WGA strike a hot topic at SAG Awards

Dave McNary, Variety Staff, writes:

Though Sunday evening's SAG Awards were

picket-free, actors at the glitzy event did take a cue from their WGA

siblings, remarking on the 3-month-old writers strike in comments both

onstage and off.

On the red carpet at the Shrine, during acceptance

speeches and in the press room, high-profile SAG members made it clear

that they support the scribes unequivocally. Dozens of actors sported

silver-and-black WGA lapel pins for the occasion.

The strike wasn't mentioned much during the two-hour telecast itself but always elicited a positive response when it was. Julie Christie, receiving the lead actress award for "Away From Her," provoked some of the night's loudest cheers when she referred to the strike at the top of her speech.

"Thank

you very much indeed for this," she said. "It's lovely to receive an

award from your own union. Especially at a time when they're being so

forcefully reminded how important unions are."

"All unions are

important," Christie said later in the press room. "Without unions, we

would not have anyone to represent us over injustices."

Josh Brolin, in accepting the top prize on behalf of the cast of "No Country for Old Men," came the closest to using the podium as a bully pulpit.

"It's

a risky movie, and it's nice to have risky movies now, especially this

year, which is a cornucopia of change. … The studio system is

backfiring and it's fun for us actors.

SAG has been the staunchest supporter of the WGA during the strike. At the show's midpoint, SAG president Alan Rosenberg

saluted several other showbiz unions, then added, "When the pioneers of

our union were drawing up guidelines, they looked to the Writers Guild

for inspiration. This began a treasured solidarity that continues

today."

SAG's current contract expires June 30. It hasn't yet

scheduled negotiations and fear of a possible actors walkout has

spurred studios to stockpile.

"Our predecessors achieved so much

on our behalf," Rosenberg added. "But these achievements come with an

obligation: to keep on fighting so that generations of actors who

follow us can continue to create."

He then introduced WGA West president Patric Verrone, who received a round of applause.

Lead film actor winner Daniel Day-Lewis made it clear backstage that he won't attend the Feb. 24 Oscars if SAG advises him not to cross a WGA picket line.

"I'd abide by the decision of my union," Day-Lewis said in the press room after receiving the trophy for "There Will Be Blood."

"I've just been given this very lovely award from my union. I'm a

card-carrying member of my union and whatever decision they make is

going to be the right one."

Tina Fey, who won the acting award in comedy series for "30 Rock,"

is also a member of the WGA. She thanked SAG members at the conclusion

of her acceptance speech for that support and later offered an upbeat

oultook about the prospect for a WGA settlement soon.

"I hope

they can resolve it," she said in the press room. "We are exactly the

kind of show that's put into jeopardy by the strike. I feel optimistic

that this will be solved soon."

Asked backstage how members of "The Office" would celebrate their award for best comedy ensemble, thesp Leslie David Baker said wryly, "We'll probably stay out all night because we're not working."