Sunday, January 11, 2009

SAG A-List Blacklist

The dark times at SAG just got darker. This time, the culprit is an email being circulated that advocates a No vote on awards for stars who oppose a strike authorization. Among the targets: Alec Baldwin, Josh Brolin, Steve Carell, Sally Field, Michael C. Hall, Susan Sarandon, Tony Shalhoub, and Kevin Spacey. The email urges SAG members not to vote for those stars in the upcoming SAG awards, for which they’ve been nominated.

Meanwhile, in another sign of how SAG politics have divided Hollywood, a rally is set for this Monday, January 12, at the commencement of the SAG national board meeting in LA. The rally, occurring 8:30 a.m. at SAG’s 5757 Wilshire Blvd. headquarters, is organized by location manager and Teamsters member Scott Bigbee, in support of SAG actors who oppose a strike. Bigbee notes that the rally is not organized by the Teamsters union itself, and is hoping that attendees will include members of all Hollywood unions and others who would be affected by a strike.

The author of the blacklist email is unknown, although one prominent SAG board member, Frances Fisher, did forward the email to some SAG members. Fisher apparently forwarded the email without comment, and told another SAG member that she was not taking a position on the email’s proposed tactic. In that case, it is unclear why she forwarded the email. An attempt to reach Fisher via email was unsuccessful as of the time this article was posted.

For its part, SAG itself came out against the email. The Guild’s Awards Show Committee stated that the SAG Awards have “always been and will always remain non-political,” and added that it was “unfortunate that a few people have chosen to attempt to politicize” the awards.

At least one recipient of the email, Julie Garfield, compared it to the 1940’s-50’s blacklist of alleged communists in Hollywood—a blacklist that brought down her father, leading man John Garfield, and, apparently, contributed to his death of a heart attack at age 39. That blacklist involved investigation by Congress’s House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) and wiretaps and surveillance by government agents.

The comparison seems a bit extreme, with all respect to Julie and her family’s heartrending experience, but the point is not lost: for someone (anonymous, no less) to urge a blacklist of fellow actors for taking a legitimate position on a union issue seems inimical to the spirit of the SAG Awards and the principle that unions are supposed to (try to) unite. It’s a sign how divided the Guild is that the pro-strikers’ bare knuckle politics have led to this.

I’ll be speaking more about SAG this Thursday, on the Ninety Nine Seats podcast. You can also subscribe to my blog ( for more about SAG, or digital media law generally. Go to the blog itself to subscribe via RSS or email. You can also follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook, or subscribe to my Huffington Post articles.


  1. I am Michael C. Hall fan and I am hoping that he gets an award this time -- he deserves it. I didn't know this list existed, but looking at the list, he is in very good company.

  2. Blacklist? I hardly think these actors are going to lose any work over this letter, Jonathan and you know it. Stop being an idiot and pawn of U4S. You don't need the Guild anymore? You can't support it when it needs you most and after all it's done for you?

    Well, then ... perhaps some people in the Guild might return the favor. It's that simple. No blacklist. Stop BSing your readers.

  3. I am not surprised by a blacklist. I was threatened today by a group of sag extremist who also told me they would try to have me blacklisted from the business because I am against a SAG strike. I know they have zero ability to do this so I did not take their rants too seriously, however, I was disturbed that these sag members do not even care to hear another point of view. We are all entitled to our opinions and to use blacklist scare tactics is pathetic.

  4. You hit the nail on the head. If you do not agree with these people, then you are the "bad" person. That has been their method for years.

    They are children in the playground, taunting the kids who are not with their "side." The foolish behavior they seem to take pride in is an insult to anyone who truly cares about member rights more than the ego driven desire to be proven right no matter what.

    As to the other Anonymous posted here first, that vitriol loaded email and call to members wasn't about work or blocking actors from jobs. It was asking SAG members to NOT vote for other actors for SAG Awards because they did not agree with the current SAG direction and leadership.

    Referring to that email as if it is of no consequence means a few things. (1) That you are in agreement with current SAG leadership, may actually be one of them, and you are using this platform to try and make people believe there was nothing to it. (2) That you never read that email and are just reacting. Odds are low for this option since you use the phrase "pawn of U4S" which is pretty much a standard claim coming fr om those leading us over a cliff right now. (3) Calling Handel an idiot shows you are someone to be ignored, just as one would choose to ignore a childish bully who has nothing to contribute except angry words and fists in the air - probably your own hot air.

    If you cannot debate, speak intelligently, and present a position without stooping to elementary school tactics, do not waste people's time.