SAG Strike: Multiple Hollywood Actors Join Screenwriters’ Strike

Prominent Hollywood actors have voiced their intent to participate in the current screenwriters’ strike, leading to the largest halt in the industry in over six decades.

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) is pushing for streaming powerhouses to consent to a more equitable division of profits and improved work environments.

Approximately 160,000 performers will cease work as the clock strikes midnight. This interruption implies that a significant chunk of American film and television production will be forced to a standstill.

Celebrities Cillian Murphy, Matt Damon, and Emily Blunt departed the premiere of Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer in London Thursday night concurrent with the announcement of the strike.

The SAG strike commences at the stroke of midnight Pacific Time (08:00 BST). Picketing is scheduled to start on Friday morning, originating from the California base of Netflix, then proceeding to Paramount, Warner Bros, and Disney.

The union, officially the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), also seeks assurance that artificial intelligence (AI) and computer-generated faces and voices won’t supplant actors.

The group speaking for the studios, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), vehemently criticized the decision.

The AMPTP commented that “a strike is certainly not the outcome we hoped for as studios cannot operate without the performers that bring our TV shows and films to life”.

It continued, “The union has regrettably chosen a path that will lead to financial hardship for countless thousands of people who depend on the industry,” in their statement.

Regarding AI-related concerns, the AMPTP disclosed they’ve agreed to a “groundbreaking proposal” protecting the digital likeness of actors, necessitating their approval when digital duplicates are used in performances, or modifications are implemented.

Nevertheless, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the SAG’s national executive director and chief negotiator, dismissed the proposal as unacceptable.

An additional SAG requirement for streaming services is for actors to earn enhanced base wages and residuals – referring to revenue received by actors from reruns of films and shows they’ve featured in.

The strike includes a large number of actors who earn considerably less for minor roles than their A-list counterparts.

Fran Drescher, SAG’s president, stated the strike occurs at a “very seminal moment” for industry actors.

She claimed, “What’s happening to us is happening across all fields of labour,” when companies prioritize Wall Street and greed over their essential workers that run their operations.

Another ongoing strike by the 11,500 Writers Guild of America members advocating for better wages and work conditions commenced on 2 May.

Some writers have pivoted to projects that aren’t under the purview of the contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

The simultaneous strike by both unions is the first since 1960, when the SAG was headed by Ronald Reagan, prior to his political career and presidency. The actors’ last strike occurred in 1980.

Disney CEO Bob Iger, addressing a crowd of industry leaders at an Idaho resort before the SAG’s announcement on Thursday, labelled the actors’ and writers’ demands as unrealistic and damaging to an industry still recuperating from the pandemic.

The Directors Guild of America, a third union, successfully settled a contract in June and won’t be part of the walkout.

The strike will compound the list of projects already suspended or delayed due to the writers’ strike.

For films in the making, it implies a bulk of the work will become unfeasible. Even when shooting has concluded, actors won’t be available for re-shoots and other vital stages of film production.

TV shows still being shot will mostly have to pause as actors become inaccessible, although in some scenarios, private agreements might be reached between performers and producers to continue work.

High-profile Hollywood celebrities won’t be able to partake in events promoting new and forthcoming releases. Events such as the Emmys and Comic-Con might be rescheduled or diminished.

International events, like the Toronto and Venice film festivals, will continue as planned, but SAG actors won’t be able to participate as they usually do.

Following the announcement, several SAG-affiliated actors, including Better Call Saul’s Bob Odenkirk, Cynthia Nixon from Sex and the City, and Hollywood legend Jamie Lee Curtis, expressed their support for the strike on Instagram.