The cast of one of the biggest movies to premiere this year has walked out of their own debut screening in London. As per Variety, Oppenheimer’s Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon and Florence Pugh walked out on the event on July 13 in solidarity with a just-called Hollywood actors strike, leaving director Christopher Nolan to face the music.
“You’ve seen [the cast] here earlier on the red carpet,” Nolan told the audience inside Odeon Luxe theatre at Leicester Square.
“Unfortunately, they’re off to write their picket signs for what we believe to be an imminent strike by SAG, joining one of my guilds, the Writers Guild, in the struggle for fair wages for working members of the unions, and we support them.”
SAG-AFTRA is the Screen Actors Guild which represents 160,000 performers including moviestars. The dispute seems to stem from actors not being paid streaming royalties and the threat to their jobs posed of the introduction of artificial intelligence. SAG’s members (which is basically every working actor in Hollywood) will now join writers who have been on strike for more than 70 days over pay disputes and protections against AI. It is the first industry-wide shutdown in 63 years, and the second time actors and writers have been on strike at the same time.
The last “double strike” was in 1960, when the SAG body was led by Ronald Reagan. In that strike, both the writers and actors were fighting compensation issues arising from the dawn of television.
“Compensation has been severely eroded by the rise of the streaming ecosystem,” a SAG-AFTRA statement read. “Furthermore, artificial intelligence poses an existential threat to creative professions.”
“Union members should withhold their labour until a fair contract can be achieved,” Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, chief negotiator of SAG-AFTRA told a room of SAG actors and journalists on July 13. “[Studio heads] have left us with no alternative.”
Crabtree-Ireland said a month of negotiations with studio heads had resulted in little progress.
“We are being victimised by a very greedy enterprise,” SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher said during Thursday’s press conference. “At some point you have to say ‘No, we’re not going to take this anymore. You people are crazy. What are you doing? Why are you doing this?’”
Damon hinted at the walk-off earlier in the evening.
“Once the strike is officially called”, we’re “going to walk obviously in solidarity,” Damon told a reporter at the Oppenheimer premiere. “That’s why we moved this [event date] up because we know the second it’s called, we’re going home.”
It is not clear how long the strikes will continue but the timeout is sure to throw the movie-making business into disarray. With no premieres, no award shows, no interviews for completed work and no promotion of projects on social media, this could mean the Venice Film Festival is off the schedule, followed by Telluride, the Toronto Film Festival and The New York Film Festival.
More to come.