Hollywood actors’ union goes on strike, Cillian Murphy and Emily Blunt leave ‘Oppenheimer’ premiere

The Screen Actors Guild, a Los Angeles-based union representing 160,000 Hollywood actors, on Thursday (July 13) called a strike action, initiating the largest shutdown in Hollywood in the past four decades. Following the strike, notable stars Cillian Murphy and Emily Blunt left the premiere of Oppenheimer, confirmed its director Christopher Nolan. 

This strike aims to exert pressure on studios and streaming giants to address various concerns, including a more equitable distribution of profits and improved working conditions for performers.

As a result of the strike, approximately 160,000 actors will participate in picket lines, aligning themselves with a separate strike led by writers. 

Failed last-minute negotiations 

The strike announcement follows the breakdown of last-minute discussions between the union (officially known as the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, or SAG-AFTRA) and major studios. 

Despite efforts to reach a resolution, the two parties were unable to find common ground, prompting the Screen Actors Guild to take decisive action.

The actors participating in the strike are seeking improved pay and working conditions from streaming services. Additionally, they are demanding assurances that artificial intelligence and computer-generated faces and voices will not be utilised as replacements for human actors.

During a press conference in California, the executive director and chief negotiator of the union described the strike as “an instrument of last resort.”

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He expressed that they had no other option but to take this course of action due to the circumstances.

Failed negotiations lead to strike 

Following the breakdown of talks on Wednesday, the negotiating committee of the union unanimously voted to recommend the strike action.

In a statement quoted by Deadline, SAG-AFTRA said, “SAG-AFTRA’s Television/Theatrical/Streaming contracts have expired without a successor agreement. After more than four weeks of bargaining, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) — the entity that represents major studios and streamers, including Amazon, Apple, Disney, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount, Sony and Warner Bros. Discovery — remains unwilling to offer a fair deal on the key issues that are essential to SAG-AFTRA members.”

“SAG-AFTRA negotiated in good faith and was eager to reach a deal that sufficiently addressed performer needs, but the AMPTP’s responses to the union’s most important proposals have been insulting and disrespectful of our massive contributions to this industry,” SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said. 

“The companies have refused to meaningfully engage on some topics and on others completely stonewalled us. Until they do negotiate in good faith, we cannot begin to reach a deal. We have no choice but to move forward in unity, and on behalf of our membership, with a strike recommendation to our National Board. The board will discuss the issue this morning and will make its decision.”

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