Maha Dakhil, the powerhouse behind Hollywood's beloved talents like Tom Cruise, Reese Witherspoon, and Natalie Portman, knows the secret to striking game-changing deals. Her journey began when she courageously chose the entertainment industry over law school, despite her immigrant parents' concerns. Maha's determination to succeed in Hollywood proved fruitful, paving her way to triumph.
Raised with sisters, Maha learned early on the power of female leadership. She carved her unique path in the entertainment world, undeterred by the lack of diversity she encountered. Embracing every opportunity, Maha's passion for empowering storytellers and productions has driven her to excel as an agent.
In this insightful podcast, Maha reveals how her fearless nature and unwavering resilience allow her to thrive. She candidly discusses embracing confrontation, standing up for clients, and balancing victories with setbacks. Maha shares the importance of remaining composed amid challenges, and imparts invaluable wisdom from her transformative journey.
[02:49] Maha’s story and her pursuit of the entertainment business
[07:27] Finding mentors and finding her role in the industry
[18:42] Standing up for what she believes in
[23:07] Receiving feedback
[26:25] Promoting tolerance of diverse cultures and background in Hollywood
[30:18] Celebrating her accomplishments
[33:56] Having courageous conversations and negotiating for her clients
[40:59] Bouncing back from a setback
[43:21] Maha’s proudest achievement
[46:13] Lightning Round Questions
“It’s important to keep our eyes open and our minds flexible to see what we can offer and what is resonating.” – Maha Dakhil
“It’s really important to be aware of how you’re being perceived in a team culture.” – Maha Dakhil
“You can’t live too long in victory, and you also don’t have to live too long in any defeat.” – Maha Dakhil
Lightning Round Questions
What book has greatly influenced you?
“The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho
What is your favorite inspiring quote or saying?
(Paraphrased) You don’t have to be aggressive to be strong.
What is one word or moniker you would use to describe yourself?
What is one change you've implemented that made your life better?
Being on time.
What power song would you want playing as you walk out onto a stage?
Anything by Beyoncé
Co-Head of the Motion Picture Group and Co-Head of the agency’s International Film Group, Maha Dakhil also serves on the CAA board that is responsible for the day-to-day management of the agency. Additionally, she represents some of the world’s most successful actors and actresses, moving seamlessly between such talent and literary clients as Tom Cruise, Ava DuVernay, Reese Witherspoon, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Mindy Kaling, Madonna, Sam Mendes, Natalie Portman, Lena Dunham, Melina Matsoukas, Juan Antonio Bayona, Yorgos Lanthimos, Olivia Wilde, Aaron Sorkin, Denis Villeneuve, Steve McQueen, Lenny Abrahamson, Danny Strong, Johan Renck, H.E.R., Anne Hathaway, Jeymes Samuel, Hwang Dong-hyu, and Higher Ground, among others.
An 18-year veteran of the agency, Dakhil has long been at the forefront of cultivating opportunities for diverse talent and championing underserved voices and their stories. Gina Prince-Bythewood’s action epic THE WOMAN KING, made its world premiere earlier this month at the Toronto Film Festival and went on to open #1 at the box office. Lena Dunham’s CATHERINE CALLED BIRDY, which also had its world premiere at Toronto, opens in theatres September 23. She most recently signed Higher Ground, the Obama’s media company.
In addition, Dakhil brokered a bevy of deals for client Olivia Wilde of late (BOOKSMART), including a female-led comedy for Universal, which Wilde will produce and direct; DON’T WORRY DARLING, in which Wilde stars in and directed; and a new Marvel movie. Dakhil has also guided client Reese Witherspoon on building out her production company, Hello Sunshine, which focuses on female-driven content across multiple platforms. Hello Sunshine, which was sold to a venture backed by private-equity giant Blackstone Group in August 2021, has produced such films as
WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING, GONE GIRL, and WILD, as well as the
Emmy-winning television series THE MORNING SHOW with Jennifer Aniston for Apple TV+, which has been renewed for a third season, BIG LITTLE LIES for HBO, and the original thriller SURFACE for Apple TV+. It also has the popular Reese’s Book Club.
In addition to co-leading the successful integration of CAA and ICM’s motion picture departments, Dakhil has positioned her clients at the forefront of the biggest moments in pop culture this past year. Client highlights include the record breaking success of Tom Cruise’s TOP GUN: MAVERICK, which has earned more than $1.4 billion at the worldwide box office;
Natalie Portman’s starring role in THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER; a deal for Mindy Kaling to co-write LEGALLY BLONDE 3, with Witherspoon set to reprise her iconic role as “Elle Woods” and Hello Sunshine producing; Denis Villeneuve directing a sequel to the six-time Oscar-winning DUNE; and Danny Strong serving as the creator, showrunner, and director of the seven-time Emmy nominated DOPESICK, which marks his first limited series. Dakhil also orchestrated a deal for Madonna to co-write an original screenplay based on her life, which the iconic artist will direct.
As Co-Head of CAA’s International Film Group, Dakhil plays an integral role in building the Motion Picture department’s global footprint, opening doors for talent regardless of geographic location.
Her roster of global filmmakers continues to grow, signing SQUID GAME creator Hwang Dong-Hyuk; Jasmila Žbanić, whose film QUO VADIS, AIDA? was nominated for the Best International Feature at the 93rd Academy Awards; Kornél Mundruczó, director of the acclaimed film PIECES OF A WOMAN, which premiered at the 77th Venice International Film Festival; Mohamad Diab,whose film AMIRA received strong critical praise at the 2021 Venice International Film Festival;Ali Abbasi, winner of the Un Certain Regard prize for BORDER at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival; Justin Kurzel, director of NITRAM, which premiered at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival; Lukas
Dhont, director of GIRL, which won the Caméra d’Or at Cannes for best first feature film, along with the Queer Palm, awarded for best LGBT-themed film; and Rungano Nyoni, whose film I AM NOT A WITCH won a 2018 BAFTA Award for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer.
In her role on the CAA Board, Dakhil focuses on the agency’s diversity and inclusion initiatives.She also plays a leadership role in CAA Amplify, an annual invitation-only summit convening diverse leading artists and executives from the most impactful organizations in entertainment, sports, media, brands, technology, and social justice.
In addition, Dakhil is a founding member of Time’s Up, an initiative that addresses systemic inequality and injustice in the workplace. She is a champion for underrepresented storytellers, creating opportunities for them to transition into the global marketplace. Dakhil also serves on the boards of Baby2Baby and the UCLA Lab School.
Dakhil began her career at Genesis, a literary agency. She joined CAA in 2004.
Dakhil graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a degree in sociology.