Bryan Cranston tells Disney boss Bob Iger he ‘won’t take away our dignity’ in impassioned anti-AI speech

‘Stay together! We will win this fight,’ the ‘Breaking Bad’ star told striking actors at New York rally

Tom Murray
Tuesday 25 July 2023 19:11 BST
Bryan Cranston joins striking actors and writers at New York protest

Bryan Cranston had an unequivocal message for Disney CEO Bob Iger at the SAG-AFTRA strike rally in New York City on Tuesday (25 July).

The strike is currently in its second week after the 160,000 member-strong actors’ union voted to join striking Hollywood writers who are fighting for better compensation and assurances that they will not lose work to artificial intelligence (AI), among other demands.

Hours before the strike action was ordered on 14 July, Iger said the decision by the actors’ and writers’ unions was “very disturbing to me”, prompting backlash.

“We’ve got a message for Mr Iger,” an impassioned Cranston, 67, said from the stage of the “Rock the City for a Fair Contract” rally.

“I know, sir, that you look [at] things through a different lens. We don’t expect you to understand who we are. But we ask you to hear us, and beyond that to listen to us when we tell you we will not be having our jobs taken away and given to robots,” the Breaking Bad star continued.

“We will not have you take away our right to work and earn a decent living. And lastly, and most importantly, we will not allow you to take away our dignity! We are union through and through, all the way to the end!”

Cranston’s speech prompted huge cheers from the rally as he yelled: “Stay together! We will win this fight!”

According to Variety, other actors to speak onstage at the rally included Steve Buscemi, Wendell Pierce, Christian Slater, Christine Baranski, Stephen Lang, and Tituss Burgess.

Also onstage were Michael Shannon, BD Wong, Brendan Fraser, Jessica Chastain, Matt Bomer, Chloë Grace Moretz, and Corey Stoll.

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During his 13 July appearance on CNBC’s Squawk Box, Iger said it was “the worst time” for a combined strike.

The 72-year-old Disney chief said: “We managed, as an industry, to negotiate a very good deal with the directors’ guild that reflects the value that the directors contribute to this great business.

“We wanted to do the same thing with the writers, and we’d like to do the same thing with the actors. There’s a level of expectation that they have that is just not realistic.

“And they are adding to the set of challenges that this business is already facing that is, quite frankly, very disruptive.”

In response to Iger’s interview, She-Hulk writer Cody Ziglar tweeted: “The residual check from my episode of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law was $396.

“This was one of the most watched episodes of television, of one of the most watched television series on Disney+. Even made multiple ‘best episodes of 2022’ lists. My residual check was $396. This is why we’re striking.”

According to a 2019 Forbes estimate, Iger has a net worth of approximately $690m (£536m).

Zack Arnold, the editor and associate producer of Netflix’s Cobra Kai, told The Independent that the strike was caused by a “perfect storm” of streaming dominance, which has led to the erosion of residual pay, and the advent of AI in the industry.

Read more about what impact the strike will have here.

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