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Sam Adams, Literary Agent for Top Hollywood Talent, Dies at 94

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Sam Adams, who repped literary and entertainment figures including Margaret Atwood, Peter Bogdanovich, John Badham and Stephen J. Cannell, died Saturday in Santa Fe, N.M., his daughter Olivia Adams confirmed. He was 94.

One of final deals was for Atwood’s 1985 novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which became a 1990 feature before the TV series, and he also negotiated deals for films such as “Saturday Night Fever,” “Caddyshack” and “Klute.”

Adams started out at the Jaffee Agency, then launched his own firm with Rick Ray, joining with Lee Rosenberg to become the Adams, Ray & Rosenberg agency.

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The firm became part of Triad Artists in 1984, and was acquired by William Morris in 1992, after Adams had retired.

Born in Chicago, Adams moved to Los Angeles with his mother at age 7, where she worked for her brother Joseph Schnitzer, an RKO executive. He attended Beverly Hills High, where he wrote for the school newspaper alongside Dick Sherman, Andre Previn and late casting director Lynn Stalmaster. He worked as a messenger at Warner Bros. while still attending high school, then served in the U.S. Army.

“Every day I delivered messages to Bogart, Errol Flynn, Alexis Smith and Bette Davis. I saw Bette Davis throw a fit, as well as Edgar G. Robinson. Bogart asked me to take friends of his on a studio tour. Whatever he asked me, I said, ‘Yes, Mr. Bogart!’ He liked my attitude,” he recounted to the Forward in a 2016 profile.

He worked as a journalist before joining the Jaffe Agency, from which he was later fired during the time of the Blacklist. “The same day Variety printed the news about my departure, producer and agent Ingo Preminger called and said in his heavy accent, “I see you’re leaving the agency. You come five o’clock. I’ll give you $100 a week, and you bring more information,” he told the Forward about how he was hired at PSF, run by Otto Preminger’s brother.

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A longtime Santa Fe resident, he enjoyed photography and travel.

He is survived by his wife, Kathleen McIntosh, daughters, Rachel and Olivia, and four grandchildren.

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XXXTentacion’s Manager and Producer Talk SoundCloud Reissues and the Long-Delayed Documentary

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The late rapper XXXTentacion left behind a complicated legacy after he was murdered during a robbery in June of 2018 — dozens of platinum or gold-certified and influential songs amid charges of domestic abuse and violence. A pioneer in the SoundCloud emo-rap genre, nearly four years after his death, the Florida rapper’s earliest songs on the platform are finally seeing official release via Columbia beginning today (Jan. 28) with the song “Vice City,” which he originally uploaded in March of 2014. It marked XXXTentacion’s first released song, which was followed by many that he created and produced from his Florida home.

It also appears that a long-delayed documentary on the rapper, first announced in June of 2019, may finally be seeing the light of day.

While there is no set schedule for the individual tracks’ release on streaming platforms — beyond each song becoming available to once the rights have been cleared — a website, www.makeouthill.com, and a Twitter account (@makeouthill) will offer updates, music and information.

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In a statement released earlier this week, Columbia announced the reissue campaign — and gave a small status update on a long-delayed documentary.

“We will continue to release music as we clear it, and are making sure we do it in a way that stays true to how X released each song originally,” the statement reads in part. “Beyond the music, we know X’s fans have been waiting patiently for the documentary and we will be sharing updates on it soon.” (Later material previously released through Caroline Records or Bad Vibes Forever/ Empire Distribution is not included in the Columbia deal.)

“It’s important that people get to know and understand the origins of Jahseh [Onfroy, XXXTentacion’s real name],” says his longtime manager, Solomon Sobande. “People don’t know the early songs that built his rabid fanbase. In the scheme of things, there’s only a small number of people digging around SoundCloud for cool underground music. It’s important for his legacy for people to understand what he was making at a young age that ultimately connected to so many people. Those songs still feel relevant, and we want them available in the widest way possible.”

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Columbia inked a deal with the rapper’s estate — which overseen by his mother, Cleo Bernard, and Sobande, along with his producer John Cunningham — in 2021; Ron Perry, inked XXXTentacion to a publishing deal at his SONGS Music before becoming the label’s CEO. “Ron Perry was a huge supporter of Jahseh during his life,” Sobande says. “He gave Jah his first publishing deal, so it was important to give Ron a chance to extend that legacy. We just wanted to make sure that this legacy was delivered in a way that was true to Jahseh in as original a format as possible.”

The project brings Cunningham, the executive producer behind XXXTentacion’s albums, full circle.

“I was interning for SONGS in 2017 when Ron Perry was president,” he says. “I had shown XXX’s material to Ron first, and he asked me to A&R the project. I didn’t know what that meant at the time,” he laughs, “but yeah, I wanted to do it.

“XXX came into NightBird Recording Studios [in Los Angeles],” he continues, “saw that I played guitar, started singing and that was it. There was no spoken agreement between us — just that he had all of these sounds and words in his head and a longtime desire to get it all out. He just didn’t have anyone to help him extract it.”

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Picking up the thread, Sobande says, “He had many of these songs written already, some during his time in jail. He always had huge ideas; it was just about connecting him with creatives like John [Cunningham] to get those ideas out. There’s an interview where XXX said, ‘I want to be everything to my fans — I don’t want them to go to any other artist.’ That’s why he blended all those [musical] genres — he knew that genre lines would blur in the future.”

Of course, that attitude carried over to his strikingly vulnerable lyrics as well. “In 2017 and 2018, there weren’t many artists talking about their depression and mental health,” Cunningham says.

Sobande adds, “Fans connected with him because XXX expressed his feelings of being an outcast, of feeling alone and misunderstood. He gave a voice to the voiceless.”

Whether other material will be released by Columbia in the future is yet to be determined. “Our main focus right now is to rebuild Jah’s legacy from the beginning with these SoundCloud tracks, and getting them onto all [streaming services],” says Sobande. “That said, we love Ron and we love Columbia, and if the idea presented itself to do something in the future, we’d be happy to do it.”

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Finally, the still-unnamed documentary, which was originally announced in June of 2019, will combine biographical data and live footage of the rapper, along with previously uncirculated material. It has been the subject of many rumors and misinformation — to the extent that web searches reveal an almost comical number of posts with variations on “Is the XXXTentacion documentuary coming out in 2019/ 2020/ 2021 on Netflix/ YouTube” etc.

Sources tell Variety that it will finally see release through a top streaming networks before the fall. Columbia declined comment.

“Let’s keep it chill here, Solomon — lock it tight,” Cunningham jokes when asked for details about the documentary.

“One thing I can say is that it is one of the best music documentaries I’ve seen,” Sobande says, “and I am a music documentary junkie.”

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Mike Mills on Shooting ‘C’mon C’mon’ and Casting Joaquin Phoenix in the Middle of His ‘Joker’ Oscar Run

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It was a big swing for writer and director Mike Mills to cast Joaquin Phoenix in his beautiful drama “C’mon C’mon,” something he didn’t expect he would take on. “I think Joaquin is an incredibly smart and multiple layered person, who will always be surprising,” says Mills. “So if this role seems surprising, then yes, sign me up. He’s not going to do the Joker twice in a row.”

On this edition of the Variety Awards Circuit Podcast, we speak with the Oscar-nominated writer and director of the black-and-white dramedy “C’mon C’mon” from A24. He discusses shooting his film during Joaquin Phoenix’s Oscar run for “Joker,” as well as the magnificent additions of his co-stars Emmy nominee Gaby Hoffman and newcomer Woody Norman. Also, in this episode, the Awards Circuit Roundtable discusses the opening of Oscar voting and where the race for the Academy Awards currently stands. Listen below:

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“C’mon C’mon” tells the story of Johnny (Phoenix), a radio journalist who embarks on a cross-country trip with his zealous and energetic nephew Jesse (played by newcomer Woody Norman) to help his sister Viv (Gaby Hoffman). In the process, the two learn about life, love, and confronting the demons that we bury deep within us.

Mills earned a surprise Oscar nomination for “20th Century Women,” which was his follow-up to “Beginners,” a film that won the late Christopher Plummer an Academy Award for best supporting actor. He constructs one of the best screenplays of the last decade and executes a picturesque black-and-white depiction of how we communicate with each other in the world.

There’s a Hollywood and celebrity persona of the Oscar-winning actor, who many feel is one of the greatest actors of his generation. But Mills wasn’t trying to know that “idea” of Phoenix, and he was finding a connection to his soul. “I was trying to talk to that person and no one else,” says Mills. “That person is soft and a human on planet Earth.”

It’s only been two years since Phoenix won the Oscar for his menacing turn in Todd Phillips’ “Joker.” He had walked into that ceremony with three prior nominations: “Gladiator” (2000), “Walk the Line” (2005) and “The Master” (2012). “C’mon C’mon” is now comfortably near the top of his fantastic filmography. While the Oscar race for best actor is packed with talent, his work deserves to be noticed.

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Norman is one of the most fabulous finds, and it isn’t easy not to be enamored by his whimsical deliveries and emotional beats. One of the great finds for British talent since Freddie Highmore (“Finding Neverland”), he’s a true thespian, well beyond his years.

Variety’s Awards Circuit podcast is hosted by Clayton Davis, Michael Schneider, Jazz Tangcay and Jenelle Riley and is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in movies. Michael Schneider is the producer and Drew Griffith edits. Each week, “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much, much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every week.

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