Tens of thousands of Hollywood actors will go on strike at today, effectively bringing the giant movie and television business to a halt as they join writers in the first industry-wide walkout for 63 years.
The Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA), the US labor union that represents film and TV actors, singers, and other performers, issued a strike order after last-ditch talks with studios on their demands over dwindling pay and the threat posed by artificial intelligence ended without a deal.
“This is a moment of history, a moment of truth – if we don’t stand tall right now, we are all going to be in trouble,” SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher told a press conference, following the union board’s unanimous vote to strike.
“We are all going to be in jeopardy of being replaced by machines and big business.”
After the strike formally goes into effect, actors will join writers on picket lines in the first Hollywood double strike since 1960.
Writers have already spent 11 weeks protesting outside the headquarters of the likes of Disney and Netflix, after their similar demands were not met.
With the shutdown of nearly all productions and film sets, popular television series face lengthy delays.
SAG-AFTRA represents some 160,000 actors – everyone from A-list stars such as Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence and Glenn Close to day players who do small roles on television series.
The last time the actors’ union went on strike, in 1980, it lasted more than three months.
This time, some 98 percent of members voted to preapprove industrial action if a deal was not reached.
“We are the victims here. We are being victimized by a very greedy entity,” said Drescher.
“I am shocked by the way the people that we have been in business with are treating us.”
The union said in a statement after talks collapsed that actors’ pay had been “severely eroded by the rise of the streaming ecosystem,” and warned that “artificial intelligence poses an existential threat to creative professions.”