The Stars Of Oppenheimer Walked Out Of Their Own Premiere In Solidarity W/ The Actor Strikes

oppenheimer cast joins actors strike

The cast of Oppenheimer left the film’s much anticipated UK premiere in solidarity with actors going on strike in the US. We fkn love to see it.

Cillian Murphy, Florence Pugh, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon and Rami Malek walked the red carpet at the premiere an hour earlier than scheduled, and didn’t appear at the actual screening at all.

Matt Damon told Variety before the film started that he and his co-stars were “going to walk obviously, in solidarity”.

“That’s why we moved this [red carpet] up because we know the second [the strike is] called, we’re going home,” he said.

 “We ought to protect the people who are kind of on the margins,” he told Associated Press the same day.

“And 26,000 bucks a year is what you have to make to get your health insurance. And there are a lot of people whose residual payments are what carry them across that threshold.

“And if those residual payments dry up, so does their health care. And that’s absolutely unacceptable. We can’t have that. So, we’ve got to figure out something that is fair.”

Director of the film Christopher Nolan explained the situation to the audience after the movie.

“You’ve seen them here earlier on the red carpet,” he said.

“Unfortunately, they’re off to write their picket signs for what we believe to be an imminent strike by SAG, joining one of my guilds, the Writers Guild, in the struggle for fair wages for working members of the unions, and we support them.”

In case you aren’t across what’s happening in Hollywood RN, US actors union SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild — American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) announced its first major strike in more than 40 years — which means now Hollywood’s writers and actors are refusing to work.

Why are actors striking?

The actors are striking because of pay disputes similar to the WGA strike that’s been going on since May.

Basically, since the rise of streaming, actors and writers have been making less money in residual payments for a couple of reasons:

TV shows used to have way more episodes back in the day. Shows like Friends had around 20 to 24 episodes per season, whereas streaming shows tend to have around eight (like Queen Charlotte), and sometimes even less than that. I mean, the first season of HBO’s The Idol only had five episodes.

The hiatuses in between TV show seasons used to be much shorter than they are with current streaming shows, too — we’re seeing gaps of sometimes two or three years between seasons, when back when you were watching shows on TV, you were getting at least one season a year.

That’s a long time for actors to have to live without their next project and therefore pay cheque.

These two differences in the way shows are now created and consumed, plus inflation, have lead to a withering of residuals for actors (basically like royalties, you can read more about this here), who are essentially making way less money from shows that stream now than shows that aired on TV before — which isn’t fair because they’re doing the same work.

It’s made even worse when you consider the fact that streaming giants choose which shows remain on their server — if a show stops streaming, what happens to the actor’s residuals?

The industry changes “make it increasingly difficult for our members to achieve and maintain a middle class lifestyle working as a performer,” SAG-AFTRA’s website says.

The use of AI in movies

Another issue the actors strike is looking to resolve is that of the use of AI, which SAG-AFTRA wants limited.

It’s seen as an “existential threat” for writers, but the issue for actors lies more in having their likeness, voice or performances used without their consent. What if someone dies and a studio decides to continue making movies with their face? What if someone is hired for a day, but then their face is used in other shows without their consent or any pay?

Not only does the union seek to to protect its members of this, it also wants to prevent studios from training AI to create new performances by feeding them existing work of actors. When you think about it, it’s basically stealing labour and then repurposing it to replace the original creator. Kinda dystopian, hey?

Self-tape auditions and why they aren’t good for actors

Another, perhaps unexpected, issue being brought up in the actors strike is that of self-taped auditions.

Filming your audition at home and then sending it to producers became common during the pandemic, but now some actors have invested in fancy lighting and rented studios to create really high quality audition tapes.

This is worrying because it means wealthy actors, or those who can spend daddy’s money, become more privileged in the acting space than those who aren’t as well off, creating a bit of a class divide. It also means some actors might be pressured into spending more money on creating better quality auditions that they don’t have.

“The shift to burdensome and unreasonably demanding self-taped auditions means that our members are working harder than ever, forced to take on audition costs that have always been the responsibility of casting and production,” says SAG-AFTRA’s website.

The actor strike has teamed up with the writers strike that’s been going on since May, meaning this is the first industry-wide strike in Hollywood in 60 years.

We don’t know how much longer the strike can go on for, especially because since streaming giants can simply add old catalogues back to keep viewers busy until strikers tire out, there isn’t as much urgency for studios to meet strikers’ demands (evil, I know).

That being said, things could still be successful, too — we just have to wait and see.

Image: Wiktor Szymanowicz/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images