Buscemi, Cage, Keitel endorse independent candidate

Seymour Cassel’s the wild card in this year’s SAG presidential election, running as a hardline independent against the slates headed by Ken Howard of Unite for Strength and Anne-Marie Johnson of Membership First.

“I want this guild to be for actors and I don’t think that slates are the best way of doing that,” Cassel told Daily Variety. “People know what I stand for without my being part of a slate.”

Cassel’s not running a particularly active campaign but he’s got plenty of name recognition thanks to hundreds of credits over the past five decades. He’s racked up endorsements from Steve Buscemi, Nicolas Cage, Michael Imperioli and Harvey Keitel.

And most tellingly, he nearly won the prize two years ago over Alan Rosenberg, missing by only 710 votes out of 24,834.

Cassel’s an eight-year member of the SAG national board and had been a longtime supporter of Membership First, the self-styled progressive wing that lost control over the national board last fall. He was approached repeatedly during the run-up to the campaign about withdrawing by Membership First leaders, who contended that he would draw away votes from Johnson, and increase the chances of Howard winning.

“Anne-Marie is good at what she does, but I don’t support her,” Cassel said bluntly.

Cassel promised he will only serve a single two-year term as president. He remains intractably opposed to the moderates who control the SAG board and their key platform of stressing the need to merge SAG and AFTRA.

Cassel is unimpressed over an internal trial board conviction of him this summer of “conduct unbecoming of a member” for alleged misconduct toward female staffers, resulting in a suspension that could have made him ineligible to run. But Cassel’s asserted the allegations are bogus and has threatened to sue; his name remained on the ballot after SAG’s national executive committee delayed a ruling last month on his appeal.

Election results will be announced Sept. 24.

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