Clooney enters the fray

Wants A-listers to sit with studios, up dues

If SAG and AFTRA were warring countries, then George Clooney would be Switzerland.

The actor released a two-page letter Thursday that gives a neutral position, laying out both sides of the battling unions' positions and focusing on the issues of the working actor.

"Both are, of course, right," Clooney wrote. "AFTRA feels that a work stoppage would be devastating to its members, and SAG believes that if they don't draw a line in the sand, the studios will repeat what they did with DVDs."

Clooney's statement is the first he has released since the talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers began and since he and several other high-profile union members took out ads shortly after the WGA strike ended, urging SAG and AFTRA to "just talk" with the studios and start negotiations early.

Clooney laid out some "fundamental facts" that both sides need to begin with, including that the DGA, WGA and IATSE already have set the contract model, minus DVD residuals, and that breaking that model would "retroactively break the other models."

He also took a page from SAG national executive director Doug Allen's NFL playbook, stating that the chief negotiator "has said on several occasions that this would be a negotiation for 'the linemen, not for the quarterbacks.' "

"The spirit of the statement isn't wrong, it's just the structure," the "Leatherheads" director and star wrote. "Unlike the NFL, in this guild, the quarterbacks protect the linemen. I've been very lucky in my career, which has put me in the place that I don't need a union to check on my residuals, or my pension, or to protect my 12-hour turnaround. I used to need that, and may again, but right now I don't.

"That means it's my responsibility to look out for actors who are trying to stay afloat from year to year," he added. "Anything less is irresponsible of me."

Clooney had a suggestion for the future: create a 10-member panel of influential A-listers such as Jack Nicholson and Tom Hanks to sit down with studio heads once a year — "10 people that the studio heads don't often say 'no' to" — who can bring in SAG and AFTRA data and adjust pay for the actors.

He also suggested that the unions raise the dues for actors who make "an exorbitant amount of money."

"Right now, there's a cap of 6,000 bucks that actors pay their union, based on $1 million in earnings," he wrote. "Make it $6,000 for every million. If someone makes $20 million, they pay $120,000 into the union. That could go a long way in helping pensions and health care. The quarterbacks have to do more."

In May, AFTRA brokered its tentative contract with the AMPTP without SAG for the first time in 27 years. Since then, SAG has campaigned to get its dual cardholder members — those who are both SAG and AFTRA members, which number about 44,000 — to vote down the AFTRA deal. Several A-list actors have taken sides in the debate. (partialdiff)