Who Nominates Best Male Actor?

SAG Actor Card

This year I got a letter that invited me to be on the Nominating Committee for the Award of Best Male Actor. Of Course I said yes, who wouldn’t?

Being an unknown actor in Hollywood generally doesn’t have many perks. I have been told my SAG card will get me into movies free. I’ve tried, it doesn’t work. Most of the time I work as a “background actor” or “Stand In”. I do it because I have a lot of fun on set and I am always learning new lessons in life and business. Hollywood is a wacky business, but remember it put Arnold in the Governor’s office and he got to make fun of himself on Two and a Half Men.

Hollywood also put Ronald Reagan in the Governor’s office and the White House. Honestly I think they accidentally put JFK in office and then Nixon. It’s a whole thing about Nixon not wearing makeup, you’ll have to read about that somewhere else.

The Letter Arrives

A few months ago a letter arrived from SAG. Of course I wondered what I had done wrong. Did I not pay my dues? Did I say something on set to get me fired like Tim Allen? What was it? The letter was asking if I would volunteer to be a member of the Nominating Committee for Best Male Actor and Best Supporting Male Actor for the SAG awards. Well duh, I am stuck at home with no acting work so I said Yes. Who wouldn’t?

The letter said that 2500 members are selected randomly for the nominating committee. Figuring we have about 70,000 paying members, that meant once every 28 years I should be on the committee. Since my wife is a member as well, I figured it might be another 14 years before this dropped in our mailbox again. I signed the form, and waited eagerly for my “pin” to log in and start streaming new movies I hadn’t seen.

The Pin Arrives

In the next letter that included my pin, there was a note. The note asked me to not read any of the Hollywood magazines and to formulate my own opinion about the actors as an actor. That part was easy, I didn’t subscribe to a single one, not even Backstage. Maybe that is why I never get any good auditions?

The hard part was not having an opinion about actors I already knew or worked with. While working on Inherent Vice I had lunch with a very curious homeless man a couple of times. Andy Summers had to tell me that was Joaquin Phoenix in character. As a method actor he stays in character all the time. I remember thinking “Fuck that is both unnerving and awesome”. At the end of the movie he took the time to come by and say hello as a regular human as if there is such a thing in Hollywood.

I had a similar experience with Ben Affleck on Gone Girl. Unlike some actors who would retreat to their trailer when cameras were moving, Ben would hang out with us. Sometimes eating an apple, sometimes going over lines, sometimes just chatting with background actors. Unlike Joaquin, he would turn the character on and off at will. It was awesome to watch. So how do I not prejudge these actors?

The Marketing Begins

Just after my pin card arrived, DVD’s started flooding my mail box along with postcards linking to studio screener sites online. Getting to see movies that were in the theater, and a few that weren’t out yet was a bit exciting. Ok, that’s a lie, it was awesome to get the new Bond at home the same day it opened in theaters. I thought the toughest part was going to be keeping my friends and neighbors out of my screening room. Thankfully it has two seats and no one even asked. Many of the movies were also on the big three streaming services already so that likely helped.

Both of my Bond geek buddies braved masks and went to the opening day in the theaters. I never told them I saw it at home. Sorry guys. We all agreed it was about our 15th favorite Bond. I did like that it went back to some of the old bond style though.

Along with all those DVD’s were special editions of every Hollywood rag out there. Each one was plastered with full page ads touting one movie or another and one actor or another. The ads were big and pretty and eye catching and had quotes from people I don’t know like “Nick Cage is Riveting”. I just thought to myself, “Ok more trash”. A couple even said “special voting edition” with my name on the cover. Maybe I should have kept those. It might be the closest to a best actor award I ever get.

Reality Sets In.

Being a member of SAG for many years, I am used to a few DVD’s showing up each year to vote for best actor and that sort of thing. Normally we get 20 to 30 movies at best and that fills our entertainment requirements for the year. Sadly about half of the movies are painful to sit through, but I do my best to be a diligent member and really watch the actor.

I wasn’t ready for this. The Voting window was about three months. Imagine every day getting at least two movies or pin numbers in your mailbox. The avalanche of movies was giving my mail carrier a bad back. I didn’t realize everyone that makes a movie is submitting their movie. And since several were held back for Covid reasons, more kept showing up. Then something really crazy happened.

Instead of just voting for male actors, the login page for the nominating committee said I would be nominating best male, female, stunt and ensemble categories. That was every category. I don’t know if SAG didn’t get enough volunteers or they changed the rules or what but suddenly now I was seeing three and four new DVD’s or postcards a day. It became overwhelming. I already said I don’t like sitting in front of the TV, and this was killing my surf time. Morning, noon and night I was watching a movie. I want to give SAG my extra five pounds back.

My Own Nom Com System

Given the sheer volume of movies, I was never going to remember who was who and who did what in what movie on the voting day. Pretty quickly a system was put into place where if someone stood out I wrote on the DVD cover or postcard with a sharpie and put it on my desk. That pile was 21 movies when I was done. I found that interesting because that is about how many movies we get each year.

When you get that many films to watch, there are bound to be a lot of great actors. Finding the real standouts was the key. There are several actors who make a lot of great movies and are very entertaining, but they are very good at one character with a toothy smile. I won’t name names, but you know that list of names.

Oddly it wasn’t really that hard to find standouts. The tough part was picking three standouts for each category. I had to go back and watch a few scenes to narrow choices. It was driving my wife nuts. Anything that was already on streaming she would watch with me. It was very different to hear her opinion sometimes, so I had to go back and rewatch to make sure she wasn’t getting in my ear.

Time To Vote

Just like any major election in California, a very official looking ballot envelope finally arrived. The cool part was that I could also vote online. The paper ballot became my note group. The top three males for me were easy. Acting school is hard for me, I mean really hard. No matter what Hollywood says or even the AMA, the male brain and female brain are wired differently. My lack of emotional skills was reinforced by 20 years of Military Service.

The women on the other hand ran a much closer race in my book. Since my wife got to see about half of the movies, I asked here opinion, after I voted of course. She agreed, the women had a lot more emotional skills. The nominating committee is one of the toughest volunteer things I have ever done. I understood why so many won’t do it, or take shortcuts with the Hollywood rags. Talking with CoolToys TV Director Craig, we joked about making a short documentary about the process but then the surf came up and I lost interest.

After I cast my vote, I saluted the Bond franchise and opened a bottle of Bollinger. My wife and I toasted the end of the nominating round and that I was no longer going to lock myself in the screening room. At least not for another 28 years.

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