George Clooney has enlisted the support of friends Matt Damon and Brad Pitt -- along with SAG President Ken Howard -- in his attempts to find a solution to the standoff at the Motion Picture Fund Home, he told WaxWord on Wednesday.
In a wide-ranging Grill from Hawaii where he’s shooting “The Descendants,” the actor discussed his desire to see a long-range solution to the funding crisis that has led to the planned closure of the fund’s hospital and long-term care facility.
“I have every interest in making sure we don’t forget whose shoulders we stand on,” he said. “If it means hosting a fundraiser, I’ll do that. “
His preferred approach, though, would be to leverage dues paid to the Screen Actors Guild for the motion picture fund home.
So what’s your plan to save the Motion Picture and Television Fund long-term care facility? You have people very excited.
It was late last year we started talking about an idea, I was looking for ways to get some funding. I suggested that one of the things that wealthier members of the union could do would be to take away the cap on dues.
To remove the cap on Screen Actors Guild dues and earmark the money for the MPTF?
Yes. You now have a cap of $6,500 – as an actor, you don’t pay more than that, based on $1 million of income. If you take that cap away, it would be $6,500 for every million. So it would come out of the (income) of the wealthier people.
And you think it is is something that the wealthier members of the community would pay?
I think they would, if it was targeted for the fund, if it were specifically targeted to help our retirees. And everyone I talked to thought that wouldn’t be that difficult. The people who got lucky in the union – the ones who got wealthy, and are paid very well for what they do -- most of them would be happy to do that.
Have you discussed this with your actor colleagues?
Yes, the guys – Matt Damon, and Brad (Pitt).
And they are in favor?
Yes, it would make sense, if they felt the money was going to the right place.
But there was a legal issue at SAG, apparently.
The bigger issue was whether or not it was legal. And Ken (Howard, SAG president) and the lawyers at SAG seemed to think there might be a legality problem. That’s been the main idea. It would’ve been a huge amount of rather steady income – not just a show that would raise some money and keep people afloat for a year, but something steady.
Why does it fall on you to fix this problem?
I believe the majority of people out there are actors. I’ve been to the retirement home, seen SAG members there. You look at them and you think, ‘They could certainly use a break.’
What about this idea of doing a George Clooney roast ?
A roast – I’m fine with it, I don’t care – but doing a one-and-out thing doesn’t seem like the most successful strategy for keeping something funded.
You’re getting good at raising money. I’m thinking of the Haiti effort.
When the Haiti thing came up – I’m not a Haiti expert. I know ways of raising money, so I’m a money-raiser. It was something that needed to be done. And I felt the same way about this – let’s find a steady stream of income that seems fair. I honestly think it’s a great way of filling a huge hole.
What if there is no legal way to make that happen?
Where people say there’s no legal way to do that – it usually changes when opinion sways. If enough people say, ‘We can do this,’ there’s usually a way. Opinions change those legal issues a lot of times. I don’t know if it’s been fully explored.
The entertainment community does have a sense of responsibility, and we want to do something. At the end of the day we have to find a way to get together enough to make sure these people are taken care of. We are judged by how we take care of the people who are most needy – that’s a good place to start.
I have to say that’s pretty admirable, that you’re willing to take this on. Do you have the stomach for it?
It’s ‘do I have the time for it. ‘ I have every interest in being a participant in our community. I have every interest in making sure we don’t forget those whose shoulders we stand on. In whatever way I can help - if it means hosting a fundraiser, I’ll do that.
To be blunt – there is some need to step back, and maybe there’s a way to work together. It’s going to be complicated, it’s not going to happen right away. But it doesn’t seem to be insurmountable. I think there’s a way to put ideas together.
Well, you’ve stuck your toe in it now.
I stuck my toe in it. Let’s start asking these questions. I know there’s infighting in SAG, and disagreement between studio heads. But all of them want to do what’s right for those people.