SAG considers ending strike threat

Guild's national board set meeting

SAG’s leaders may pull the plug as early as Monday on the guild’s divisive strike authorization vote at what is certain to be a volatile meeting of the guild’s national board.

The moderate wing of the Screen Actors Guild’s fractured national board may also follow through on its stated intention to oust the union’s negotiating committee along with removing national exec director Doug Allen from his slot as chief negotiator.

The depth of the nastiness of SAG’s internal politics over the strike vote issue was illustrated by the revelation late last week of a suggested boycott campaign of eight actors up for SAG awards due to their opposition to the authorization vote. SAG president Alan Rosenberg told Daily Variety that he condemned the effort but he understands the “anger and frustration” of members who support a strike authorization.

“Nobody should let guild politics influence how they vote in the SAG Awards because the awards are designed solely to celebrate great work by actors,” Rosenberg added. “But I also understand the anger and frustration of members who want a strike authorization as our best way to improve this unacceptable deal while the board has thrown the process into confusion.”

The boycott came to light last week after a significant number of SAG members received a pair of anonymous emails forwarded by national board member Frances Fisher. In her email, Fisher asked that her name and email be removed if the recipient chose to forward the letters.

In response, former SAG president and current board member Richard Masur compared the anonymous email to a blacklist and called on Fisher to repudiate it. The anonymous email singled out Josh Brolin (who was nominated for “Milk”), Kevin Spacey (“Recount”), Susan Sarandon (“Bernard and Doris”), Michael C. Hall (“Dexter”), Sally Field (“Brothers and Sisters”), Alec Baldwin (“30 Rock”), Steve Carell (“The Office”) and Tony Shalhoub (“Monk”).

“If I were a regular, ordinary, not-rich-and-famous actor, and if I wanted my union to be strong so it could fight for me … would I want to give any of these rich-and-famous union-underminers my vote?” one of the anonymous emails said. “Would I want my union to give them such an honor — my union’s ultimate stamp-of-approval? I would remember those names when I began to mark my ballot.”

Masur said there has never in its 15-year history been an attempt to politicize the SAG Awards.

“These awards were conceived of as an opportunity for actors to be honored by their peers,” he added. “The sole criterion for the awarding of these honors has been artistic achievement. That must continue to be the case. The SAG Awards have meant a great deal to the members, the guild and the SAG Foundation, as well as all the honorees. It would be a shame if this worthy process were to be sullied by this political manipulation.”

Masur said Fisher should send out a message to everyone to whom she sent the email with an apology and a condemnation. “That would go a long way toward repairing the perception that she meant to support and encourage this kind of outrageous blacklisting,” he added.

Fisher was not available for comment. But SAG’s awards committee issued a statement condemning the anonymous email.

“The Screen Actors Guild Awards has always been and will always remain nonpolitical,” the panel said. “It is unfortunate that a few people have chosen to attempt to politicize our annual salute to excellence in our profession. We know actors value outstanding performances and cherish their yearly opportunity to commend the good work of their peers above all else. We look forward to celebrating the achievements of our nominees on Jan. 25.”

The flap over the awards boycott momentarily diverted SAG-watchers attention from the looming showdown at Monday’s emergency national board meeting.

The removal of the current negotiating committee could help break the months-long stalemate between SAG and the congloms over the feature-primetime master contract. But that won’t occur without a fight from guild supporters of the authorization, who lost their board majority in September and may attempt to persuade the board to send out the congloms’ final offer to members — but with a “vote no” recommendation.

SAG leaders have insisted that the authorization — which requires 75% support among those voting — will give the guild more leverage in its contract negotiations with Hollywood’s majors. Opponents, including George Clooney and Tom Hanks, have contended that a strike threat should not be considered given the economic crisis.

The authorization ballot was to be sent out Jan. 2, but after protests from SAG’s New York board and nearly 2,000 members, Rosenberg delayed the start of the three-week referendum process and skedded the board meeting to address the dissent. He noted Sunday that 97% of the board had voted in October to support the authorization if mediation failed.

“The idea of mounting a vote no campaign is almost absurd,” Rosenberg said. “We should have been out with a strike authorization by now.”

Supporters of the authorization have asserted repeatedly that the new-media terms of the congloms’ final offer will lead to the eventual elimination of residuals — a contention that’s widely derided by the companies, noting that the DGA, WGA, AFTRA and IATSE have agreed to similar terms.

SAG’s website lists 3,800 members who support the strike authorization, including Mel Gibson, Holly Hunter and Martin Sheen.

The two-day meeting is scheduled to begin this morning at SAG headquarters with dueling demonstrations planned prior to the session — one by Membership First supporters of the authorization and another by below-the-line crew members opposed to a strike.

More Film

  • Nardjes A.

    ‘Invisible Life’s’ Karim Ainouz Drops Trailer for 'Nardjes A.’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    On Feb. 14 last year, Karim Aïnouz arrived in Algeria to trace via the story of his parents the Algerian Revolution which happened 60 years ago – its 1954-62 War of Independence from France. The uprising he very quickly started to shoot, however, was one happening right then, the Revolution of Smiles, whose first street [...]

  • Call of the Wild

    Harrison Ford in 'The Call of the Wild': Film Review

    Dogs, in their rambunctious domesticated way, can lead us overly civilized humans a step or two closer to the natural world. So it’s only fitting that the best dog movies have saluted that unruly canine spirit without a lot of artificial flavoring. Hollywood’s classic dog tales, like “Old Yeller” (1957) or “Lassie Come Home” (1943), [...]

  • Adventures of a Mathematician

    Indie Sales Unveils Trailer For 'Adventures of a Mathematician' (EXCLUSIVE)

    In the run up to Berlin’s European Film Market, Indie Sales has unveiled the trailer for Thor Klein’s “Adventures of a Mathematician” which had its world premiere in Palm Springs. The film tells the inspiring true story of a Polish-Jewish mathematician who got a fellowship at Harvard and went on to join the prestigious Manhattan [...]

  • Sonic (Ben Schwartz) in SONIC THE

    How Internet Backlash Helped 'Sonic the Hedgehog' Avoid Box Office Disaster

    It’s not a stretch to say Universal’s “Cats” and Paramount’s “Sonic the Hedgehog” had two of the most polarizing movie trailers in recent memory. Both caught fire online for all the wrong reasons after fans on social media torched the questionable CGI. “Cats,” an adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, used a new science called [...]

  • Neumond Berlin Germany Restaurant

    Berlin Offers Diversity in Restaurant Scene

    Berlin Film Festival attendees have a chance to sample the diverse cuisine of a foodie city. Some of the top pics for a pre-film repast: Adana Grillhaus  A hugely popular Turkish restaurant in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, Adana Grillhaus now has a second location right around the corner. Manteuffelstr. 86 +49 30 6127790 Skalitzer Str. 105 [...]

  • Mariette Rissenbeek Berlin Film Festival Executive

    Mariette Rissenbeek Faces Challenges as Berlin Festival Executive Director

    Making her debut as the new executive director of the Berlin Film Festival this year, Mariette Rissenbeek is facing some big challenges after taking over management duties at one of the world’s biggest public film fests. Rissenbeek and new artistic director Carlo Chatrian succeed Dieter Kosslick, who left an indelible mark on the fest after [...]

  • my salinger year

    Berlin Festival's New Selection Committee Takes Off

    Berlin’s new seven-member selection committee — four women and three men — comprises the core of new director Carlo Chatrian’s programming staff, which is led Canadian critic Mark Peranson. Peranson was the Locarno Film Festival’s chief of programming when Chatrian headed that Swiss festival. This year, Berlin is opening with “My Salinger Year,” starring Sigourney [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content