Dwayne The Rock Johnson made headlines last week for his “historic” seven-figure donation to the SAG-AFTRA Foundation which, understandably, is especially in need right now during the work stoppage.
Courtney B Vance, the Foundation’s president, told Variety this week that:
“…the SAG-AFTRA Foundation is currently processing more than 30 times our usual number of applications for emergency aid. We received 400 applications in the last week alone.”
Remember, 86% of union membership does not make the $27,000 minimum required for qualify for health insurance. There are 160,000 members in the union – that’s thousands of people who already, even before the strike, were struggling. And that’s why they’re pushing for a new deal.
This week it’s been announced that even more movie stars have contributed to the strike fund. All of the following have given $1 million or more:
George and Amal Clooney
Luciana and Matt Damon
Hugh Jackman and Deborra-Lee Furness
Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck
Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively
In total, more than $15 million has been raised so far in support of SAG-AFTRA Foundation. According to Courtney B Vance, Meryl and George were the ones who led the effort, not only with their money but following up with emails and phone calls to other actors who were in a position to make those donations. This, then, could just be the first wave. Because they’ll probably continue to make phone calls and get on the group chat with their appeals.
Meryl and George also released statements. This is what George said, and I appreciate that he shouted out Courtney’s work as he’s leading the foundation at such a critical time:
“We stand ready to get back to the table and make a fair deal with the AMPTP. Until then, I’m proud to be able to support the SAG-AFTRA Foundation and my fellow actors who may be struggling in this historic moment. We’ve stood on the shoulders of the likes of Bette Davis and Jimmy Cagney and it’s time for our generation to give something back. I can’t thank Courtney enough for his determination in putting this effort together by shedding light on the human toll happening right now, and how we can work together to alleviate some of the pain and suffering.”
Meryl used the opportunity to tell the AMPTP and the studios about themselves:
“I remember my days as a waiter, cleaner, typist, even my time on the unemployment line. In this strike action, I am lucky to be able to support those who will struggle in a long action to sustain against Goliath. We will stand strong together against these powerful corporations who are bent on taking the humanity, the human dignity, even the human out of our profession. I am proudest of my fellow actors who have immediately offered to fund the Emergency Financial Assistance Program.”
Even before the strike was officially called, there was an attempt to characterise the actors as greedy and spoiled, misleading the public into believing that these were rich people who were just trying to get richer. Again, a large majority of the actors’ union are nowhere near rich. And SAG-AFTRA has done a great job making the distinction. Now some of the movie stars who actually are rich, and the represent a small fraction of the union, are writing cheques and to counter the narrative…while Bob Iger’s name keeps coming up about how much he makes.