Focus is on honors, not the guild issues

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For the night of the SAG Awards, at least, warring factions within Hollywood's largest guild called a truce long enough to don the gowns and tuxedoes and pat one another on the back.

Still, the "pink elephant in the room," as one reporter phrased it backstage, was lumbering around the Shrine Auditorium.

As stars of TV and film trod the red carpet, several commented about the strife and the possibility the ceremony would be politicized.

"I'm totally against it," said JoBeth Williams, a SAG board member and chair of the SAG Awards show committee. "People can say whatever they want to say. … Tonight is a night that we all somehow manage to come together."

The guild's civil war bubbled into the SAG Awards a few weeks ago when an anonymous e-mail was forwarded by board member Frances Fisher suggesting that guild voters could punish nominated actors who publicly had supported the anti-strike-authorization vote movement by not voting for them. Those named included Michael C. Hall, Josh Brolin, Susan Sarandon and Steve Carell.

With evocations of the House Un-American Activities Committee blacklist reverberating, Fisher apologized, but the incident clearly was fresh in attendees' minds Sunday. Tony Shalhoub, who lost the male actor in a comedy series award to Alec Baldwin, another targeted nominee, was "stung, initially" by the e-mail.

"It just seemed like, especially in terms of the awards, it shouldn't be about politics at all," Shalhoub said before the ceremony.

Embattled SAG president Alan Rosenberg said on the red carpet that he wouldn't be doing any campaigning and didn't expect others to be. Onstage, Rosenberg commended unions in general and thanked the other Hollywood guilds with whom SAG has been in conflict during the past year. Otherwise, though, he kept his word.

Intentional or not, during the ceremony there was a pointed moment in an early montage of memorable screen work when a clip of Heath Ledger as the Joker appeared, with Ledger intoning, "If you're good at something, never do it for free." Take that, AMPTP.
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