The cast of Oppenheimer left a London premiere prematurely to “go and write their picket signs” in preparation for the “imminent” strike by the actors’ union.
On Thursday (13 July), the cast of Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated movie about the creation of the atomic bomb, including leading man Cillian Murphy and co-stars Florence Pugh, Matt Damon, Emily Blunt and Ramy Malek, walked out of the film’s UK premiere in solidarity with SAG-AFTRA’s looming strike.
“You’ve seen them here earlier on the red carpet,” Nolan announced to the cinema’s audience.
“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.”
Later that day, SAG approved its membership of 160,000 to begin striking on Thursday at midnight, joining screenwriters who’ve been picketing since May – a historic move that will effectively shut down Hollywood, which hasn’t happened in over 60 years.
The decision came hours after contract negotiations with companies such as Netflix, Amazon, Disney and Warner Bros failed to pass before the Wednesday (12 July) midnight deadline.
Ahead of the Oppenheimer screening, the actors had been walking the red carpet, posing for pictures, interacting with fans and speaking to press.
In a red-carpet interview with Variety, Damon said that “once the strike is officially called”, the cast is “going to walk obviously in solidarity”.
“That’s why we moved this [red carpet] up because we know the second it’s called, we’re going home,” he said.
The acting union’s demands are similar to those of its counterpart, the Writers Guild of America (WGA). Among the former’s chief demands include increased wages, higher streaming residuals and improved working conditions.
“Union members should withhold their labour until a fair contract can be achieved,” Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, national executive director and chief negotiator of SAG-AFTRA said during a press conference. “They have left us with no alternative.”
Following the strike announcement, several other A-listers, including Issa Rae and Jamie Lee Curtis, spoke out in support of the union’s decision as they joined the strike, which could last at least six months.
Oppenheimer’s premiere could be among the last of its kind, at least while the strike is in effect. According to SAG’s strike guidelines, union members are barred from attending premieres, film festivals and award shows, or even promoting their projects on social media or in interviews.
They are also barred from attending conventions, including the popular Comic-Con or 90s Con, to promote projects, either past or present, that have been made under SAG contracts.
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