UPDATED: Labor Unrest In The Shire: SAG & AFTRA Nix Non-Union The Hobbit
Quick! Someone dub Norma Rae over in Elvish! The trouble-prone film adaptation to The Hobbit has had to jump over an unusually large number of hurdles for prequel to a multibillion dollar movie series. First,MGM, its parent distributing company, went through a protracted bankruptcy, freezing the film's funds. Then its original director, Guillermo del Toro dropped out, leading Peter Jackson to once again take the reins. And now it seems like the Scylla and Charybdis of actors' unions are giving it the stinkeye.
Deadline reports that SAG and AFTRA have raised concerns that the non-union, New Zealand-shot movie will not adequately provided its actors with proper working conditions, minimum guarantee of wages and sufficient residuals, an important sticking point when the previous JRR Tolkien / Peter Jackson joint grossed three billion dollars worldwide.
Sending out a member alert, SAG and AFTRA advising its members to not accept work from The Hobbit and to contact their union rep if offered a job. We'll see how this develops and if a bunch of Orc scabs end up breaking the picket lines.
UPDATE: Peter Jackson has responded to the member alert from SAG and AFTRA in a very carefully plotted, point-by-point rebuttal. The long and the short of it is that Jackson says he has always honored union contracts and union rules and that his casting of non-union actors comes from a desire to cast Kiwi actors, many of whom do not have a SAG card. Jackson also paints the whole brouhaha as a plot by Australian unions, acting through a tiny, ineffectual New Zealand union, to gain a greater control of the many films being shot in NZ; the money shot being that Jackson has threatened to shoot the film in Eastern Europe if the matter isn't resolved. His whole letter, very polite, matter-of-fact, and pretty convincing to my eyes, is worth a read.
SAG & AFTRA Nix Non-Union 'The Hobbit': Kiwi & Oz Actors Confront Peter Jackson [Deadline]