Wayne Federman: What Reagan Did for Hollywood

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Wayne Federman is an actor, comedian, and writer known for his roles in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Step Brothers, 50 First Dates, and various television shows including Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Larry Sanders Show, X-Files, and The League. He was the head monologue writer for NBC's Late Night Night with Jimmy Fallon.

Tonight, the Motion Picture Association of America will honor the film career of Ronald Reagan with a tribute in Washington, D.C. The participating film studios include Paramount, Disney, 20th Century Fox, Universal, and Warner Brothers. Ironically it was these exact studios (plus MGM and Columbia) who, 51 years earlier, were engaged in a contentious high-stakes negotiation with Ronald Reagan. The outcome of that bitter 1960 showdown altered the economic fortunes of tens of thousands of film actors.

As the country winds down its celebration of the Ronald Reagan Centennial, there seems to be a growing consensus that Reagan was, for better or worse, a significant president. Personally I am convinced that he is vastly underrated, and I have more than seven billion reasons to support my argument, though not a single one of them is related to his eight years as U.S. president. Let me explain.

In the fall of 2000 I was hired to act in the film Legally Blonde. I portrayed a member of the admissions board that voted to admit Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) into Harvard Law School. I had four lines and my lone scene took just a few hours to shoot.

Eleven years later, in October 2011, I received a check from the Residuals Department of the Screen Actors Guild for the amount of $48.40. This was just the latest in a series of "Legally Blonde" residual checks that I and the other cast members have regularly received since the film's theatrical release in 2001....

There are, of course, many people who worked diligently to secure residuals for film actors. But at the top of the list is President Ronald Reagan. Not the U.S. President, but the union president. Here's what happened....

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