Hollywood superagent’s hubris-fueled downfall, as related by her long-suffering assistant.
Debut author Snyder describes Iris Burton as “the last of the great development agents,” the star-making virago behind the success of Henry Thomas (E.T.), Tori Spelling, River Phoenix, Kirsten Dunst and many others. Growing up in a small town in New York, Snyder always dreamed of hobnobbing with Hollywood royalty. After an internship at Warner Bros., he got an assistant job with Burton at the peak of her reign as the queen of child-actor representatives. But when Phoenix died in 1993, says the author, the end of an era was at hand. Burton became an increasingly bitter, dishonest, self-sabotaging monster. She began to care more about herself than her ever-diminishing clientele, who were steadily gobbled up by sharklike agencies such as CAA and ICM. When not on some paranoid, expletive-filled tirade, Burton filled her time with tummy tucks and liposuction. Worse, she refused to make Snyder a partner, even though he ended up single-handedly running the agency. Most notably, he placed Joaquin Phoenix and Josh Hartnett on the path to stardom. Snyder’s loyalty eventually cracked in the face of high blood pressure, migraine headaches and diverticulitis. He quit the agency, but soon came back for a few more miserable years. In Snyder’s hands, Burton is such a grotesque Hollywood cliché that she hardly qualifies as a “tragic” figure. The author fares better when he focuses on the mind games inherent in negotiating a deal or the intricacies of the Hollywood star system. When his attention turns to his life apart from Burton—specifically as a relationship-seeking gay man cruising a coldly promiscuous L.A. scene—the narrative becomes humorless and self-pitying.
A competent but throwaway memoir, with possible appeal for movie-industry insiders and film buffs.