SAG Awards statuettes start out as molten metal

Amanda Lee Myers
Associated Press
The statuettes weigh 12 pounds, ne­arly 4 pounds heavier than an Oscar.

Burbank, Calif. — Winners of the Screen Actors Guild Awards often remark on their statuettes — their green-black appearance, their hefty weight — but the awards start out in a decidedly different state: as molten metal.

Winners often tell stories about how much the award, conferred to them by the 121,000-plus members of the guild SAG-AFTRA, mean to them. And for individual film acting winners, the honor often means another piece of hardware: an Academy Award.

Long before the glitzy awards ceremony, which will be held Sunday at Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium, the statuettes are forged in a decidedly unglamorous foundry on an industrial side street in Burbank. Men in welding masks and reflective suits craft the trophies using a metal-working process that is centuries old to create the award, which depicts an actor holding the drama and comedy masks. Once the statuette is done, a process that takes several weeks, the award weighs 12 pounds — nearly four pounds heavier than an Oscar.

Workers pour molten bronze metal into molds to make Screen Actors Guild statuettes at American Fine Arts Foundry.

The statuettes are created by pouring molten bronze into a wax mold. The bronze is heated to approximately 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, said Angel Meza a production manager at the American Fine Arts Foundary who has helped oversee the crafting of the award, called “The Actor,” for several years.

Machines whir and chains clank as the heavily-protected workers pour the liquid metal into molds, which grow bright as they’re filled. After cooling down for several minutes, the men dismantle the molds and despite their oversized protective mitts, bobble the pieces in their hands as they pass them onto a table.

“To see the labor and see what really goes on, the artistry of it, I think is magnificent. These skills — I don’t think people are aware,” said Ann Dowd, who is nominated for a SAG Award as part of the cast for “The Handmaid’s Tale.” She was one of several celebrities who watched the creation of several statuettes during an event earlier this month.

“We see these beautiful old buildings, we see statues, and they’re going away because that craftsmanship — it’s rare, I think, to have those skills and that artistry,” she said.

The initial molding process takes about 15 minutes.

It takes weeks to cast, polish, apply a patina to the dozens of statuettes needed for the SAG Awards. The show honors the best performances in film and television from the previous year.

Screen Actors Guild Awards

8 p.m. Sunday