*”Beasts of the Southern Wild,” the critically acclaimed indie drama that follows a six-year-old girl and her dad Wink living in a Louisiana bayou community, has been ruled ineligible for the Screen Actors Guild Awards because it was not made under the terms of SAG-AFTRA’s Low Budget Feature Agreement, which mandates the use of professional actors.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Fox Searchlight is positioning the film as a major awards contender, and SAG’s decision “throws a small roadblock in front of the film’s Oscar chances because the SAG Awards sometimes mirror the Academy’s selections.”
Director Benh Zeitlin, out of financial necessity (he had a budget of just $1.3 million) and a desire for the greatest possible sense of authenticity, instead used locals who had never acted before and therefore were not SAG members.
The stars of the film, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in January, are a 6-year-old schoolgirl (Quvenzhane Wallis) and a fortysomething local baker (Dwight Henry). Neither will be eligible for SAG Awards, nor will the cast be eligible for the best ensemble nod, which is SAG-AFTRA’s equivalent of a best picture award.
It is theoretically possible to retroactively bring a film into compliance with SAG-AFTRA’s Low Budget Feature Agreement, but doing so for “Beasts” would require that not only its domestic distributor, Fox Searchlight, provide additional payment to the film’s actors but also that all of the various other companies that are distributing the film internationally do the same. Some of them might feel less inclined to pony up additional cash in return for the mere possibility of SAG nominations.
Zeitlin says he has no regrets about the way he cast his film. “Against all logic and planning, two incredible first-time actors won the lead roles in Beasts,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter via e-mail. “I’m positive they both have long and amazing acting careers in front of them.”