Hollywood Actors Announce Historic Strike as Oppenheimer Stars Walk Out of London Premiere

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The decision to walk out means that for the first time in 63 years, both SAG-AFTRA and WGA will be on strike at the same time, shutting down production across Hollywood’s film and TV industry

Hollywood actors announced Thursday they will join an ongoing strike by screenwriters in the entertainment industry’s biggest shutdown in more than six decades after talks for a new contract with the studios and streaming services broke down.

The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) wants streaming giants to agree to a fairer split of profits and better working conditions.

The decision to walk out means that for the first time in 63 years, both SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild of America (WAG) will be on strike at the same time.

SAG-AFTRA, which also wants a guarantee that artificial intelligence (AI) and computer-generated faces and voices will not be used to replace actors, said the industrial action would begin at midnight Los Angeles time.

Picketing will begin Friday morning outside the California headquarters of Netflix, before proceeding to Paramount, Warner Bros, and Disney. SAG-AFTRA warned no date for the strike end had been set. Some 160,000 actors and performers are expected to take part.

As the strike was announced, Stars Cillian Murphy, Matt Damon, and Emily Blunt left the premiere of Christopher Nolan’s historical epic Oppenheimer in London Thursday night, with Nolan saying: “They are off to write their picket signs”.

In a news conference announcing the strike, SAG-AFTRA executive director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland described the strike as a “last resort” and said it had come after four weeks of talks.

He accused industry body the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) of “devaluing the work of our members”, adding it had been “unwilling to offer a fair deal on key issues essential to protecting the livelihoods of working actors and performers”.

“Actors deserve a contract that reflects the changes that have taken place in the industry,” Crabtree-Ireland said.

SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher added: “This is a moment of history that is a moment of truth... The jig is up AMPTP, we stand tall, you need to wake up and smell the coffee. You cannot exist without us.”

SAG-AFTRA had earlier voted unanimously to recommend a strike after negotiations with Hollywood studios failed to reach an agreement.

Writers who are WGA members have already been striking for two months, seeking higher minimum pay, more writers per show, and less exclusivity on single projects.

The decision for performers to join them on strike means the vast majority of US film and TV productions will grind to a halt.

Slamming the decision, AMPTP said: “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.”

“The union has regrettably chosen a path that will lead to financial hardship for countless thousands of people who depend on the industry,” it added.