Nominees to SAG: Let us vote

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The SAG leadership got a kick in the rear end Thursday morning from several outspoken Emmy nominees commenting on the guild's stalemate with the studios.

Kevin Spacey said he firmly believes that now's not the time for a strike and that he hopes the SAG leadership sends the deal to the membership to a vote.

"There are 120,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild, and I hope at the end of the day … the majority of them will have a level head about this and not fight for things in three years' time that you can renegotiate," he said. "If you're not happy about them in three years, renegotiate. But right now, let's get back to work."

Spacey said the new-media issues won't come to a head during the life of a three-year contract anyway.

"If the issues are DVD and new media, no one's going to be making billions of dollars in new media in the next three years. If you don't like it in three years' time, go back and renegotiate it. But let's not go on strike now over those issues. Let's get the town back to work," he said.

In his view, the actor added, "Let's try to recover from the damage that the writers strike did and, particularly in an economy that everyone is facing, that films are facing — it's incredibly difficult to raise money for films, particularly movies that are independent films under $10 million. It's incredibly difficult. Let's not make it any harder," he said.

Added Glenn Close: "People suffered because of the writers strike, and I can't imagine it being a healthy thing for the industry if we have to do it again," she said.

One hyphenate put the emphasis on the complexities of the issues as well as his own sympathy for the actors' position and for the demands that the union is seemingly holding out for.

"My thoughts on the subject are complicated: I deeply don't want there to be a strike," Bob Balaban said. "But some of the issues SAG is wrestling with are important, and I hope everybody comes to their senses and gives SAG what it deserves. I know SAG is being as accommodating as possible."

Several other actors, including Ted Danson and Kyra Sedgwick, also stressed their allegiance to SAG, but made a point of urging the union to come to terms with the AMPTP's offer for the sake of the long-term health of the industry.

"I am a union man," Danson said. "I have benefited a long time ago, from an insurance policy from SAG and AFTRA that saved my family's life. So I am a union man. But I hope for the sake of the town that we do not have a strike, that this is settled. The town is hurting way too much as a result of the writers strike. I'm keeping my fingers crossed."

"I feel really helpless about it and sad," Kyra Sedgwick said of a possible stoppage. "This state of California as well as the state of TV can't afford to have another strike right now. People are just getting back on their feet." She says she probably won't go the Emmys if there's a strike but thinks in her gut there won't be one.

If there is no deal by September, one of the touchy issues will be whether actors see fit to cross the picket lines and attend the Emmy awards show at the Nokia theater in downtown Los Angeles on Sept. 21.

Neil Patrick Harris, who has been in Europe for the past few weeks, said he would not attend the Emmys if there were a SAG strike. "Obviously we wouldn't be able to do any of it. It would be weird to cross the picket lines to go to an awards show."

Christina Applegate opined that she thought none of her actor friends would go against the union, were it to come to that: "That seems so far off from now. No one can take a strike for that long again, so hopefully if SAG does strike, it's quick and painless, for our economy and crew. It would be financially painful for everyone. If, god forbid, there is a strike I hope it's a quick one. Let's get this thing done."

As for what might happen next, Jean Smart of "Samantha Who?" took an upbeat view that also encompassed other players in the biz who would be affected by a walkout. "I think cooler heads will prevail. So many people suffered so badly during the writers strike. We always forgot how vendors and crews that work on movies and shows suffer irreparable harm, and it's something we have to take in to consideration."

Despite a two-hour off-the-record sidebar session between the SAG leaders and the studios Wednesday afternoon at the latter's headquarters in Sherman Oaks, the de facto impasse between the two sides has not of yet been broken. Sources on both sides of the table suggested that next to nothing was accomplished by the face-off.

Concretely though it's anyone's guess what the next moves by the parties are.

SAG has a membership meeting on Saturday, which some union folks are downplaying as just a regularly scheduled update session. Others are adamant that the gathering will be compelled to map out the crucial next steps in the union's dealing with AMPTP's standing offer.

On Thursday, the guild's national executive director and chief negotiator Doug Allen sent a four-page letter to members explaining that the leadership hasn't accepted the offer because it does not properly address the needs of actors, especially in new media.

While the DGA and WGA contracts set the template for contracts, Allen reminded members those don't rep actors and their deals don't protect SAG members.

"Management's resistance is frustrating, but we have to be patient," Allen concluded. "The stakes are too high to concede jurisdiction and residuals for programs made for new media. That future is now and, if we ignore it, it will pass actors by and this generation and future generations of actors will never recover."

Later in the day the AMPTP responded to SAG's letter by suggesting that by refusing to accept the offer on the table, "SAG's negotiators are ensuring that the union members will continue to work indefinitely under the old contract" -- which does not include a single one of the gains in new media which are envisioned by the new contract offer.

Kimberly Nordyke, Leslie Simmons and Stephanie Robbins contributed to this report.
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