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Talent scout who discovered Ashton Kutcher returns to IC

BY DEREK KELLISON | APRIL 27, 2012 6:30 AM

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The talent agency that found Ashton Kutcher 15 years ago at the Airliner is back again — and UI students are both excited and concerned about the entertainment industry's ability to increase Iowa's profile.

The St. Louis-based Mother Model Management will host a casting call for interested models at the bar, 22 S. Clinton St., Saturday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Mary Clarke, a manager and talent scout at Mother Model Management, said the talent industry could broaden Iowa's recognition throughout the world.

"What's neat is telling people when we're in Paris and New York about our kids from the Midwest," she said. "When they work with our kids [from the Midwest], we always hear that they've got a good work ethic, and they're polite. It's always been a big compliment."

UI senior and Naperville, Ill., native Evan Kerr agreed with Clarke's assessment.

"More Iowa talent would definitely have an impact," Kerr said. "I think Iowa needs something to humanize it, give it a face."

Kutcher, who began modeling and acting professionally after being picked up by the agency in 1997, is one of few well-known Hollywood celebrities who are Iowa natives.

Yet UI sophomore Dylan Loring said Iowa produces plenty of famous people — but these people often aren't publicized enough.

"There's a misconception that famous people don't come out of Iowa," he said. "It's not that we're so much known for actors or actresses. There are other industries like insurance in Des Moines or arts and writing if you're from Iowa City. I just think everywhere has a niche."

One UI freshman suggested Iowa's well-known figures are not part of the film actor-driven star system.

"There are a lot of cool people that come from Iowa and the Writers' Workshop," Michael Light said. "Why wouldn't you shout from the rooftop if you have people like Nick Dybeck?"

Clarke, a former Iowa City resident herself, said her agency stops in Iowa around three to four times per year.

"Some people I talk to honestly have never experienced the Midwest," she said. "They imagine people sitting on their back porches, sipping lemonade."

Though Clarke said most people don't think of Iowa as a talent hub, she is confident Iowa has a wealth of potential stars.

"Everyone asks us how we find people in Iowa," she said. "One person said something about all the Scandinavian blood, but I don't really know what it is."

Airliner general manager Chris Flanders said the bar has a history of handling celebrities.

"There are a lot of famous people who call the Airliner home," he said, mentioning accomplished journalist Tom Brokaw. "We're excited to have those kinds of people in town."

Yet other students weren't as interested in the possibility of a burst of fame for the state.

"It'd be kind of cool to say I went to school with someone famous, but I don't want to see Iowa change," UI freshman David Showalter said. "I like it the way it is. There's no problem with being a farm state."

Loring agreed that dramatic change would be unnecessary.

"I think Iowa's image is just fine," he said. "I don't think it needs to be changed by actors or filmmakers. Actors can move to California."

In all, Clarke said, the global community is starting to look for supposed Midwestern traits like strong work ethics and politeness.

"But they appreciate those things," she said. "There's a real value of middle America in the talent business."


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