Hibbert, a partner at Donadio & Olsen and a longtime character actor, is one of the rare literary agents who can regale his clients with tales about starring on the Great White Way...or hanging out on the set of Columbo. Appearing now on Broadway in the David Hyde Pierce-directed musical It Shoulda Been You, we talked to this jack-of-all-trades about balancing his clients--they include Chuck Palahnuik and Christophher Bram--with his acting career.
In a typical day I assume you're juggling your duties as a literary agent, with your acting gigs. How does that work?
It’s a fine tuned balancing act. Most of the time the demands of being an agent and actor feed each other in a stimulating way. Occasionally, the challenges are logistically complex. [As an example] some years ago I was sequestered in Honolulu for nine heinous months shooting an abysmal remake of Fantasy Island. Trying to communicate with a New York editor while surrounded by palm trees and macadamia nuts separates the men from the boys.
When, and how, did you get into acting?
I was acting in my parents' garden at the age of 11 when I wrote and starred as Prince Sparkle Eyes in my extravaganza, The Fairy Forest. I got a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts [in England] and graduated in 1978. Acting came first. I made my professional debut in 1978. Agenting began in 1988. Nothing is more gratifying than playing to a live audience; [it's] stimulating and unpredictable. But the paychecks for film and TV are often gratifying. I got a residual check for 89 cents recently--an episode of Murder She Wrote sold to Zimbabwe!
How did you get into agenting then? And do you regularly take on new clients?
I joined Donadio and Olson as an assistant to Eric Ashworth and the extraordinary Candida Donadio. The company was Donadio and Ashworth when I started working for them in 1988.They were incredibly supportive and great teachers. Ultimately, they handed on the keys to the kingdom and inspired in me the confidence to acquire my own writers. I keep my client list small but distinguished. I take on new clients rarely, especially when I’m performing. The great Chuck Palahniuk came into my life through another Donadio client, Tom Spanbauer. Christopher Bram was a client of Eric Ashworth, and I was delighted to inherit him. One of my happiest memories was bringing his great novel The Father of Frankenstein to the attention of Sir Ian McKellen and director Bill Condon. It went on to win the Academy Award for best adapted screenplay, retitled Gods And Monsters.
Have you learned anything as an actor that you've applied to your career in publishing?
Projection, discipline, the art of negotiation and when to create a “scene.”