- Bernd Debusman Jr. & Samantha Granville in Los Angeles
- BBC News
The Screen Actors Guild has announced a strike, marking the start of the largest strike Hollywood has seen in 40 years.
The union wants the streaming giants to agree on a fairer split of profits and better working conditions.
The walkout means 160,000 artists will stop work at midnight.
According to director Christopher Nolan, stars Cillian Murphy and Emily Blunt walked out of the Oppenheimer premiere as soon as the strike began.
The SAG strike will begin at midnight Los Angeles time (08:00 BST). The picket will begin an hour later outside Netflix’s California headquarters, before moving on to Paramount, Warner Bros. and Disney.
The union is also asking for guarantees that artificial intelligence and computer-generated faces and voices will not be used to replace actors.
According to a strike order posted online by SAG, the walkout applies to those who work in acting, singing or dancing, stunt performers, and those involved in puppetry or motion capture work. The layoff also applies to various background and promotional tasks.
On Wednesday, the union — officially known as the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, or SAG-AFTRA — announced it had been unable to reach an agreement with the major studios.
Its negotiating team voted unanimously to recommend strike action. This means that most American film and television production will cease.
Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the union’s national executive director and chief negotiator, said SAG members will picket Friday morning.
He added that the strike was “a tool of last resort”.
The group representing the studios, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, or AMPTP, said the strike was “definitely not the outcome we were hoping for as the studios cannot function without the artists who bring our TV shows and movies 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,” its statement added.
Fran Drescher, president of SAG, said the strike comes at a “very critical time” for working actors in the industry.
“What’s happening to us is happening in all labor sectors,” he said, “when bosses make Wall Street and greed their priority, and they forget about the essential contributors that keep the machine running.”
The Writers Guild of America has been on strike since May 2 to demand better pay and working conditions. Some writers have returned to write projects not covered by the contract between the Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
After a “double strike” by both unions in 1960, SAG was led by actor and former US President Ronald Reagan. The last actors’ strike was in 1980.
A third union, the Directors Guild of America, successfully negotiated a contract in June and won’t participate.
The start of the strike means most American film and television productions will be forced to halt, adding to the list of projects already closed or stalled due to the writers’ strike.
For films already in production, a stoppage means a large portion will become unworkable. Even in cases where the shooting has already been completed, the actors will be unavailable for re-shoots and other essential elements of the filmmaking process.
Still-filmed TV shows also often have to be halted due to unavailability of actors, although in some cases side deals can be made between artists and producers to allow work to continue.
Top Hollywood stars can’t attend events to promote new and upcoming releases. Events including the Emmys and Comic-Con may be rescheduled or scaled back.
International events like the Toronto and Venice Film Festivals will still go on, although SAG actors won’t be able to attend each year.
Several leading Hollywood stars have expressed their support for the strike, including Barbie actor Margot Robbie, Meryl Streep and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
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