Leaders of Hollywood’s actors’ union voted Thursday to join screenwriters in the first joint strike in more than six decades, shutting down production across the entertainment industry after talks for a new contract with studios and streaming services broke down.
It’s the first time two major Hollywood unions have been on strike at the same time since 1960, when Ronald Reagan was the actors’ guild president.
In an impassioned speech as the strike, which begins at midnight, was announced, actors’ union president and former “The Nanny” star Fran Drescher chastised industry executives.
The Fight for Fairness
“Employers make Wall Street and greed their priority and they forget about the essential contributors that make the machine run,” Drescher said. “It is disgusting. Shame on them. They stand on the wrong side of history.”
Hours earlier, a three-year contract had expired and talks broke off between the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers representing employers including Disney, Netflix, Amazon and others.
A United Front
Outside Netflix’s Hollywood offices, picketing screenwriters chanted “Pay Your Actors!” immediately after the strike was declared. Actors will begin picketing alongside writers outside studio headquarters in New York and Los Angeles on Friday.
The premiere of Christopher Nolan’s film “Oppenheimer” in London was moved up an hour so that the cast could walk the red carpet before the SAG board’s announcement. Stars including Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt and Matt Damon left the event once the strike was announced.
A Shadow Over Awards Season
The strike — the first for film and television actors since 1980 — casts a shadow over the upcoming 75th Emmy Awards, whose nominations were announced a day earlier. Union rules prevent actors from doing any interviews or promotions around the awards, and they may not appear at the ceremony.
The strike rules also prevent actors from making personal appearances or promoting their work on podcasts or at premieres. And they are barred from do any production work including auditions, readings, rehearsals or voiceovers along with actual shooting. While international shoots technically can continue, the stoppage among U.S.-based writers and performers is likely to have a drag on those too.
Fighting for Fair Pay
A nearly two-week extension of negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and major Hollywood studios has been agreed upon to avoid an immediate strike. The extension gives both parties more time to reach a deal that addresses issues such as higher base pay and safeguards around AI usage in productions.
A-list stars including Jennifer Lawrence and Meryl Streep have expressed their support for a transformative deal that ensures fair pay and protects actors from the unregulated use of AI. The negotiations come at a challenging time for Hollywood studios, as they face pressure to make their streaming services profitable while dealing with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the industry.
The extension of negotiations provides hope that a strike can be avoided and that both parties can come to an agreement that benefits all involved. However, if a deal is not reached by mid-July, Hollywood could face further disruptions in production and potential financial losses.