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Hollywood actors join writers on picket lines

July 15, 2023

Actors joined demonstrations by writers who had been marching for over two months. Meanwhile, a German actors association representative expressed solidarity as the Berlin premiere of "Barbie" was set to go on actorless.

SAG-AFTRA actors' union protest
Actors have begun picketing alongside writers outside of Hollywood studios over pay and AI safeguardsImage: David McNew/Getty Images

For the first time in 63 years, Hollywood actors joined screenwriters on picket lines on Friday in what has become Tinseltown's biggest labor fight in decades.

Actors and writers had been negotiating with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) for higher streaming-era pay and curbs on the use of artificial intelligence.

"Ted Lasso" star Jason Sudeikis, Rosario Dawson, starring in the upcoming "Star Wars: Ahsoka" and Allison Janney of "The West Wing" fame, were among the more famous members of SAG-AFTRA, the actors' union, to demonstrate. 

The striking actors joined thousands of members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA), who walked off sets at the beginning of May.

The last time Hollywood saw a "double strike" of actors and writers was in 1960.

Hollywood shuts down as actors join writers on strike

Actors union snaps back at AI proposal

Striking actors are demanding stronger safeguards on the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and assurances that digital images will not be used without their permission.

AMPTP, which represents employers including Disney, Netflix, Amazon and others, said it had agreed to a "groundbreaking AI proposal" to mitigate these concerns by protecting performers' digital likeness.

SAG-AFTRA chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland sad that studios had proposed that background actors be offered a days pay to have their likeness scanned, which entertainment firms could permanently use..

"So if you think that's a groundbreaking proposal, I suggest you think again," he said.

AMPTP said that the union's claim was false and that the proposal would only cover the motion picture a given background performer is employed for, with future use of replicas being subject to negotiation and a minimum payment.

Studios and actors wrangle over pay

SAG-AFTRA is asking studios for pay rises in line with inflation.

Disney CEO Bob Iger dismissed this demand as "unrealistic" earlier this week. He also said that it was a "shame" that strikes would damage the entertainment industry.

"I think that when Bob Iger talks about what a shame it is, he needs to remember that in 1980, CEOs like him made 30 times what their lowest worker was making," Sean Gunn, who acted in the film "Guardians of the Galaxy," said.

He said that Iger now "makes 400 times what his lowest worker is. And I think that's a shame, Bob. And maybe you should take a look in the mirror and ask yourself, 'Why is that?'"

The union is also demanding that streaming services disclose viewership figures so that actors can receive residuals every time a production is aired.

Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie in front of "Barbie" film logo
Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie will not attend the Berlin premiere of the film 'Barbie'Image: James Warren/Avalon/IMAGO

Hollywood strike reaches Germany

Actors Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie will not attend the Berlin premiere of their film "Barbie" on Saturday.

The premiere will take place at the Berlinale Palast theatre.

There will be no press conference following the screening.

Meanwhile, German Federal Association of Actors board member Hans-Werner Meyer told the German Press Agency that the organization supports the strike.

"From us they get full solidarity," he said.  "We have the same problems in the German industry."

"We are not yet at the point where we would have to go on strike," he said, as the union was still negotiating.

However, Meyer did not rule out an eventual German strike.

sdi/lo (dpa, AFP, AP, Reuters)