THE BLOG
02/10/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

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 (jhandel.com) 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.