Union solidarity takes spotlight backstage

Though Sunday evening’s SAG Awards were picket-free, actors at the glitzy event did take a cue from their WGA siblings, remarking on the 3-month-old writers strike in comments both onstage and off.

On the red carpet at the Shrine, during acceptance speeches and in the press room, high-profile SAG members made it clear that they support the scribes unequivocally. Dozens of actors sported silver-and-black WGA lapel pins for the occasion.

The strike wasn’t mentioned much during the two-hour telecast itself but always elicited a positive response when it was. Julie Christie, receiving the lead actress award for “Away From Her,” provoked some of the night’s loudest cheers when she referred to the strike at the top of her speech.

“Thank you very much indeed for this,” she said. “It’s lovely to receive an award from your own union. Especially at a time when they’re being so forcefully reminded how important unions are.”

“All unions are important,” Christie said later in the press room. “Without unions, we would not have anyone to represent us over injustices.”

Josh Brolin, in accepting the top prize on behalf of the cast of “No Country for Old Men,” came the closest to using the podium as a bully pulpit.

“It’s a risky movie, and it’s nice to have risky movies now, especially this year, which is a cornucopia of change. … The studio system is backfiring and it’s fun for us actors.

SAG has been the staunchest supporter of the WGA during the strike. At the show’s midpoint, SAG president Alan Rosenberg saluted several other showbiz unions, then added, “When the pioneers of our union were drawing up guidelines, they looked to the Writers Guild for inspiration. This began a treasured solidarity that continues today.”

SAG’s current contract expires June 30. It hasn’t yet scheduled negotiations and fear of a possible actors walkout has spurred studios to stockpile.

“Our predecessors achieved so much on our behalf,” Rosenberg added. “But these achievements come with an obligation: to keep on fighting so that generations of actors who follow us can continue to create.”

He then introduced WGA West president Patric Verrone, who received a round of applause.

Lead film actor winner Daniel Day-Lewis made it clear backstage that he won’t attend the Feb. 24 Oscars if SAG advises him not to cross a WGA picket line.

“I’d abide by the decision of my union,” Day-Lewis said in the press room after receiving the trophy for “There Will Be Blood.” “I’ve just been given this very lovely award from my union. I’m a card-carrying member of my union and whatever decision they make is going to be the right one.”

Tina Fey, who won the acting award in comedy series for “30 Rock,” is also a member of the WGA. She thanked SAG members at the conclusion of her acceptance speech for that support and later offered an upbeat oultook about the prospect for a WGA settlement soon.

“I hope they can resolve it,” she said in the press room. “We are exactly the kind of show that’s put into jeopardy by the strike. I feel optimistic that this will be solved soon.”

Asked backstage how members of “The Office” would celebrate their award for best comedy ensemble, thesp Leslie David Baker said wryly, “We’ll probably stay out all night because we’re not working.”

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