Jason Sudeikis, Susan Sarandon and thousands of actors have joined screenwriters on Hollywood’s picket lines in its biggest strike in more than 60 years.
The writers left their job in May, frustrated with wages, working conditions, and the lack of protection from advances in artificial intelligence (AI).
Major films in production including the Avatar and Gladiator sequels may be affected by the shutdown.
While on strike, actors cannot appear in films or even promote films.
Brian Cox, lead actor on HBO’s Succession, told the BBC the strike could continue “until the end of the year”.
“The whole broadcasting process has changed the paradigm,” the Scottish star told BBC Newscast.
“They’re trying to freeze us and beat us to the ground, because there’s a lot of money to be made from live broadcasting and not wanting to share it with writers or performers.”
Talks over a new contract with the studios and broadcasting giants broke down Thursday, with the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) accusing the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) of being “unwilling to offer a fair deal.”
About 160,000 artists stopped working in the middle of the night, joining the 11,500 members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA), who pulled out on May 2.
By noon on Friday, union members and their supporters had gathered outside the offices of major studios and streaming services in Los Angeles, New York and other cities.
The demonstrations drew support — and star power — from some of the film and television industry’s biggest celebrities, including the stars of the highly anticipated Oppenheimer movie, who walked off the red carpet Thursday night.
The two unions want studios and broadcast services to offer better salaries, higher royalties, increased contributions to pension and health plans, and safeguards on the use of artificial intelligence in the industry.
Productions including sequels to the Avatar series, Deadpool, and Gladiator, as well as upcoming seasons of shows like Stranger Things, Family Guy, and The Simpsons, are likely to be affected.
Red carpet premieres, promotional interviews and events including the Emmys and Comic-Con have already been halted, rescheduled or scaled back.
The strike was moved in part by the uncomfortable transition into the era of digital broadcasting, as well as broader technological changes.
“Artificial intelligence will affect everyone,” Oscar winner Susan Sarandon told the BBC during a sit-down in New York.
“There’s definitely always a sense that if it’s not resolved now, how can we solve it in the future?” She said.
“If you don’t have the foresight to put something in place for the future, you’re screwed up. Obviously nothing is going to change from top to bottom, it’s going to be up to us at the bottom.”
Both writers and actors have complained that they make much less money than they used to and that the contracts have been blunted by inflation.
For actors, payment for individual roles has dropped, forcing them to look for several more roles to earn the same amount of money as they did a few years ago.
Writing contracts became shorter and riskier, with payment often not included for writers’ work on revisions or new material.
“We are falling victim to a very greedy entity,” Fran Drescher, current SAG president, said Thursday. “I was shocked at the way the people we dealt with treated us.”
The failed negotiations between the unions and the Confederation of Trade Unions represented the first tandem strike in the industry since 1960. The last representatives’ strike in 1980 lasted 10 weeks.
A third union, the Directors Guild of America (DGA), did not take part in the strike after successfully negotiating its own contract in June, but the group said it was “strongly supportive” of those picketing.
With the strike likely to drag on for months, movie theaters could run into trouble, and viewers could be left with nothing to watch on reality TV and live sports.
In a statement released Friday, the White House said President Joe Biden “believes that all workers — including actors — deserve fair pay and benefits.”
“The president supports workers’ right to strike and hopes the parties can reach a mutually beneficial agreement,” said spokeswoman Robyn Patterson.
Representatives represented by SAG’s sister union in the UK – Equity – must continue to operate as normal, due to UK employment laws. This includes the stars of HBO’s House of the Dragon.
However, the union told US companies that it would closely monitor any attempts to transfer US products to the UK.
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