The Actors of Beasts of the Southern Wild Shafted by SAG Rules

Over at The Hollywood Reporter busy bee Scott Feinberg breaks the news that the actors from Beasts of the Southern Wild are ineligible for Screen Actors Guild awards either in the lead, supporting or ensemble categories.

That means there will be no precedent set in case Beasts wins any Oscars in lead actress or supporting since it’s impossible for them to win the SAG.  But lest we forget, SAG made history last year with the deserved wins of Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, the first two black actresses to win on the same night. But Oscar, sadly, did not choose to follow suit.  Insert disappointed sigh here.  Alas, it looks like the Great White Hope will dominate this year’s SAGs, unless somehow Django Unchained manages to take over.

Feinberg digs into the story, describing the level of difficulty in store in case the film wanted to become SAG-eligible to compete for those awards.

I can’t think of another incidence of a little tiny indie movie like this, made on a shoestring, gets enough attention that the SAG question is even asked, let alone that they were deemed ineligible.

When director Benh Zeitlin was asked for a quote he said “I’m positive they both have long and amazing acting careers in front of them.” If outside the box thinkers like Zeitlin keep making movies, yes.

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61 Comments

  1. Ben Z.
    October 1, 2012

    I’m kind of glad. The performances were the worst part of Beasts.

  2. akumax
    October 1, 2012

    “But Oscar, sadly, did not choose to follow suit”

    Here we go again… Sorry to reiterate:

    I always think in terms of good, better and best acting performance and after a few months I (and most of the voting members of the Academy) keep thinking that M. Streep gave the best performance and deserved her Academy Award very very much. I might also add that, in my opinion, Miss Davis gave the weakest performance of the five nominated and it was a supporting role.
    All that has nothing to do with being white or black, period.

    Regarding Beasts of the Southern Wild not being eligible for SAG awards: the film is not eligible because it wasn’t made under the terms of the Guild. Rules are rules, simply. How this translates into a matter of skin and race I really don’t know.

    “it looks like the Great White Hope will dominate this year’s SAGs”

    I don’t follow you, sorry.

  3. Sasha Stone
    October 1, 2012

    Not saying this is a race issue, just lamenting the lack of diversity. There wasn’t a way around it, I know, but why not more projects with people of color in general?

  4. Aragorn
    October 1, 2012

    Rule is a rule! They did not follow the rule so actors are ineligible. It is not like they changed the rules for these actors only…So whats the point? Just like if you were not born in the U.S. you cannot run for presidency. Again rule is a rule.

  5. brendon
    October 1, 2012

    There are no performances in this movie worthy of awards, so this is a non-story.

  6. Jake G!!!
    October 1, 2012

    Sasha, the trick is not minding.

  7. ChrisFlick
    October 1, 2012

    Actually Dwight Henry is very nomination-worthy in the Supporting category. He is the type of performer the category was established to honor, the character actor. I still expect he will be in the top five, assuming the movie has any traction. I find it difficult to gauge. As for SAG so what. No doubt there are many movies made outside those strictures. This one just happened to break out and get a profile.

  8. brendon
    October 1, 2012

    Dwight Henry’s performance is awful, though.

  9. John
    October 1, 2012

    Why is every post on this website about race? I’m looking for information about the Oscars because I’m a movie fan and all I see is race, race, race. You should rename this site “Race Daily.”

  10. lazarus
    October 1, 2012

    This perpetual persecution complex is getting tired.

  11. October 1, 2012

    Not racist, but merely the rules. And now with her candidacy officially all but finished, maybe it’s time to shine a spotlight on one of the best 5 performances by a child actor in a movie – Amandla Stenberg’s Rue (District 11 tribute) in The Hunger Games.

  12. Terometer
    October 1, 2012

    Viola Davis might get a very deserved razzi award for Won’t Back Down this year, That’s a katrina-livel performance, don’t you agree?

    “why not more projects with people of color in general?”
    Won’t Back Down in 2500 theatres. :)

  13. AnthonyP
    October 1, 2012

    If you’re not in the guild, then you’re not in the guild.
    I don’t see the shock. The SAG awards are for SAG members, right?

  14. AnthonyP
    October 1, 2012

    John,
    I prefer “White Guilt Daily” as an option.

  15. JS
    October 1, 2012

    So I think this ensures that the two actors get Oscar nominations, because if this news is seen by voters in the actors’ branch (which it probably will) then enough people will make a special effort to include Wallis and Henry on their ballots.

  16. October 1, 2012

    Statistically, this can’t be good for Beasts. No movie has won BP without being at least nominated for best ensemble. This movie now MUST become a passion vote among actors if it wants to go somewhere at the Oscars.

  17. TOM
    October 1, 2012

    The more we’re reminded of Viola’s deserved lose, the less interest I have of supporting ‘people of color.’ I saw Beasts and I like the girl’s performance. I bet your next option is bemeaning the intolerable rules of the ‘all-white’ SAG members.

  18. October 1, 2012

    The “Great White Hope” might deserve to dominate because it has delivered better movies and better performances. Have you ever thought about that?

    Sasha, perhaps you’d like to see “Won’t Back Down” winning every Best Picture and Supporting Actress award in existence. Or that Tyler Perry movie.

    Anthony is right. Lets call this site “White Guilt Daily”.

  19. unlikely hood
    October 1, 2012

    Wow! What a hurricane of haters! Here I thought these actors had it tough during the movie…

    All Sasha is saying is when in doubt, attempt to diversify. Y’all act as though bending over backwards to diversify never works, which goes to show you haven’t been following showbiz for very long.

    Eddie Murphy got his job on SNL through pure tokenism; if he was white, he wouldn’t have gotten it. He *saved* that show from 1981 to 1984 – everyone knows that (the other cast members hated that every skit was focused on Murphy and Piscopo). That show literally would have been cancelled, so if you like *anyone* whose career was made by it afterward, you should be thanking the kind of tokenism you’re now lamenting. There are a hundred other similar examples but why bother with such closed minds? If you want more such examples, ask me right here.

  20. rufussondheim
    October 1, 2012

    I support this decision because I am pro-union. It seems they could retroactively pay the actors more to comply with union standards but the management is too cheap.

    Maybe next time when the deals are signed and lots of money is on the table, they will pay the people what they are worth.

    And, the performance is the resume-builder, not the award.

  21. Aragon
    October 1, 2012

    According to ew.com they can still bring the movie under compliance. Question is will they???

    http://insidemovies.ew.com/2012/10/01/beasts-of-the-southern-wild-sag/

  22. Matt
    October 1, 2012

    You know, maybe film culture is dead. Such a maddening turn of events. What are two of the most original, mind blowing, stunning and vibrant performances of the year not eligible because the actors were just starting out, breathtaking from the first moment, without even a hint of a resume. Maybe it’s the rules but the rules are stupid. Any awarding performances of those who break though the ‘system’ to actually create something beautiful without the help of the establishment, like, you know, The Help, is entirely hypocritical. If I were an Oscar voter I would immediately put Beasts at the top of my ballot in picture, director, actress and supporting actress because of this total travesty and also because the film deserves it. This is just so frustrating.

  23. Matt
    October 1, 2012

    #actor, correction ‘supporting actor’, oh and also, this movie was made for a million bucks, which is still a lot of money if you think about it. And this says that movies on those kinds of budgets, can never hope to get recognition since the pay for actors can never get into the arena that established actors will make. How can they expect audiences to go see movies without a headlining actor or actress if even the sag can’t honor such I established performances. It is also testament to zeitlins brilliance as a director, he didn’t need Phoenix or Day Lewis or Lawrence or Hathaway, he found these beautiful people that were a part of that landscape and he drew incredible performances out of them. That is excellent directing. I hope the dga will at least honor that since the director is hopefully eligible.

  24. Hector M
    October 1, 2012

    Wow. Maybe I dont come to the site often enough to notice, but I didnt expect that wave of hate for Ms. Stone’s pointing out of the obvious. We all know actors of color have a hard time getting anywhere near close to the oscar race and she’s just pointing out that its sad that this makes it less likely that there will be any people of color nominated this year. Is this not something that should we all should find disappointing?

    I somewhat agree with one of the comments above that this fact shouldnt mean that movies like Wont Back Down or Madea’s christmas vacation part 6 should automatically be chosen over majority-white films of higher quality. Isn’t it sad that those are the some of the only films that black people can actually get a starting role in? Out of the hundreds of movies that come out every year there are, what, about 6 or 7 that actually have a primarily black cast.

    I applaud Ms. Stone for repeatedly reminding people of the fact that the oscars 9 times out of 10 are almost completely white. Maybe it’ll help convince some of the more talented filmmakers out there that they should try and give an actor of color a chance in their films every once in a while.

  25. Amanda
    October 1, 2012

    The bigger question should be “why does it matter?”. The movie not being able to be nominated for an award that ISN’T the Oscar shouldnt effect it getting nominated FOR the oscar. I realize that this is how it works but it isnt how it should work. If your movie, performances etc are good then prior awards shouldn’t matter. I know I live in a fantasy land that Oscar voters arent lazy assholes who votes can be bought by a good q &a and a nice dinner afterwards, but actually on the movie itself. I guess I just keep hoping that people will call them on their bullshit enough that things might change a little.

  26. MJS
    October 1, 2012

    Sasha has good reasons to point out race issues… sometimes, but it is getting a little annoying how it seems to show up in damn near every single post that she can find a way to fit it into. It’s like “the boy who cried wolf,” when she does come across a legitimate grievance people are just going to dismiss it as “Sasha getting bent out of shape about race again.

    As for the actual story, I’m supporting SAG on this one. They can’t claim to be an organization that supports actors welfare 364 days of the year and then give an award to a production that didn’t live up to these standards on the 365th day. They seem to be more than reasonable with their rule given that they let films retroactively come into compliance if they so choose.

  27. AnthonyP
    October 1, 2012

    I don’t anyone has a problem with Sasha lamenting the lack of black people in film. I think it’s just the frequency and predictability of her comments.
    Look at the heading of the previous post: “Seth MacFarlane – Not Your Mama’s Standard White Guy”.
    It is annoying to have a race card pulled out more than you’d like, but it’s her opinion and blog, so we can choose to stay or go.

    For example, her comment in this post bugged me a bit:
    “When in doubt, choose diversity”, which essentially means, “When in doubt, choose a non-white”.

    How about choose the best actor no matter the race.

  28. Thomas
    October 1, 2012

    Does Sasha realize that African-Americans are only 12.6% of the US population? From her blog, you would expect them to be over half the country. Exactly 10% of the acting nominees since 2000 have been black (24/240). So they’ve been only very slightly underrepresented.

    My favorite actors are Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, and Jim Broadbent. All three of these actors happen to be white males over the age of 40. By Sasha’s criteria, this makes me a racist.

  29. rufussondheim
    October 1, 2012

    Well, Thomas, you might be a racist. You merely saying you are not is insufficient evidence.

    Now let’s do a little test. What are the last ten movies you paid to see in a movie theater? Be honest. Now do these movies primarily have an all-white cast? Or are they minority majority casts?

    If you are like most people (I can tell by looking at Box Office results) that you probably see primarily white casts in movies aimed for white audiences.

    And that, by definition of the word, makes you racist.

  30. GoOnNow
    October 1, 2012

    Oh boy, the VPP again! (Viola Pitying Poem)…

    Poor Viola, you’re black and marginalized
    Poor Poor Viola, you’re black and you deserve to win
    Poor Viola, since Octavia is black and she won,
    you should’ve won too, because you’re black!

  31. Jake G!!!
    October 1, 2012

    This movie wont get nominated anyways so it doesn’t matter!

  32. Jake G!!!
    October 1, 2012

    And I dont like that you put down Meryl winning the Oscar last year. Her performance blew Viola Davis’s good but not great performance out of the water. How could you not want the best actress ever, I’m talking about Meryl, to win her third Oscar? It was much deserved.

  33. Thomas
    October 1, 2012

    @rufussondheim – Jesus I cannot believe you actually wrote that. Well, I saw The Help in theatres so I guess I’m not racist!

  34. rufussondheim
    October 1, 2012

    Seriously, what were the last ten movies you saw in the theater?

  35. bryan
    October 1, 2012

    I thought we were all elated last year when Meryl won! Now it’s sad that the Oscar didn’t go to Davis. Do you wish Davis would have won the Oscar last year?

  36. Thomas
    October 1, 2012

    The Master
    Trouble with the Curve
    Lawless
    The Campaign
    The Dark Knight Rises
    Brave
    Moonrise Kingdom
    The Intouchables
    The Dictator
    The Avengers

    Guess I’m a racist? Who knew!

  37. Craig Z
    October 2, 2012

    Davis deserved an Oscar, Spencer did not. Spencer wasn’t even the best supporting actress in her own film.

    Sasha you get too caught up on race.

  38. Pete
    October 2, 2012

    God, hate these arguments. One thing is eye opening about them, however. The people here bemoaning the “race card” and puffing their color blind cred are more often then not the same people who decry ANY African-American’s Oscar nod as “tokenism” or “political correctness” without explaining just what their anger is based on. Jonah Hill getting an Oscar nod us much more of a travesty than Dwight Henry potentially not getting one when all us said and done.

  39. October 2, 2012

    Rule is a rule is a rule

  40. Zooey
    October 2, 2012

    First of all, Meryl DESERVED it.

    Second: the precent is set. Marcia Gay Harden was eligible for a SAG nod, didn’t get it and WON on Oscar night.

    Third: There is a film that won best picture without a SAG ensemble nod. BRAVEHEART! And it won without a PGA nod as well.

  41. Craig Z
    October 2, 2012

    Pete, so now you are implying I’m racist? Way to take the high ground.

  42. brendon
    October 2, 2012

    A movie on a million dollar budget can be a SAG movie — SAG has a sliding scale of rates based on budget — even $500 short films can be SAG productions.

    The filmmakers of BotSW CHOSE not to work with the union, CHOSE not to pay their actors a union rate. And now, despite the buttloads of cash this movie has made, they’re probably not going to retroactively make their film a SAG film, thus denying their actors the chance to be nominated (and more importantly) denying them the chance to be paid a fair rate for their work.

    If anyone’s to blame here, it’s the filmmakers of Beasts of the Southern Wild, which I should add is a horrible, deeply racist film.

  43. Pierre de Plume
    October 2, 2012

    I always get suspicious when people jump to finger-pointing and accusing others of “making it about race.” It makes me wonder whether imbedded racism is behind the touchiness.

    I agree with Sasha. My only divergent point of view is that Streep deserved her Oscar in that I thought she did a better job of acting. But, truth be told, Davis deserved it, too, as her performance dominated that film whether it was supporting or not. And she no doubt had a tougher time getting to a point where she could even get the role. And that’s the overriding point of what I think Sasha is saying.

  44. Pete
    October 2, 2012

    Craig,

    Re-read the phrase “more often than not” and then ask yourself why exactly do you think I am placing YOU in the “often” category. In fact, I never used the word “racist”. I simply pointed out that some Oscar watchers get unusually angry at any African-American Oscar nominee and declare them undeserved or tokens or whatnot without explaining their reasoning.

    Brendon,

    If you change nothing about Beasts, nothing in the script, none of the production values, nothing in the performances, but changed the lead characters to a white father and daughter, would you be decrying the film as “racist”? Think not.

  45. rufussondheim
    October 2, 2012

    Yes, Thomas, it appears you are most likely a racist. You see, racism isn’t about liking or disliking black people (or any other minority), it’s about power. And Money is power. And in this instance it’s about how you choose to spend your money. If you use your money to support primarily white cast films than you are technically a racist.

    We all like to chastise Hollywood for being racist, for not making more films with minority casts or about minority cultures. But Hollywood is merely a reflection of the films all of us choose to see, where we put our money.

    So many people like to say “Hey, I’m not racist” but they don’t bother to look at their own actions. And in this case it’s very easy to see if you are racist or not merely by looking at how you choose to spend your money.

    The vast majority of us are racists. It’s the truth. And this is just one example.

  46. steve50
    October 2, 2012

    While I agree that Hollywood is just as racist (and sexist and ageist, etc) as the rest of the general public and provides them strictly with what they want to see, I do agree that the rules are being followed here. There would be a reverse firestorm if they made an exception.

    Let’s see if the AMPAS voters just skip the SAG-nom tradition simply because they can for Oscar (true?).

  47. October 2, 2012

    Of course a similar situation happens with screenplays being ineligible for WGA awards unless they’re written by WGA members — that’s why Tarantino is never nominated for WGA honors.

    But the SAG award situation is more damaging because it’s so high-profile and SAG campaigns often involve thousands of screeners. Plus, Behn Zeitlin isn’t Tarantino. For better or worse.

  48. rufussondheim
    October 2, 2012

    I would love to know how much money we are talking here. How much money would it take to retroactively pay the actors union rates? Time to do some research on this rainy morning.

  49. rufussondheim
    October 2, 2012

    Well it appears that the weekly rate for the actors would be 1752 bucks. I haven’t seen the movie, so I have no idea how many of the actors would be needed weekly. But IMDB lists 17 actors. So I am going to assume that all of them were needed the whole shoot.

    Now I also couldn’t find how long the movie shot. So I am going to guess it was 6 weeks, which is a somewhate standard time for low budget indie films (the entire budget was 1.8 Million Dollars (according to wikipedia.)

    And then there are extras, which I couldn’t find a current pay rate. but in 2003 it was 115 bucks a day. I am going to assume the current rate is now 130 bucks a day. How many extras this film used and for how many days is beyond me.

    But from these estimations, the entire budget for the cast would be 6 * 17 * 1752 plus any budget for the extras. I am going to assume that they needed about 200 extras an average of one day. – so that comes out to 26,000 dollars.

    So if you total all of this up, that’s about a total cast budget of just under $100,000 dollars. Now of course, that’s to pay the cast SAG rates. We don’t know what they were actually paid. So even if we assume the actors were paid nothing, it would cost 100K to bring them up to the wages they would need to be SAG award eligible.

    And, if you didn’t know, the movie has over 11 million in box office receipts. And that’s before DVD/PPV/Cable fees are thrown in.

    Hmm, it seems like the producers should be able to afford this pretty easily.

  50. October 2, 2012

    How much money would it take to retroactively pay the actors union rates?

    Interesting. Is that a workable real-world solution?

  51. rufussondheim
    October 2, 2012

    Yes, Ryan. One of the articles pointed out that it’s even been done in the past for other movies.

    The problem, they said, is that this film has a fairly complex distribution deal with foreign markets. And apparently with each foreign market deal the actors should get a kickback of that deal. And in this film, because of the contracts signed, they currently do not. But it can all be retroactively fixed. Whether the companies do this is beyond me (although I think it would be silly for them not to at this point, because now it looks like they are screwing over the cast a second time depriving them the chance to win influential awards.)

    I’m not an entertainment lawyer, obviously, but I stand by my calculations above. It would cost them a maximum of 100K to bring it up to snuff before foreign deals, which is a small sum compared to the money that’s being made.

  52. Craig Z
    October 2, 2012

    Pete, of course you didn’t say “racist” that’s why I said you implied it. This is why people apparently can’t say they think a black Oscar winner is undeserving.

  53. keifer
    October 2, 2012

    If the actors are not SAG members, then they are ineligible for a nomination.

    I agree with the ruling.

    AMPAS is selected by AMPAS membership.
    SAG is selected by SAG membership.
    Critics awards are selected by individual critics who belong to a particular association.

    I get more upset about the AMPAS rule concerning a film being shown in the LA area for 2 weeks in the voting year. Why so snooty? If a film plays in New York for 2 weeks, why shouldn’t it be eligible?

  54. Pete
    October 2, 2012

    Craig, I said that people whine about black Oscar nominees with an anger that is hard to explain.

  55. cyanic
    October 2, 2012

    Fuck all you Meryl Streep cocksuckers.

  56. AnthonyP
    October 3, 2012

    Wow, cyanic. Sounds like a drunken post.

  57. Diego
    October 3, 2012

    “Fuck all you Meryl Streep cocksuckers.”

    Huh?

    I didn’t know Meryl has a pecker!

    Well. bless her.

  58. Nic V
    October 3, 2012

    I think it would be in all of our best interests to stop calling people racists. You don’t the individual you’re calling a racist and have no idea whether they are or not. And I’m not talking about Sasha’s post or her one line guilt thing. And before you imply I might be a racist Russ I paid to see Red Tails. And I enjoyed it thought it could have been a lot better and that maybe a black director would have brought more to the project but I liked it. It was helluva lot better than the Medea crap we see. Honestly I haven’t been able to sit through one Medea film. And I’ve tried. Yet for some reason I’ve always enjoyed Martin Lawrence’s Big Mama stuff so who knows.

    As for Django well I saw a few shots from it and I wasn’t impressed but it wasn’t even enough to call it a trailer. So I’m still hoping. However there was one thing that really struck me and it was Jamie Foxx in this bright royal blue zoot suit and I thought to myself “geez Quenton why didn’t you park a cadillac nearby”. I know he has a penchant for color but boy if you wanted to get a real slap in the face regarding profiling that suit did it.

    As for Beasts the fact is this is a small film, not even on the scale of The Hurt Locker. Beasts is surviving because it’s good and it has a very good cast. If it didn’t it wouldn’t even make the prediction lists. It would have been forgotten by now. But it’s not.

    With that said the rules are indeed the rules. Making it appear to be a “white” decision kinda is also like a slap in the face as well. Let’s be honest actors are really very liberal I know I’ve worked with a lot of them so too even go the “white” thing with SAG is a real stretch.

    The public, not just the black public or the white public or the whatever group you want to call them has accepted the talent, and I want to reiterate that word; TALENT, of thespians like Jamie Foxx, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Trevor Howard, Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine, Martin Lawrence, Denzel, Sidney, Ruby, Ossie, Danny, James, and the list can go on and on. Give me a good film and I don’t care if the cast is purple, of course if they are chances are Tarantino would end up directing it; I’ll pay to see it. And I’ll watch again and again.

    I can’t wait to see what Queen Latifah did with Steel Magnolias. I’m hoping that will be a jumping off point so that someone will get Viola to do Long Day’s Journey.

  59. GoOnNow
    October 3, 2012

    Viola Davis is too young to do Long Day’s Journey into Night.
    Nicole Kidman is somehow cold, and perfectly withdrawn, and would be a spot-on choice for a remake with a mastermind director, after 10 years or so from now.

  60. Robert Wills
    October 4, 2012

    I certainly didn’t see any award-worthy performances in that movie, although the camera was jiggling so much I suppose it was hard to tell. I thought Meryl deserved Best Actress no contest last year. I might have voted for Viola as Supporting Actress. So far it appears this is the worst movie year ever – well, in my opinion.

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