SAG-AFTRA Foundation President Courtney B. Vance announced Wednesday that the nonprofit has raised more than $15 million for its relief program, thanks in large part to contributions from more than a dozen of Hollywood’s top-earning stars who have donated $1. million or more.
“The entertainment industry is in crisis and the SAG-AFTRA Foundation is currently processing more than 30 times our usual number of applications for emergency assistance. We received 400 applications in the last week alone,” Vance said in a statement about fundraising efforts over the past three weeks. “It is a massive challenge, but we are determined to meet this moment.”
Last week, Variety exclusively reported that Dwayne Johnson had contributed a “historic” seven-figure donation, a figure that Vance described as “a call to arms” for everyone to “step up, but you can.”
But Johnson is not alone. More than a dozen A-listers have also answered the call, each donating $1 million or more, including George and Amal Clooney; Luciana and Matt Damon; Leonardo DiCaprio; Hugh Jackman and Deborra-Lee Furness; Nicole Kidman; Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck; Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively; Julia Roberts; Arnold Schwarzenegger; Meryl Streep; and Oprah Winfrey.
“I appealed to our community to remember how hard it was going, and the response to help their fellow artists has been incredible, immediate and heartwarming,” Vance said of their contribution, crediting Johnson with “the heart of kick-starting this campaign .”
He then saluted Streep and Clooney, both longtime champions of the foundation and members of its Actors’ Council, who “stepped up with $1 million donations, emails and many calls to action that rallied others to give generously.”
Thanks to the group’s combined efforts, Vance concluded, “We’ve crushed our original goal because our people are coming together, but we’re still not done. Our fundraising will continue to meet the overwhelming needs of our community now and into the future.”
Streep and Clooney also shared statements about the urgent need facing working actors amid the historic double strike.
“I remember my days as a waiter, cleaner, typist, even my time on the unemployment line,” Streep said, explaining her desire to give back. “In this strike action, I am fortunate to be able to support those who will fight a long action to sustain against Goliath. We will stand strong together against these powerful corporations who are bent on taking humanity, human dignity, even the human being out of our profession. I am most proud of my fellow actors who immediately offered to fund the relief program.”
Clooney, who released a statement expressing his solidarity with the union when the strike was called on July 13, added: “We stand ready to come 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 people like Bette Davis and Jimmy Cagney, and it’s time for our generation to give back.”
He continued: “I can’t thank Courtney enough for his determination to put this effort together by shining a light on the human toll happening right now and how we can work together to alleviate some of the pain and suffering.”
News of the combined eight-figure donation comes as SAG-AFTRA actors strike a third week, while WGA writers have been on strike for more than 90 days. Notably, on the day SAG-AFTRA declared the strike, Damon was on the international press tour of Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer”; the cast walked out of the London premiere in solidarity.
“It’s really about working actors,” Damon shared Variations Manori Ravindran on the red carpet. “It’s $26,000 to qualify for health coverage and a lot of people are on the margins and residual payments get them over that threshold. This is not an academic exercise. This is real life and death stuff. Hopefully we’ll find a solution soon. Nobody wants a work stoppage, but we have to get a fair deal.”
In the days since, many have questioned why the strike lines have lacked star power.
“The real place A-listers can help is by donating to relief funds and lobbying studio heads behind the scenes,” an agent told me. Variations Matt Donnelly as he reported on the various strategies behind why Hollywood’s biggest names may (or may not) have raised their strike signs.