George Clooney has quit the writers' union varsity team.
The Oscar winner, who wrote, directed, produced and stars in the 1920s-set football comedy Leatherheads, in theaters today, has had a falling out with the Writers Guild of America after not receiving credit for penning the film's screenplay.
Per Variety, the WGA ruled in a 2-to-1 arbitration vote that the 46-year-old Clooney was not entitled to have his name listed onscreen alongside cowriters Duncan Brantley and Rick Reilly, despite his estimate that he rewrote a large chunk of their original screenplay.
As a result, the A-lister quietly decided last fall to change his status to "financial core." Fi-core members, as they're called, are covered by the basic union contract as stipulated by the WGA's constitution, but pay lower dues and have drastically reduced union privileges than regular members.
Once a member chooses to go fi-core, the decision is permanent and that person loses voting rights and cannot run for office or attend union meetings. In essence, they stop participating in WGA activities.
Why would Clooney take such drastic action?
He told the trade that he felt he had been wronged by an organization he's supported through thick and thin, most recently during the contentious strike.
"When your own union doesn't back what you've done, the only honorable thing to do is not participate," he said, adding that in no way did he try to cut out Brantley and Reilly from receiving credit.
Instead, Clooney believed he deserved to be recognized for his script work. He said he would have dropped out of the WGA completely after the arbitration ruling, but for the fact he would have had a tougher time writing screenplays for future projects, since the major Hollywood studios are bound to honor their contract with the union.
According to Clooney's longtime producing partner, Grant Heslov, who runs their Smokehouse production company, Leatherheads had been collecting dust for the past 17 years before Clooney decided he wanted a "lighter" project after Good Night, and Good Luck.
So the Michael Clayton star went to work rewriting almost every scene to make the film a throwback screwball comedy—at which point he received the go-ahead from Universal to make the movie.
"George liked Leatherheads, but said it never felt quite right," Heslov told Variety. "He took it to Italy with him, and I remember when he called to say he thought he'd solved it. One thing that you clearly see, if you read the original, the subsequent drafts and then his draft, is that he wrote the majority of the film."
However, when a director applies for writing credit on a project, under WGA rules, the dispute automatically goes to an arbitration panel.
Heslov said he and Clooney were "shocked" and felt that the WGA fumbled the ball on this one.
"We both thought Duncan and Rick would get first position credit, which they deserved. But this wasn't right," he said.
Clooney said he refrained from appealing because he didn't want to appear to be feuding with the guild during the run-up to the strike.
Heslov pointed out that going fi-core was Clooney's "form of protest," which he wanted to keep from being made public.
"We're both big union guys," said the producer. "Between us, we belong to 12 unions. I think they made the wrong decision, and he was within his rights to respond by going financial core."
A rep for the WGA declined to comment on the matter.