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SAG Ensemble. Our Annual "Fix This Rule" Gripe

You may have noticed a few key names missing when the SAG nominatione for ensemble were announced this morning. No, I'm not talking about the casts of Moonrise Kingdom or Magic Mike or other fine ensembles. I'm talking about the performers from the five nominated pictures who won't get a SAG winner / nomination on their resume from this honor. That might seem like nothing but for working actors whose names aren't above the titles it can mean a lot. So today we honor these actors who deserved better from their guild!

I'll keep talking about this every year until SAG fixes their system. Behold the Five most "Outstanding Casts" according to the Screen Actors Guild and a sampling of people that aren't included in that honor.

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
ARGO (Warner Bros. Pictures)
BEN AFFLECK / Tony Mendez
ALAN ARKIN / Lester Siegel
KERRY BISHÉ / Kathy Stafford
KYLE CHANDLER / Hamilton Jordan
CLEA DUVALL / Cora Lijek
JOHN GOODMAN / John Chambers
SCOOT McNAIRY / Joe Stafford


WHERE IS... SHEILA VAND who was captivating as the Canadian Ambassador's housekeeper Sahar?
No people of color from Argo's cast list were recognized despite several cast members of color with important scenes. 

More awkward snubs after the jump...


JUDI DENCH / Evelyn Greenslade
CELIA IMRIE / Madge Hardcastle
BILL NIGHY / Douglas Ainslie
DEV PATEL / Sonny Kapoor
RONALD PICKUP / Norman Cousins
MAGGIE SMITH / Muriel Donnelly
TOM WILKINSON / Graham Dashwood

WHERE IS... LILLETE DUBEY who played the owner of the hotel holding her son's dreams?


LES MISÉRABLES (Universal Pictures)
ISABELLE ALLEN / Young Cosette
HELENA BONHAM CARTER / Madame Thénardier
HUGH JACKMAN / Jean Valjean
AARON TVEIT / Enjolras

Les Miz does a pretty good job of including everyone but for its band of handsome singing revolutionaries including George Blagden as "Grantaire" (right) and Fra Fee as "Courfeyrac" (left)


LINCOLN (Touchstone Pictures)
DANIEL DAY-LEWIS / Abraham Lincoln
SALLY FIELD / Mary Todd Lincoln
JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT / Robert Todd Lincoln
HAL HOLBROOK / Preston Blair
TOMMY LEE JONES / Thaddeus Stevens

WHERE IS... GLORIA REUBEN who just won a Supporting Actress nod from the NAACP from Lincoln?

And LEE PACE (!) Among many others...

Given Lincoln's subject matter this is very embarrassing since no person of color is included in their "Outstanding Cast". In fact only 3 of the 46 actors nominated are people of color --- in films set in the American Civil War, Iran and India ferchrissakes. And two of those are in the last nominee below which is set in Philly.


ANUPAM KHER / Dr. Cliff Patel

WHERE IS... JULIA STILES who plays Jennifer Lawrence's sister and essentially jumpstarts the romantic plot by putting Pat & Tiffany in the same room?


SAG strikes again. Every single year the Screen Actors Guild’s ensemble category betrays them and they never bother to fix it. The Outstanding Cast list is always composed of the top billed players in a movie, regardless of the quality of their performance. The most illustrative example was last year’s Corey Stoll snub in Midnight in Paris. I maintain that his scenes as Hemingway were what pushed perceptions of the movie over from people thinking it was fun to people thinking it was beautifully acted fun. And yet, because he wasn’t famous enough to be on the first group title card he was not among its “Outstanding Cast” nominees. Woody Allen movies are a bit different than other films in that no one gets a solo credit (it’s always alphabetical groupings) but for most films SAG requires that you get your own title card. Lincoln suffers the most this year because of that. It has a large and impressive cast -- truly one of the most deserving "Oscar Bait" period casts ever since Lincoln doesn't even need to be onscreen for the movie to be a lively affair -- and yet from the appearance of its “cast” nominees, you’d think it was as small and tight as Silver Linings Playbook’s neighborhood.

This SAG rule always preferences A List stars over the working class of actors and in so doing it betrays the very purpose of a guild, which should be to protect its workers.

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Reader Comments (36)



December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

This silly rule has resulted in a nomination for Gwen Stefani for her one minute cameo in "The Aviator" and the exclusion of Michael Pena, who is arguably the best performance in "Crash" (I mean if anyone had to have an acting award from that movie, it's him) and of course, let's not forget "Million Dollar Baby"'s three-person ensemble pretty much ignoring the topflight performances of Jay Baruchel, Bryan F. O'Byrne and Margo Martindale.

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterIrvin

What about De Niro's betting buddy? That guy was in a zillion scenes! Julia Stiles' husband?? Bradley Cooper's brother?? Keep fighting the good fight, Nat, this is always one of the biggest eyerolls of the season,

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJacob D

I was so upset the Sheila Vand snub, I thought she was fantastic in her few scenes!

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterConrado

What's really a shame about this is that it makes it very difficult for someone who doesn't have their own title card to get an Oscar nomination. I think they would've chaged this rule if Corey Stoll had gotten an Oscar nomination last year, or Rooney Mara the year before for The Social Network, maybe that needs to be the first step. Little fun fact, Beatrice Straight did not get her own title card for Network (in fact, she had to share with a lot of people) and she won an Oscar for that role. There were plenty of Supporting nominees before the inauguration of the SAG awards who didn't get their own title cards. Why can't that happen again? Or has SAG focusing on the people with their own title cards made it nearly impossible for actors without their own title cards to get Oscar nominations? Just something else to think about.....

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRichter Scale

Those Lincoln snubs are outrageous! Does anyone SAG really believe the fine but overvalued Joseph Gordon-Levitt contributed more to that movie than Reuben or Pace, but also Michael Stuhlbarg or David Costabile or Jared Harris or John Hawkes and Tim Blake Nelson? A film like Lincoln or Argo, which aside from the Vand snub got a good number down, is nothing without a dedicated cast to invigorate the proceedings.

Also, I'm sure that the only reason Gloria Reuben isn't getting a Supporting Actress campaign is because she'd be up against Field, because otherwise she'd definitely have a chance at a nomination amidst the slim pickings this year...

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew

Well said!

Do we know if any member has tried to change that policy or at least discussed it? All it takes is a big name, a Penn or a Meryl.

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue


December 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpoppy

Ortiz in Silver Linings Playbook is a much bigger oversight than Stiles, IMO, but they should both obviously be listed.

The Lincoln omissions are just insane.

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

The Reuben, Pace, and Stiles ones are the most surprising this year, considering their elevated fame, though how could you include Spader and not Hawkes? I think they need to find a way around the title card rule, and I love that you keep pointing out this injustice Nathaniel!

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

Thank you so much for writing this post. This is just ridiculous and so unfair - why is Les Miserables ensemble that got nominations so big yet Lincoln is missing so many people? As Lee Pace's fan I'm very disappointed by what they did.

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersati

As founder, president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, and groundskeeper for the Michael Stuhlbarg Fan Club, I feel the need to declare my outrage at his (and many other fine actors) being left out of the "Lincoln" ensemble.

SAG, you suck.

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiz N.

Your yearly rants about this are the reason I always watch the ending credits to see who got their own title cards. I think my jaw hit the floor when I saw there were only 7 names for Lincoln when I saw it at Thanksgiving.

I must say that my favorite thing about the rule is the somewhat batty nomination for Colm Wilkinson in Les Miserables. I hear that it's simply a cameo, and he gets to share the film's nomination simply because he was a part of the musical's history.

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterReggina

As awards happen to only what? a 2%? of any given year movies, I think they should focus on demanding studios and the people responsible for that, solo title cards for all actors who have a relevant part in any movie (one scene?). Then, the solo title card rule for nominations and awards would be inconsequential. That would really work in favor of working class actors who struggle to get a name in the industry, and whose names are easily forgotten if not given proper credit.

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteriggy

Reggina--I do the same thing! Ever since I learned about the rule, I specifically watch the beginning and ending credits for the solo cards. And like you, I got an awful "Uh oh" feeling after seeing Lincoln's sparse number of solo cards.

Here's a question for the room: what happens if there are no title cards? Not no solo cards, ala Woody Allen. No opening credits at all, and then the closing credits going directly to the crawl.

I don't know if this has ever happened, but it seems perfectly possible. What are you going to do then, SAG, huh?

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiz N.

I don't get it, Gloria Reuben has won before the Sag for best ensemble (for drama series ER). Why she wasn't nominated for Lincoln? her role is mude??????? And Julia Stiles snubed?????? The Sag award for Best Ensemble is a crap!!!! They never do it right

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFrank G.

So I should know this, but what exactly does it mean to be "above the title" or to have a "title card"? Does that mean the names that didn't make the cut don't appear in the opening credits? Or that they only appear after the title appears? Or what?

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterprincesskaraoke

Why don't they just give the award to the entire cast and be done with it? This hair-splitting on SAG's part is kinda sorta ridiculous. Or is it a union rule? Sigh.

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

It means your name appears by itself in the main credits. If your name appears in the main credits (i.e. either the ones that introduce the movie, where the actors come first and it ends with the director, or the ones right after the movie before the film is over where the first credit is the director's and the actor's credits come near the end, however they decide to do it) by itself, with no other actor appearing above you or below you at the same time, it means you're getting your own title card. Those are the people SAG usually nominates in the Best Ensemble category, the people who appear by themselves (with the exception of Woody Allen films, where everyone gets their own title cards, or the actors who appear before the title, they often put those side-by-side as opposed to one on top of the other).

OT: Have you noticed how many previous Oscar winners are nominated this year? All the nominees for Best Supporting Actor already won an Oscar. It would be the first repeat winner in that category in 13 years (kind of a shame, I always love calling new people "Academy-Award winner").

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRichter Scale

The fact there are no African American actors listed as part of the ensemble for Lincoln is super embarrassing, and SAG should be embarrassed about it.

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWill h

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel also missed out the girl who played Dev Patel's girlfriend. Can't remember her name. Maybe also the one who played her brother who was also the person who gave Judi Dench her job. Anyone remember these two names? They have quite a few scenes with lots of dialogues, so I think they deserve the nom too.

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPJ

@ Richer Scale: thanks! That is kind of a silly rule, with unfortunate consequences. But what's the best alternative for deciding who belongs in the ensemble - or more to the point, who should get to decide that? For a film like "Lincoln," in particular, with such a sprawling cast, I feel like it's hard to know where to draw the line.

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterprincesskaraoke

Bravo! Well said.

But if everyone knows the rule, why don't they plan ahead? It seems like Les Mis (and Argo) saw this rule ahead of time, and made their credits SAG friendly. How much foresight does it take to add a few seconds running time to your film by adding some title cards, especially if you hope for awards play? This is the most shoot-yourself-in-the-foot move Lincoln has made.

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteradri

princess -- it is hard to know where to draw the line sure, BUT, couldn't they just have a set number of nominations? like 15 people can share in this honor -- there will always be a situation where someone is left out. BUT it would be less egregious than it is now.

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

princess -- oh and next time you watch a movie just pay attention during the opening credits. you'll notice what a single billed title card is right away. at some point during the credits 2 or 3 actor names will start appearing together (those people will not be nominated if the film ever wins a SAG ENSEMBLE award.)

there are exceptions: No one in a woody allen film ever gets a solo title card so sag uses the first card that lists several names alphabetized. if ther eis a second card immediately following it with more names (which is what happened with corey stoll) than they won't be nominated.

adri -- i suspect this has nothing to do with anything other than the contract you sign when you get a part in a movie. it would just be part of hte negotations with an actors management. Obviously less famous actors have much less pull which is why the system for awards is a bad one for a guild that should not be penalizing the less famous when 95% of their membership is the less famous ones, you know?

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

Oh, that makes sense. I agree with your point of view though.

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteradri

I would nominate "Moonrise Kingdom" cast instead of "The Best Exoctic Marigold Hotel"... Don't get me wrong, I liked "Marigold" a lot, but "Moonrise Kingdom" just feature the best ensemble performance of the year

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermarc

Richter Scale: Noting the "every Supporting Actor nominee could be a former winner thing", well, I think Bardem's the safest guess for getting the shaft, because they don't exactly love Bond, James Bond. I'd also say it's a toss up between McConaughey and DiCaprio at the moment. As for Dwight Henry...he's both a rookie and a former Tenessee Republican politician to boot, so I don't quite see enough love among actors to put him in the top five. (The place isn't ENTIRELY liberal, but the amount of republican actors is a...sprinkling, really.)

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Maybe, but Javier Bardem getting nominated here does say something. Yesterday's nomination at the Critics Choice was just something they ted to do, but given that he showed up here, what if Javier Bardem becomes this year's Melissa McCarthy, someone nominated for a performance AMPAS doesn't usually go for, but is too big to ignore. Skyfall has become huge lately, maybe it came out at just the right time to get some love from all these organizations. Also, it seems the winner will be a repeat winner, because even though the winners don't always match 4/4 between SAG and AMPAS, Oscar acting winners are usually at least nominated for a SAG award, so even if Leo or Matt is nominated for an Oscar, not being nominated here really hurts their chances at a win.

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRichter Scale

Maybe they should model after the Oscar Foreign Film Branch for a remedy, a two pronged approach:

1. The actors with their own title cards gets nominated, obviously.
2. Each ballot also include 2 or 3 write-in blanks under the Ensemble category. So voters can vote for actors that do not have their own title cards. But only names that gets a certain percentage of write-ins will be attached to their nominated film's ensemble.

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRic

I just had a scary thought. Jared Gillman and Kara Hayward share a title card in Moonrise Kingdom. If the cast had been nominated for Best Ensemble, would they have been left out? I guess now we'll never know, but if they would have, I'm kind of glad the cast was snubbed (even though it's my favorite film of the year and I think everyone in the cast is magnificent) because it would really be egregious to nominate the cast of Moonrise Kingdom without the two elements that made the film so special (they certainly would have snubbed the rest of the Khaki Scouts, since they all share a title card).

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRichter Scale

Well don't forget when The Birdcage won, Calista Flockhart did not got the award! Instead Christine Baranski who had less screen time was in...oh well...

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDstylee

I can remember four other exceptions to the solo title card rule:

In "Good Night and Good Luck", only David Strathairn had a solo title card and everyone else shared a title card, listed alphabetically. It would be ridiculous to have a one-person ensemble so they nominated everyone who shared the title card including Diana Reeves.

In "Gosford Park" the entire ensemble did not share a solo title card, everyone was listed split up in pairs. So they nominated everyone.

In "Finding Neverland", the boys shared a title card but they managed to all become part of the nominated ensemble.

In "Slumdog Millionaire", Dev Patel, Fried Pinto and the two children who each played their younger selves all shared the same title card, all got nominated.

December 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterIrvin

Wow - this is simply shocking. Hope this gets more attention Nathaniel.
Its just pathetic actually.
Still reeling over Coery Stoll's snub for Midnight in Paris but Adrien Brody gets a nom for a 1-minute scene. *eyeroll*

December 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlexa

This is so sad and THANK YOU for pointing out this thing! We kept talking about Sahar all night and how... you know. What a joke! she should be added to the list!

December 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterIraqi

I was actually glad ZERO DARK THIRTY didn't get nominated for ensemble. I was watching the credits for what actors got their own credit screen and there were so many that didn't (Harold Perinneau Jr, Chris Pratt, etc) and it'd feel mean to not nominate them, but to nominate Joel Edgerton who barely does anything. Not to mention the fact that Joel's brother, Nash, is also in there somewhere.

December 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

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