George Clooney's WGA Battle Over Leatherheads Writing Credit

Posted on April 4, 2008

Photo of George ClooneyWe love the Writers Guild. We also love George Clooney (and who doesn't, really?). So this story has caused us enormous cognitive dissonance: who do you side with when Clooney and the WGA go to war??

It turns out that before the writers' strike Clooney went Fi-Core to protest the Guild's denying him a writing credit on the new film, Leatherheads! Clooney went Fi-Core! It's Armageddon, we tell you.
Clooney went financial core last fall, after the WGA decided 2-1 in a credit arbitration vote that only Duncan Brantley and Rick Reilly deserved screen credit on the picture that Universal opens today. Going fi-core means a member is still technically a member of the WGA, but has limited rights within the guild. Fi-core members have to pay dues and are covered by the health and pension plans. Once you elect to go fi-core, the decision is irreversible.

"When your own union doesn't back what you've done, the only honorable thing to do is not participate," said Clooney, who stressed he made no attempt to exclude Brantley and Reilly. Clooney says he would have quit the WGA altogether if he could, but that would have prevented him from working on all WGA-covered productions. He says he wanted nothing more to do with the WGA but didn't want to be hampered in his ability in writing scripts.

As for "Leatherheads," Clooney took a languishing 17-year old project and got a greenlight after personally giving the script a major overhaul that transformed it into a screwball comedy. He says he felt he'd written all but two of the film's scenes. While he agreed that Brantley and Reilly deserved first position credit for hatching the idea and characters, he was incensed enough by the WGA arbitration process to go financial core, which rendered him a dues-paying non-voting member.

The WGA had no comment about Clooney's decision. Clooney didn't appeal the WGA ruling, and kept his action quiet because the WGA was gearing up for a strike at the time. He didn't want the filing seen as him having split ranks with the union over the labor dispute.
Clooney wrote 80% of the new script and didn't try to remove the other two screenwriters' credits. He just wanted to be added as a co-writer. What's wrong with that?? And he was so diplomatic -- he didn't mention any of this until after the strike was over, so the WGA wouldn't look bad. Ok, who were the two arbitrators who voted against him? They should be ashamed. And now Clooney is Fi-Core and it's irrevocable.

It's quite disturbing, but we have to side with Clooney on this one. We feel quite crushed over the whole thing.