By: CRYSTA FORIA and JILL LAWLESS (Associated Press)
LOS ANGELES (TodayNews) — A joint strike by Hollywood actors and writers is now in its second week, and there is no sign that it will be reached.
During the week, actors such as Tina Fey, Kevin Bacon and his wife Kyra Sedgwick, Rosario Dawson, David Duchovny and other stars joined working-class performers and writers on pickets outside the studios and corporate offices of streaming giants Amazon, MAX and Netflix.
The regular appearance of actors on the picket lines has provided additional stardom and voices on issues that are key for both groups – higher pay and the preservation of well-established practices such as residual payments, as well as protection from the use of artificial intelligence. Some 65,000 actors, the vast majority of whom are not making enough from acting to qualify for health benefits through their guild, along with 11,500 screenwriters, are on strike.
While many pickets take place in Los Angeles and New York, film and television production takes place across the country. Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago were among the major cities with strikes on Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday, the actors in London held an event in solidarity with their fellow Screen Actors Guild members of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
Stars including Brian Cox, Andy Serkis, Hayley Atwell, Simon Pegg and Imelda Staunton gathered with other performers and crew in Leicester Square in London for a demonstration organized by British actors’ union Equity.
They chanted “One fight, one fight, we support the SAG-AFTRA fight” and “United people will never be defeated”, using the British slang term for actors.
Cox, who played media mogul Logan Roy in The Heir, said, “I think we’re on the thin end of a terrible wedge” as artificial intelligence shakes the foundations of acting.
“Pay is one thing, but the worst aspect is the whole idea of AI and what AI can do to us,” he said. “AI is a very, very serious thing. And that’s where we’re most vulnerable.”
Cox said it was important that the actors show solidarity with the flamboyant writers of the Writers Guild of America.
“We are like pieces of furniture without writers,” he said. Cox said he was “extremely irritated by the DGA (director’s union) for not coming out in support” of industry peers.
Serkis, who has become a specialist in playing digitally generated characters since he first played Gollum in the Lord of the Rings saga two decades ago, said: “I’m probably one of the most popular actors on the planet.”
“I know it’s okay to use my image, or my movement library, or my voice,” he said, adding that “it’s not right that it’s easy to access and use without rewarding the artist.”
When negotiations will resume with studios and streaming companies represented by the Film and Television Producers Alliance, it has not yet been reported. The group said it offered the writers and cast members substantial pay increases and attempted to meet other demands.
“Please come back to the table, please be realistic, please have more socialism in your heart and think about the people who make money for you,” Mission Impossible star Pegg urged studios and streaming services.
Many picketers in the US have seized on comments from their corporate bosses, such as Disney CEO Bob Iger, who last week called union demands “unrealistic.”
During an earnings event on Wednesday, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said he grew up in a union family and knew the strike was painful for workers and their families.
“We are very interested in reaching an agreement as soon as possible. One that is fair and allows unions, the industry and all of its members to move forward into the future,” he said.
Actor and writer Seth Green said streaming, which has become the dominant form of entertainment during the pandemic, has upended the livelihoods of the strikers.
“Everything is broken. I mean, it sounds silly, but it’s actually so simple,” Green said, speaking at Paramount Studios in Hollywood on Thursday. Traditional entertainment contracts used to reward actors and screenwriters throughout the long history of successful shows and films. But no more, he said.
“If the company that owned this thing made a billion dollars, you would get some money out of it. It’s all gone,” Greene said.
Lawless reported from London.
To learn more about the writers’ and actors’ strike, visit: https://apnews.com/hub/hollywood-strikes/