WORKING HARD? HARDLY WORKING: No sooner has the writers’ strike ended than the drum roll has begun for an actors’ strike that could keep everybody home for the summer, and making Hollywood seem like France – with worse food but bigger portions. According to a Los Angeles Times story from late last month, George Clooney and Tom Hanks even visited the home of Screen Actors Guild President Alan Rosenberg to encourage him to start negotiating.
You can’t help but imagine the scene – Hanks leaning back on the couch sweetly telling Rosenberg that no one wants to go on strike, while Clooney stalks around the room picking up fragile objects and tossing them into the air, feigning dropping them while saying “Yeah, Alan – no one wants another strike. No one wants to get hurt, know what I mean?” The reported presence of Sally Field and Rob Lowe at the same meeting makes the resemblance to a badly-written comic thriller even more striking.
An even more serious development was a petition by prominent SAG members - Kevin Bacon, Glenn Close, Ben Affleck and Ethan Hawke were apparently among the signatories – asking the guild to implement “qualified voting,” a move that “could disqualify many if not most of the guild's 120,000 members from voting on the principal contract,” according to the Times. One can’t help but wonder just what would qualify a SAG member for membership in this elite group: At least two Oscar nominations? A ranch in Montana? An executive producer’s credit on a Steven Soderbergh film? An invitation to sleep over at the Clinton White House?
“I'm totally against the idea," Rosenberg told the Times. "It disenfranchises ... people who are already marginalized.” One hopes, however, that Rosenberg doesn’t own any racehorses, or a very large bed with silk sheets. That’s one film that you can be sure most of the people who’ve signed the petition have seen.
A Reuters story this week reported that the industry is already hedging its bets, with insurers showing reluctance to cover films set to shoot into the summer, and that Steven Spielberg has already called off his film about the Chicago Seven, which was set to start in April (just in case you thought this didn’t have any upside), while Michael Bay is playing chicken with fate, going ahead with the production of his Transformers sequel.
The guild said on Tuesday that it would offer waivers to independent productions allowing them to employ union talent if the strike goes ahead, providing that they accept the terms of any interim deal, and the final settlement should the strike be resolved. Several independent producers have already signed waiver contracts with SAG, and once this news was transmitted from agent to chauffeur to personal assistant from Burbank to Santa Monica, Los Angeles rang out with the cry: Sundance is saved!