The hottest election these days in Hollywood is the dogfight erupting between Screen Actors Guild president Alan Rosenberg (known for his legal acumen on L.A. Law) and upstart angry-man challenger Seymour Cassel (known for such character roles as Robert Redford’s right-hand man-servant in Indecent Proposal).
Rosenberg, 56 and sounding like a street-wise Parliamentarian, echoes former SAG presidents and supporters Richard Masur, Ed Asner and Barry Gordon with his attention to detail for actors who need a strong voice in next year’s negotiations with the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and TV Producers).
“The difference between Seymour and me is that I’ve spent the last two years trying to unify this guild,” Rosenberg brags to FBLA. “I’ve traveled to 18 of 21 branches across the country trying to get New York and the regional branches to treat Hollywood issues as if they were their own.”
Cassel, 72, alternatively hopes his 40 years in the movie business will carry some weight, especially with such tough-guy supporters as James Caan, Nicolas Cage and Dennis Hopper.
“I’m running because most people know me and have seen me for 40-plus years,” Cassel told the L.A. Times.
With a reputation as disruptive in SAG procedural meetings, Cassel has had his share of run-ins with SAG members, including former president Melissa Gilbert.
“This guy speaks his mind. He may not have all the finesse that somebody else does, but it comes from the heart,” Cassel said (in vintage third-person Mafioso-speak.)
Cassel sheepishly admits a run-in with the law some 26 years ago when he served a six-month federal prison sentence for possessing and intending to distribute cocaine. “It was stupid,” Cassel proclaims. “It’s irrelevant now. I’ve been sober for 20 years.”
Like a disappointed AA buddy, Rosenberg is not so forgiving.
“It’s his megalomania that prompted him to run for this office,” Rosenberg said. “Two years ago, when I was running for president, I spoke to some reporters outside the SAG offices and as I was talking I felt someone’s head on my shoulder. It was Seymour.
“Seymour was very nonspecific about the issues. I don’t think he even knows how he voted half the time. Seymour is just sadly inappropriate for the job. He’s a thug. He’s not a team player.”
Other actors horning in on the presidential election include Charlie de la Pena, a background performer who is not on the board, and Barry Simmonds, also a background performer. Both will likely remain in the background during this slugfest of an election.
Ballots are due into SAG’s offices by Sept. 19 and will likely be counted on Sept. 20.
But expect the mud-slinging to continue to the end.
“It would be stupid to change horses at this point,” Rosenberg claims. “Seymour says he’s tougher than me. But he’s not. He’s a joke.”
Counters Cassel: “Alan is a politician and I’m not. I don’t take a lot of bull.”
Perhaps actors looking for voting guidance will have to turn to one of their own mediators, born and bred on TV: Lou Grant.
“Alan has presided over two of the most turbulent years in SAG’s history,” intoned former SAG president himself Ed Asner. “He has the intelligence and courage to captain us through the next two years.”
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