my projects in and none of them got their homework done on time.
ITL/SL: It’s almost like some of the programs on T.V., when the smart kids are always ostracized. Oh because he’s smart, he’s this, he’s whatever. So, doing your work on time and being the little goody two shoes was not popular?
JUDY COPPAGE: Yeah. The teachers loved me. But the students hated me.
ITL/SL: To me that’s the only way. Get it off your back.
JUDY COPPAGE: Yeah. Turn it in. If it’s due it’s due. I mean, hey stay up all night do it and then you’re done.
ITL/SL: That’s it. When I was on summer vacation I always did my homework, all of my homework, the day the last day of school. So I could ENJOY my summer. I just didn’t want to have that hanging over me.
JUDY COPPAGE: I agree. I’m the same way now. You know I read every Sunday morning, a lot during the week too but, I get it done. But most people aren’t like that.
ITL/SL: Oh no. It takes a lot of discipline.
JUDY COPPAGE: Well, that’s it...discipline. And I’m very disciplined in my whole life period,
ITL/SL: I’m extremely disciplined.
JUDY COPPAGE: Except for, of course, certain things that I enjoy [laughter].
ITL/SL: How would you describe your clientele -- your client roster?
JUDY COPPAGE: Well, I have uh three or four really great novelists. The rest of them are mostly screenwriters, both in features and television. I have two young ones that I’m starting out. But, for the most part, they’re people that I’ve worked for with for quite a while. Then I have actors. I represent Mayim Bialik, who was Blossom, Paul Vogt, who’s just replacing Harvey Fierstein in Hairspray. So it’s a small group but, an interesting group. Most of the performers are either really interesting or they write. I have really only one filmmaker, Larry Bishop, who writes, directs, produces and stars. And I’ve worked with Larry since he was 18. I met him when he was at UCLA and I’ve represented him for a long time. We’re in the middle of a Quentin Tarantino Presents deal with Dimension. He’ll be directing. He wrote the script, is directing, starring and producing.
ITL/SL: So, what is a typical day for you?
JUDY COPPAGE: Ah, well, let’s see. A typical day is I get up usually – well, lately it’s been a little later with the time change although I love the light. I get up usually at 7 or a little before. Most days I get up and hike. Yesterday I hiked Fryman because the weather has been good. It takes me about an hour to do that. Or I hike the neighborhood, or if I don’t do that I might fold laundry or y’know do my sit-ups and my weights and all that.
ITL/SL: Cool. You’re in great shape.
JUDY COPPAGE: Thank you. Well, you know you get to be my age, you gotta be in great shape. And then I get ready. We own property in North Hollywood that I was operating out of but I’ve leased all those buildings out. We built an office next to my house in Studio City which is in the hills so, I basically get dressed, close the door, walk up the stairs to work. My cat, Sable, comes and sits on a desk.
Basically I get in, hear about the phone calls -- mainly I’d start with my emails, read the trades online and all that and then I start to get into the calls and other things. Usually I don’t like to go to a lot of meetings/meetings because I find it wastes too much time and you’re traveling too much, but I do about one a day usually. We knock off usually, it depends, around 6:30/7 o’clock. And depending on what time my husband gets home, if I go downstairs and I’m bored, I’ll read a script. Then we hang out, discuss our day, eat dinner late, watch the news, and go to bed and start over again.
ITL/SL: Is your husband in the entertainment business?
JUDY COPPAGE: No, he’s a psychotherapist, but a gerontologist -- works with the elderly. He works at USC and Rancho Los Amigos. He does something actually that matters [laughs].
ITL/SL: But what you do matters too. I mean it helps people realize their dreams.
JUDY COPPAGE: Yeah, I agree with you, totally. I mean I really do it for the entertainment value and the other thing is that I really believe -- because I’ve always been fascinated with the psychological effects -- emotionally people can watch something and learn something from it, and really connect…and that’s always been a big, big thing of mine.
ITL/SL: I went to see this movie on the weekend with my mom and my sister called “Phat Girl” and I said it was just gonna be terrible, but I was very pleasantly surprised. It had a GREAT theme, great message and I’m surprised it didn’t do better at the box office.
JUDY COPPAGE: Oh yeah I’ve seen the posters. Who distributed that?
ITL/SL: Fox Searchlight, I believe. I really enjoyed it because I am so tired of the stereotypical portrayals of blacks on the screen. I thought it was going to be the same old, excuse the French, ‘ghetto stuff’…
JUDY COPPAGE: [laughs] Yeah, that was a French word.
ITL/SL: You caught me on that one…and I do understand French by the way.
JUDY COPPAGE: Well, I don’t.
ITL/SL: We speak a broken French in the islands.
JUDY COPPAGE: You’re far more worldly. We Americans, some of us are not very worldly. I will admit that. It’s a sad comment but luckily we can read and write and travel and watch television (laughs).
ITL/SL: But there is a spirit about Americans that is just so great!
JUDY COPPAGE: Try this. My mother was born in Idaho and raised in Montana, graduated from college in 1927, which is very unusual.
JUDY COPPAGE:..A total Western woman, although extremely well educated, great bridge player, great golfer.
ITL/SL: At that time?
JUDY COPPAGE: At that time. In fact, I have love letters between my parents. He was he was a little bit older. He was born and raised in Seattle, Washington and died there actually, which is really interesting. In his letters, he’s like ‘Golf, you think you’re getting into golf? No, I don’t think so’[laughs].
But it’s a very kind of fun to know you can do anything, nothing will hold you back.
ITL/SL: Definitely yes.
JUDY COPPAGE: I am fortunate for the era that I grew up in. It’s funny I still correspond with one of my high school teachers who was a huge mentor for me. My parents were PUSHING, you better go to college. Of course, both parents went to college and graduated. So, in my case there wasn’t even a question. But most of my friends didn’t finish, you know. I just had lunch with one of my high school pals yesterday.
ITL/SL: So, you keep in touch with your classmates?
JUDY COPPAGE: I have.
ITL/SL: That’s good.
JUDY COPPAGE: Yeah, well, y’know, I don’t want to lose my..life.
ITL/SL: There’s a friend of ours who lives in New York. We’ve known her 20 something years and it’s just pick up the phone and it’s great. There’s a comfort zone that’s been developed over time. There’s a history where don’t have to explain things and she is attuned to the Caribbean humor.
JUDY COPPAGE: Yeah.
ITL/SL: What do you do in your spare time? For relaxation.
JUDY COPPAGE: Well, I don’t relax very much. Saturday I do yoga, then I go home and do stuff around the house. You know, I hang out with my friend Jane, or other people. My husband and I have a running backgammon game. I garden. I watch movies, you know, whatever.
ITL/SL: What kind, what kind of movies do you like?
JUDY COPPAGE: Well, I like all kinds of movies. You know, I love things that have an impact like “Mystic River.” This year…not so much…
ITL/SL: I just saw “Crash” sometime ago. What did you think of “Crash”
JUDY COPPAGE: I liked “Crash.” I did. The way they dovetailed one thing on another...I didn’t find it coincidental. I mean, was it the best movie? I don’t know. I think my favorite movie might have been “Capote.”
ITL/SL: Didn’t see it. I heard a lot of good things about it.
JUDY COPPAGE: Well, I dig the guy. Brokeback, you know, I wasn’t that impressed with that to be honest with you.
ITL/SL: I haven’t seen that one either. That’s on my list too.
JUDY COPPAGE: Yeah, I mean I thought it was..really well done and I get it. But, the thing about it was it was provocative after the fact.
JUDY COPPAGE: We talked a lot about it. But right afterwards it was, so what’s new? Maybe I’ve lived in L.A. too long, y’know. Hey, I never dated all through college. What do I know? [laughs]
ITL/SL: You never dated in college, really?
JUDY COPPAGE: There was not a straight man. Well, where was there a straight man -- I was in theatre. ‘Excuse me, hi, are you…no never mind.’ [laughs].
JUDY COPPAGE: Pretty much no.
ITL/SL: That’s funny.
JUDY COPPAGE: No, I mean, I was hard pressed to, you know…I did the sorority thing briefly, but...no it was hard. I mean there just weren’t too many straight guys in the theatre department. Then I got out of college. Then it was older men. I was into older men.
ITL/SL: We seem to have a lot in common! [laughs]. What do you miss about the times when you started compared to how you see Hollywood now?
JUDY COPPAGE: You know I enjoy it just as much. It’s just different. I don’t know. I mean I went to the Weinstein pre-party for the Oscars cause that was very cool. It’s just different, but I still very much enjoy it. So, I wouldn’t say that it’s any different at all. I mean, just the other day at lunch, y’know, with the whole Garry Marshall thing -- I mean, he knew me and that’s the fun of it. And I met him when I was like 27.
ITL/SL: Yeah. He doesn’t forget people.
JUDY COPPAGE: No.
ITL/SL: He does not. I mean, he is a big supporter of nepotism, and I like that about him.
JUDY COPPAGE: Absolutely. In fact his son just did a film. The last time I saw him, he, Garry, came back after he left the table saying, ‘You know, Keeping up with the Steiners. You gotta watch Keeping Up With The Steiners.’ Ok, Gary. [laughs]
ITL/SL: His sister, Penny’s going to speak at the breakfast..our Hollywood Breakfast in two weeks. [Editor’s note: Penny Marshall has since spoken at the event and received three standing ovations]
JUDY COPPAGE: Yeah. She was there with Garry. I don’t really know her. I did an improv class with her a long time ago. She was there because the three of them were being interviewed at Arts. And, of course the Arts, it’s like my office away from my office. It’s always a happy Passover...it’s so funny cause of course Marshall’s Italian. And then there’s y’know, people like myself who grew up Northern Baptist and it’s kind of like the minority, but I mean I dig the way it used to be but I dig it now. I just had lunch with David Giler, he did Alien. He’s partnered with Walter Hill. Anyway, he was out to dinner with people and we were talking about old Hollywood. So, whether you meet old friends or new friends, you still get that feeling. It’s just different, but I don’t dig it any less.
ITL/SL: Now, who would you consider your mentor. Do you have any?
JUDY COPPAGE: Oh, in the business? That’s a good question. Well, Silliphant. Earnest Tidyman who wrote French Connection. He won the Academy Award. I think Hoyt Bower is oddly enough one, just in terms of being a friend that I can say anything to. Beyond that, in show business, not so much. I think more in college and high school. Well, some of my bosses but not all of them. I mean, I enjoyed working with Michael Eisner. I learned a lot from all these people.
ITL/SL: When did you work with Eisner?
JUDY COPPAGE: Well, at Paramount. Diller came in and brought in Eisner. And he’d remember me (laughs). ‘How’d you like Gary Nardino?’ ‘That was the worst mistake you ever made.’ ‘Ok..Goodbye Judy.’ Yeah, I mean, I have a big mouth so, you know…
By the way when my son was graduating high school, he did not want to go to college, never went to college, but my husband encouraged me to write a letter to Eisner and Eisner got right on it and got him another interview. So, there you go. It’s not like I call him (laughs) but I can basically get through to pretty much anybody. I think, because maybe, I haven’t taken advantage or I’ve been very careful about how I’ve done it and, or, they have a certain regard.
ITL/SL: It’s really all about who you know. So, what is your favorite T.V. show…and favorite movie?
JUDY COPPAGE: Well, you mean, favorite movie from ever?
JUDY COPPAGE: Mm... that’s hard to say…tons of them, and I’m gonna get them all on DVD. Oh, I love all the Sergio Leone movies. Once Upon a Time in the West, Good Bad and the Ugly..Umm..Boy.. Rosemary’s Baby, I mean, many, many, many movies. T.V. shows, ahh…that’s an easier one. You’re talking about contemporary or of all time?
JUDY COPPAGE: Boy, that’s a tough one, too. [laughs]. I appreciated the fact of what they did with Desperate Housewives. I don’t watch it every week. I like “House”. The thing is, I watch T.V., but I watch documentaries or cooking shows [laughs].
ITL/SL: You don’t usually watch episodics?
JUDY COPPAGE: No, no. I mean, I spent my life developing them and I just don’t sit and watch ‘em every week.
ITL/SL: What about music? What kind of music do you like to listen to?
JUDY COPPAGE: Ah well, I would say, jazz. I mean, if you look at just what’s in my car, there’s Billie Holiday…I do like Harry Connick, Jr., although he can’t sing well. But he certainly has a good musical thing. I love the Pointer Sisters.
ITL/SL: I used to sing their stuff when I sang professionally. You heard about June just recently?
JUDY COPPAGE: Yeah, I did. That was very sad.
ITL/SL: Who else do you listen to?
JUDY COPPAGE: Actually, love Ray Charles…almost all black music -- almost all…and some Cuban.
JUDY COPPAGE: Yeah. If you look at what’s in my car you would be shocked.
ITL/SL: Have you ever listened to Caribbean music like Calypso or Soca?
JUDY COPPAGE: Oh yeah, yeah. And I’m a big [Bob] Marley fan. Huge.
ITL/SL: Ooh, I love Bob Marley.
JUDY COPPAGE: Huge, huge, yeah we have all that. I love some of that contemporary stuff. I mean, again I don’t listen to a lot of it. My son has a lot of stuff that sounds really great, I say ‘Hey, put it on my MP3,’ y’know.
But I do listen to NPR or KCRW. So I listen to a lot of eclectic and new stuff and a lot of it I really dig, actually. But generally speaking, most of everything I listen to is ethnic. Although I did go through a jazz thing and I have Mel Torme’s thing -- not a great singer. I do like Sinatra.
ITL/SL: I like Sinatra. I also like Elvis, actually. You like Elvis?
JUDY COPPAGE: Yeah, I do, but I don’t like all of Elvis. I like some of Elvis -- some of it got a lot boring for me. I prefer Nat King Cole. I mean, it sounds weird but…
ITL/SL: You’re more into the black stuff.
JUDY COPPAGE: Totally...totally.
ITL/SL: I produce a lot of networking events in Hollywood. What role has networking played in your career so far?
JUDY COPPAGE: Well, I think that you get a lot of good feedback and you get a sense of how other people see you. So, I think that’s really important. Networking isn’t going to change my life in terms of wanting to meet somebody who’s going to change my career or something. At this point, it’s really about my being able to give feedback or assistance to some up and coming person. I think it’s very important, but again for me it’s more about the giving back than it is the actual networking.
ITL/SL: And where do you see yourself in the next five to ten years?
JUDY COPPAGE: Oh, well, I see myself doing all sorts of wonderful things, y’know. I have movies that I want to get off the ground. It sounds odd but I think my best time is yet to come. I really believe that. Now, I won’t mention how old I am, but I really do think that in the next 10 to 15 years, y’know, I’ll have lots more fun and, I mean I’ve always had fun but I just think that…
ITL/SL: In a more relaxed state?
JUDY COPPAGE: Exactly. I think a lot of the fear goes and you’re relaxed and you can get more accomplished. So, I think that actually it’ll be the most positive productive time, and why not? Why not save the best ‘til last?
ITL/SL: I like that.
JUDY COPPAGE: That’s the way I eat food too [laughs].
ITL/SL: I hear that. The last word. Fill in the blanks. ‘Navigating Hollywood your experience has been…’
JUDY COPPAGE: It’s been great. I’m lucky I’ve been able to do it, and that I can continue to do it. Y’know, I think that if you really look at people, they’re perhaps more frightened than you are. I don’t think anybody is very secure in Hollywood [laughs]. And I think that it’s all kind of an illusion and if you really look beyond the secure it’s very insecure. So, hey, go for the interaction. I would say when you go to a meeting, go for the interaction, don’t go for the end result. I mean…you’re missing the whole point.
ITL/SL: I think that’s very deep. I concur wholeheartedly. Great advice.
JUDY COPPAGE: Well, that’s my husband, thank you. So, navigating Hollywood..for me it’s even more fun because, to be honest, I have nothing to lose and everything to gain, and, so why not?