Large parts of the entertainment industry in Hollywood were brought to a standstill at midnight on Thursday when thousands of actors officially went on strike.
Moreover, the first effects of that could already be seen at the premiere of the long-awaited film, Oppenheimer. Florence Pugh, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon and Cillian Murphy, the film’s main players, unexpectedly left the premiere after their appearance on the red carpet, even before the film screening could begin.
The strike comes after the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA), which represents around 160,000 Hollywood actors, reached a deadlock in its negotiations with production houses on Thursday.
The union tried in vain to conclude an agreement, which could avoid future actor strikes, with the production houses.
The agreement deals, among other things, with the determination of a policy that will protect actors against the use of artificial intelligence (AI), as well as the dwindling compensation they receive. The union’s mediation team then recommended a strike.
“This is a historic moment, a moment of truth – if we don’t stand up now, we’re all going to be in trouble,” Fran Drescher, president of SAG-AFTRA, said during a media conference about the union’s decision to strike. . Drescher is best remembered for her starring role in the sitcom, The Nanny.
“We are all going to run the risk of being replaced by machines and the interests of the business world.”
The union represents veteran actors such as Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence and Glenn Close.
The actors will now join Hollywood writers, who have been on strike for 11 weeks, in protests in front of the headquarters of streaming giants such as Netflix and Disney.
The writer’s strike has already had an effect on series and film production, but an actor’s strike will paralyze the industry. This means huge waiting periods for new series and films, and no premieres or parties for new films.
The previous actors’ strike was in 1980 and lasted three months.
“We are the victims here. We are being targeted by a very greedy entity. I’m shocked to see how the people we’ve been doing business with for years are currently treating us,” says Drescher.
The union argues that the evolving streaming industry has led to lower compensation for actors. They also worry that AI threatens the creativity industry. Actors are also disappointed that their long-term compensation, which they receive when a film or series in which they appeared is rebroadcast, has almost completely dwindled.
The Alliance of Film and Television Producers (AMPTP) said it had offered “historic” raises to actors. The alliance also argued that it proposed an AI policy that would be groundbreaking, but that the actors have chosen a “path that will lead to financial suffering for thousands of people who depend on the entertainment industry”.
Disney CEO Bob Iger told CNBC on Thursday that the actors and writers’ expectations were “unrealistic” and that their strike was “very disturbing” to him.
Phil Lord, writer, director and producer of films such as Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse and The Lego Movie, were among those who questioned production houses’ version of events.
“AMPTP has been stubborn instead of tackling problems that can be solved with us. It threatens writers and actors who are at the bottom of the pay scale.”