BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — You couldn’t miss Hollywood talent agent Sid Levin’s office in the old days: It wasn’t much bigger than a closet and it was sometimes filled with burglars, bank robbers and gang members, all trying to break into the movies.
These days you’ll find everyone from Gulf War veterans to a 15-time world arm-wrestling champion there, and Levin didn’t bring them in for protection. They’re looking to be movie stars, too.
In a town where seemingly everyone wants to be a star, but few look like James Franco or Scarlett Johansson, Levin is the talent agent who represents the people who look like the rest of us. Some play tough guys because they once were. Or hard-core military types because they were that.
“I am kind of the strange guy here in Hollywood,” said Levin, 56, from behind the desk of his office, which is actually just down the road in adjacent Beverly Hills.
“I rep a lot of talented people, but people who are kind of the underdog. But that’s OK. I’m the underdog, too.”
One of his breakout underdogs is the arm-wrestling champion and former juvenile hall guard Dot-Marie Jones. She’s been nominated for three Emmys since landing the role of Coach Beiste on “Glee.” Although she missed out on a nomination at this month’s awards show, he said, he’s confident she’ll get one eventually – because she’s that good.
On his desk, meanwhile, is an old-fashioned Rolodex with a list of more than 100 names, many of people you’ve likely never heard of but realize you sort of recognize from somewhere.
There’s Abdoulaye N’gom, for example. The Senegalese-born actor who came to Los Angeles 35 years ago with the unlikely dream of becoming a movie star, although he spoke little English and what he did came out in a thick accent reflecting the years he’d spent in Senegal and France.
“But Sid said, ‘There’s just something about you. I know you’re going to work,’ ” recalled the actor who after years of small parts in films like “George of the Jungle” recently played the kindly hotel manager in the Drew Barrymore-Adam Sandler comedy “Blended.”