Desperate times call for desperate measures, and it would appear that the Oscars are feeling desperate enough following the whole Kevin Hart drama (a drama completely of its own making) to start lashing out at other, smaller awards shows. Or at least that’s what the SAG Awards claim.
SAG-AFTRA, the actual and integral labor union behind the SAG Awards, claims that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the body behind the Oscars, is putting pressure on A-listers not to present at any other awards ceremonies if they want to present (and get guaranteed airtime) at the Oscars ceremony, in March.
“We have received multiple reports of these activities and have experienced firsthand the Academy’s graceless pressure tactics and attempts to control the awards show talent pipeline,” said SAG-AFTRA in a statement. “Awards season is a very special time when actors and actresses are being appropriately celebrated and recognized for the outstanding quality of their work. We would expect the Academy to honor these goals.”
They didn’t stop there. The statement also calls the Oscars’ alleged behavior “self-serving intimidation” and “outrageous and unacceptable.”
“We call on the Academy to cease this inappropriate action,” the statement concluded.
Of course, when you mess with an actual labor union, you should expect to get a response befitting an actual labor union.
As for all that A-list acting talent that the Oscars want to keep from appearing on the show—the union also represents any dues-paying actor who has ever booked a role, and helps provide and safeguard things like fair working practices, fair pay, and health insurance for its members. The money that the SAG Awards get from its broadcast on TNT and TBS not only helps support the operations of the union but also helps fund the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, which provides “vital assistance and free educational programming” to its members, and benefits the public at large with a child literacy project. While most of the major awards show are put on by nonprofits or guilds, trying to prevent talent from appearing as presenters at the SAG Awards is sort of like asking them to turn their back on their own union and colleagues. It’s also sort of shocking considering that actors (all of whom would be members of SAG) make up the largest block of Academy members.
The Hollywood Reporter points out that the Oscars have been pulling the same tactics with the Golden Globes for years, or at least attempting to. “They've done it for years,” a Globes source told the outlet, “but we used to be able to have Dick Clark Productions or NBC smooth things over.”
Of course, it’s no wonder why the Oscars would be increasing those tactics this year—they’re hostless, after all. Trying to put a de facto exclusivity clause on presenting talent is certainly one way to make up for it (the Oscars are also reportedly attempting to reunite actors from The Avengers to add some flare to their broadcast). A feud with the Globes makes sense, sure, but with SAG? Not only does it give off the optics of picking on a labor union, but it’s not like they’re really big competition anyway. Last year, the SAG Awards were beaten in the ratings by Real Housewives of Atlanta and essentially tied with TLC’s Sister Wives. The SAG Awards (this year on January 27) also air weeks before the Oscars (on February 24). Which is all to say, the Academy probably has bigger problems to worry about right now…like trying to get a jump start on recruiting next year’s host.