“There’s really no reason why these guys are not in SAG,” Aronofsky told Newsday. “They’re in front of a camera performing and doing stunts, and they should have that protection. They should have health insurance and they should be protected."
Curiously, McMahon has long maintained that his “independently contracted” performers aren’t athletes but “entertainers,” partially to get around having his events regulated by state athletic commissions. However, in order to keep the Screen Actors Guild out of his business, his shows are strangely identified as “sports programming.”
"I’m really curious to see what some of these old-timers make of it,” said Aronofsky in an interview with Reelz Channel. “When I won the Golden Lion, I dedicated the film to all the wrestlers, I kind of shared their stories. They’re a unique lot. They’re not organized, they have no pension, no health care, so many of them are tragically dying at a young age. I was talking to Mickey, ‘Why aren’t wrestlers in SAG?’ If you really think about it, the Screen Actors Guild should organize them…They’re performing in front of a camera, and stuntmen are SAG."
This past week the infamous wrestling promoter[Vince McMahon] invited Aronofsky to privately screen the film for him at WWE headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. McMahon, whose struggling film production company, WWE Studios, also has a deal with Fox (one in which it pays the film giant to distribute its mostly straight-to-DVD fare through the Fox Atomic label), airs its TV show, “Friday Night Smackdown,” on the Fox-owned MyNetwork.
Reportedly, WWE has veto power over any wrestling-related advertising that runs during “Smackdown,” which has apparently made it difficult for Fox to advertise its current best Oscar contender on its own network’s top-rated show.
“It’s amusing but it’s not surprising,” says Writer/Producer/Director Richard O’Sullivan, who recently placed a sitcom set in the wrestling industry—entitled “Citizen Pain”—in development at the Toronto based Fight Network. “Vince McMahon is a wrestling promoter. His wrestling company, which his father left to him, is the only thing that’s ever been successful for him. His boxing events failed. His restaurant failed. Evel Knievel jumping the Snake River Canyon failed. He bought the Debbie Reynolds Hotel…that failed. He started a football league and a bodybuilding league and he’s made a bunch of movies which get horrible reviews and don’t turn a profit. The only one of his guys who actually did turn into an a-list star was Dwayne Johnson and that was only after he broke away from Vince, got out of ‘the wrestling vacuum,’ and took control of his own career. So I can see how Vince would be really pissed that a movie about ‘his’ industry—which thematically is out of step with his vision of the business—is getting great reviews and winning awards.”
“Pro wrestling has been a staple in television for over sixty years,” says O’Sullivan. “But advertisers still look at it sometimes as this low-rent, trailer park trash sideshow, and the content of McMahon’s TV programs really doesn’t do a lot to change that perception. Aronofsky’s film has really given the wrestling biz a bit of a shot in the arm. People are looking at the industry and the people who work in it and they’re giving them some major respect. But as usual, it’s gonna take Vince McMahon all of five minutes to un-do that good will because as he has publicly stated…he’s in ‘the garbage business.’”