Tuesday 12 December 2017

Stellar cast in $130m actors' union case

George Clooney
George Clooney
Helen Mirren

Nick Allen Los Angeles

GEORGE CLOONEY and Helen Mirren are among a host of Hollywood stars named as potential witnesses in a bitter legal case in which the actors' union is being accused of failing to properly distribute up to $130m (€96m) in payments to its members.

More than two dozen people, including Julie Andrews, Colin Firth, Justin Timberlake and Natalie Portman, are included on a list of possible witnesses in the case brought against the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA.) The case is being pursued by Ed Asner (83), a former union president in the 1980s.

Asner has won more Emmys than any other male actor and became a household name in the 1970s playing Lou Grant in 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'.

More recently, he voiced the lead character in Disney's animated film 'Up'.

More than a dozen fellow plaintiffs, who together call themselves The United Screen Actors Committee, have joined the suit. They include Clancy Brown, who played the bullying guard Byron Hadley in 'The Shawshank Redemption', and others who have worked on TV series including 'The West Wing', 'X-Files', 'Beverly Hills 90210', and 'Murder, She Wrote'.

The list of stars named as potential witnesses also includes Jamie Lee Curtis, Carol Burnett, Ozzy Osbourne and Harry Connick Jr, along with representatives of the estates of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando and Heath Ledger.

The union, which is adamant it has done nothing wrong, collects residual payments when films and television episodes starring its members are shown outside the US. Payments are distributed on a quarterly basis to any performer who has accrued at least $10 (€7.40) in foreign payments.


In lengthy legal submissions Asner and his fellow plaintiffs refer to an "extreme web these parties have woven to steal money that rightfully belongs to US performers". They accuse SAG-AFTRA of "secreting" money in a trust, generating millions in interest for more than a decade, and claim that the amount has "skyrocketed" to more than $130m(€96m).

Lawyers for the union say the case has "no merit" and are seeking to have it dismissed at a hearing on October 7 in LA.

The union says it is "very proud" of its programme to collect foreign residuals which has "single-handedly delivered to our members more than $15m from foreign collections that would otherwise have been lost forever".

It said: "This is not the 'big' case that plaintiffs portray. At most it is a speculative claim by no more than 17 of the 160,000 members of SAG-AFTRA that they may be owed a very small amount of money." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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