Clooney Can’t Solve the Actor Strike

Alas, the Clooney plan will not end this strike.
Alas, the Clooney plan will not end this strike. Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images
Matthew Belloni
October 20, 2023

No, George Clooney will not save us. That would’ve been a nice Hollywood ending for this tragic SAG-AFTRA strike. One of our great movie stars, parachuting in with Scarlett Johansson, Emma Stone, and a bottle of Casamigos at perhaps the lowest point of the nearly 100-day impasse, a week after the studio heads walked out of negotiations in response to a request to add a payment for each streaming subscriber. Logline: Our hero boldly proposes a winning formula that, against all odds, persuades the stalemated union and leads to a fantastic new deal. Cue the fanfare!

Alas, the Clooney plan will not end this strike. It doesn’t even make sense. On a Zoom meeting Tuesday with SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher and lead negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, Clooney and others proposed removing the cap on member dues (it’s now at $1 million in earnings), which he said would generate $50 million annually for the guild from its high-earning members, and switching up the hierarchy so lower-paid actors get residuals first. The move, he argued, would throw the needed dough into the financial hole that the guild is struggling to fill via negotiations with the AMPTP.

That $150 million over three years would be nice, of course, and might lead to better benefits—like healthcare supplements for those who don’t earn enough to trigger coverage—not to mention a ton of goodwill toward the marquee stars who would fund them. But it’s a symbolic gesture, a very expensive bone to throw at the proletariat, and entirely irrelevant to the issues in this negotiation. The guild negotiating committee took a look at the proposal in a follow-up call and was extremely skeptical, I’m told. Drescher also shot it down in an Instagram post tonight. Plus, it’s not even legal for individual members to fund health care benefits; employee benefit plans must be funded by employers. And raising the cap on member pension and health contributions is actually part of the current SAG-AFTRA proposal. “This is super well-intentioned and we appreciate ideas from all our members, but it doesn’t solve the problem,” Crabtree-Ireland told me tonight.