W goes inside the Death Star

W Magazine coverW does its version of A-list Hollywood for February, with Keira Knightley and James McAvoy on the cover (and in an online slide show) and stories inside such as Gabriel Snyder's asking if Dreamworks' profitable run will come crashing down. Read it for the answer. W claims an "exclusive" guided tour around the new CAA headquarters — aka the Death Star — in Century City. There's a lot of comparing it to the I.M. Pei building on Wilshire that Michael Ovitz commissioned for the agency CAA homeway back when. Writes Kevin West: "If the old building announced CAA’s arrival, its new headquarters asserts its mature ascendancy. It is not only large enough to contain the agency’s near imperial ambitions, but also sufficiently restrained, proving that it knows how to walk softly, as befits any superpower." He notes, fairly, that Christopher Hawthorne of the LAT did gain entry to the building last year:

Apart from employees, clients and select friends of the secretive agency, though, few outsiders have actually passed through the lobby’s glass entrance door and walked the burnished Carrara-marble floors. Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne gained entry only after weeks of phone calls and e-mails, he noted pointedly in his review of CAA’s offices. Such reticence to open doors inevitably strikes some observers as arrogant or even menacing, and a common misperception holds that CAA occupies the entire 500,000 square feet of offices at 2000 Avenue of the Stars—a structure that is striking for its imposing size and the dramatic eight-story aperture that pierces its center. Like other structures that cloak power—the Pentagon, for one—the CAA headquarters has provoked lurid gossip and fantasies.

(“I heard CAA is trying for some…white-leather, Gucci-style, 1970s grandeur over there,” Endeavor chief Ari Emanuel was quoted saying in the Times, perhaps disguising his competitive anxiety as disdain.) Small wonder then that Hollywood gawkers, industry insiders and rival agents have dubbed the place the Death Star, in recognition of the attraction, envy and, likely, fear that CAA inspires. “I don’t understand what it means,” deadpans Lourd. “Is that Star Trek or Star Wars?”

The first thing you notice when you approach CAA’s lobby from the valet parking circle outside is a 220-foot-long wall made of slabs of hand-chiseled Carrara marble, sized as if for an ancient monument. The true centerpiece of the lobby, though, is a monumental marble staircase, a glossy paean to hard-edged cool that anchors the soaring space like a giant paperweight handed down by Zeus. The fact that its use is largely ceremonial—most employees opt for the elevator—makes it seem even more extravagant. It’s the kind of architectural flourish meant to flatter agency clients such as Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts and George Clooney and convince them that they couldn’t possibly be better represented elsewhere.

That Hawthorne story in the Los Angeles Times Magazine led to an unusual correction, you may recall.

For the shoe-crazed among you: W's editor blog has photos of the weekly orgy of shoe worship in the magazine's conference room.

Photos: Wmagazine.com

More by Kevin Roderick:
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