EXCLUSIVE: There’s rarely anything spontaneous in Hollywood when it involves powerful actors and powerful moguls. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a carefully orchestrated campaign is about to get underway in the trades and mainstream press to pressure (and no doubt demonize as strike-militant before too long) SAG president Alan Rosenberg and national executive director Doug Allen (aka “the football guy”) along the same lines that WGAW president Patric Verrone and WGAW executive director Dave Young (aka “the garmento guy) were. (SEE UPDATE BELOW WITH SAG BOARD MEMBER’S UNOFFICIAL RESPONSE)
I hear that on Thursday the trades will carry an ad signed by George Clooney, Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro, and others trying to push the SAG leaders to start negotiations early. Also, Matt Damon, Reese Witherspoon, Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, etc will begin making phone calls to SAG leadership on Friday. Also, a piece on this subject has been signed by Hanks and Clooney and submitted to the Los Angeles Times Op-Ed page. (Question: Don’t LAT editors ever ask who was the actual author of a piece like this? I was recently told “no”.)
Next Tuesday, News Corp No. 2 Peter Chernin and Disney CEO Bob Iger are taking out an ad in the trades responding to the Clooney ad and will invite SAG/AFTRA in for early informal conversations. How interesting that this campaign kicking off coincides with complaints from Hollywood CEOs that they fear starting principal photography on movies if the actors will walk come June. As the WGA talks drew to a close, top agents said privately they would now focus all their energies on averting a SAG strike. Then, at last week’s luncheon for Oscar nominees, Clooney sounded off about his guild.
Right now, no SAG-mogul talks have yet been scheduled on the contract that expires June 30. But at least Rosenberg and Allen have been learning from the trials and tribulations that the WGA went through at the hands of the Hollywood CEOs. One of the first problems they’ll face is whether SAG should institute a “qualified voting” earnings threshold requirement. (Ever since the extras union merged with SAG to strengthen the guild, only a third of SAG’s 120,000 members earn more than $1,000 as SAG actors. But now the elite working actors want to take away the right of all SAG members to vote on the guild’s major contracts. The WGA went through something similar years ago.) A two-week-old petition has circulated among SAG’s working TV and film actors. Rosenberg and Allen will be meeting next week with reps from the petition group.
UPDATE: A SAG board member responds to me unofficially about the A-list pressure: “SAG W & W (wages & working conditions) meetings are taking place practically everyday at 5757 Wilshire Blvd. This is where the membership talks with the SAG leadership about what they’d like changed in the contract. Talks with the AMPTP, even informal ones, would be premature until this process is over. (It concludes the end of February). I also find it disingenuous that the people listed as “pressuring SAG to go in early” are NOT participating in this contract talk process with their union, nor do you hear them speaking about any of the possible deal points in their comments to the press. Attendance of the W & W meetings is open to any actor with a current SAG card. It seems to be a very naive request to blindly call for early talks while we’re 1) four months from our contract expiration, 2) only halfway through the w&w process, 3) have it handled. Doug Allen and Alan Rosenberg, in addition to our negotiation committee chairs, know what they are doing. Nobody is gunning for a strike. The focus is squarely upon composing a collection of needs for the acting community to be negotiated with our employers. The panic is unnecessary.”