'X' marks the spot at Guild awards

Rarely has a pin sparked so much confusion.

Celebs’ lapels have always served as prime billboard space, but the red “X” that debuted at Saturday’s SAG Awards set off some serious fireworks.

To their collective angst, the producers of the 11th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards discovered they’d mounted an impromptu staging of “The Scarlett Letter” Saturday night, with top SAG stars from TV and film — including presenter and supporting actor winner Morgan Freeman and presenter Tim Robbins — all sporting a large red “X” on their lapels, with the word “no” printed at the center of the X.

Distributed on the red carpet of the SAG Awards by SAG board members Frances Fisher and Esai Morales, the “scarlett letters” represented their SAG-faction Membership First’s rejection of the tentative $200 million dollar deal reached with TV and film producers last month.

Fisher and Morales’s not-so-subtle message? Make an “X” in the “no” box of the referendum ballot that will be received by SAG and AFTRA’s some 140,000 members this week.

Problem was, not everyone who put on Fisher’s “X” was aware of the connotations.

The move outraged SAG’s prexy, Melissa Gilbert, who said the guild had always made an effort to keep the kudocast free of internecine sniping.

“I was absolutely livid,” said SAG prexy Melissa Gilbert, in an interview with Daily Variety, “I found out about three minutes to show time that she’d been handing them out. Never in the history of this award have we ever allowed politics to interfere with the show: It’s about actors and their performances.”

Lifetime Achievement Award winner James Garner was also photographed wearing the scarlett letter on the red carpet, as were “Sopranos” stars James Gandolfini and Tony Sirico. Gilbert said Garner removed it just prior to the broadcast, while Gandolfini and his co-stars removed their X’s on the red carpet after being informed of its meaning one of the broadcast’s producers.

SAG kudocast producers were unable to get a word in with “The West Wing’s” John Spencer, who wore the red X as he introduced the live awards show — during SAG’s now de rigeur, “I’m so-and-so, and I’m an Actor” routine — but Gilbert insisted Spencer thanked her for her work on the contract and said he was supporting it.

Morales on Monday said that he didn’t think the move was political.

“For me, it’s not politics,” said Morales, “It’s life or death for our union. We’re not being radical just to be radical, we just know we can do better than this contract. A ‘no’ vote doesn’t automatically mean a strike.”

Efforts to reach Robbins and Freeman were unsuccessful late Monday afternoon. A Robbins spokeswoman said she had no idea about the meaning of the X, or whether Robbins understood what it meant either. Freeman’s agent in New York, Jeff Hunter, did not return calls.

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