Not even a writer for Law & Order can get law and order when he needs it during the WGA strike. News Corp as well as striking writers have confirmed to me that an impatient Fox employee (photo left) driving a black SUV got into a physical fracas with picketing Rene Balcer, showrunner of Law & Order and co-creator of Law & Order: Criminal Intent. The altercation occured while Balcer was legally walking the line in the crosswalk of Fox Studios’ Gate 3 off Avenue Of The Stars in Century City.
The driver’s behavior had escalated all week, witnesses said. First, the Fox white collar worker spent Monday yelling at the striking writers. Then he used his car to nudge a picketer Tuesday. That’s when a strike captain wrote a “Safety Note of the Day: Watch Out For Douchebags” about “some asshole roared up to our picketers and was so angry at having to wait two seconds for them to cross the street that he tapped one of our guys with his fender (lightly; no injury). We got his license plate and took a picture of him. Fortunately, our picketers were following all the Safe Picketing Rules.”
And finally today the driver drove into Balcer, began pushing him with his fender, and then got into a shoving match with the celebrated writer. Here’s one witness account: “It’s Mr. SUV’s turn to wait for us to cross. He does not wait. He plows into us, knocking Rene Balcer back several feet. Then the guy leaps out of his car and takes a swing at Rene, and then shoves him out onto Avenue of the Stars. Thankfully, there was no traffic at that moment.”
Still another witness said on WriterAction: “After Rene is pushed back by the SUV, he shouts at the driver: ‘Hey, that’s assault!’ The driver comes out of the SUV and shouts: ‘I’ll show you assault!’ And then the driver takes his swing.”
As soon as the driver got out of his car and headed towards Balcer, WGA strike captains on the scene called to the Fox security guard to help. But striking writers claim the guard did not respond. That’s when, witnesses say, the driver “got in Balcer’s face” and things got physical. Picketers attempted to grab and restrain the driver. But he shook them off and scrambled back into his car which was waved through the gate by the Fox guard.
After the incident, Balcer called the police. A Fox supervisor came out and looked at photos of the driver and the license plate of his car. About thirty minutes after the incident, the LAPD arrived and took statements from Balcer and witnesses. It’s not certain whether the showrunner intends to press charges. (Maybe it depends on whether Sam Waterston is available to prosecute in Los Angeles County?)
But these car-meets-striker confrontations are no joke. I’m told that News Corp is ”looking into the matter internally” and intends to close that gate because it’s “unsafe” without a traffic light controlling the crosswalk. Most importantly, the Fox altercation runs contrary to instructions which News Corp No 2 Peter Chernin gave his senior staff at the outset of the WGA picketing of Fox Studios: “Be gracious. Don’t be rude. Don’t argue. These guys have every right to do what they’re doing. They believe in their cause just as we believe in ours.”
Editor-in-Chief Nikki Finke - tip her here.