By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Netflix Inc, Walt Disney Co and Hollywood’s other major film and television studios were racing against a midnight deadline on Friday to reach a deal with the SAG-AFTRA actors union and avert a second labor strike this summer.
A-list stars including Jennifer Lawrence and Meryl Streep, in a letter to union leadership this week, said they were ready to walk off the job if negotiators cannot reach a “transformative deal” on higher base pay and safeguards around use of artificial intelligence (AI).
The letter came after union negotiators issued a video saying their talks had been “extremely productive,” a possible sign that a deal was within reach.
A strike by SAG-AFTRA, which represents 160,000 actors, would turn up the heat on Hollywood studios already grappling with a nearly two-month work stoppage by the Writers Guild of America (WGA).
The walkout by 11,500 writers has shut down a wide swath of TV production and delayed the filming of movies including Marvel’s “Thunderbolts” and “Blade.” Any ongoing filming would have to halt if actors also strike.
Leaders of SAG-AFTRA and the WGA say the entertainment industry has changed dramatically with the rise of streaming television and the emergence of new technology such as generative AI, which they fear could be used to write scripts or create digital actors.
Some actors have spoken publicly of their support of a walkout.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge, star of the new “Indiana Jones” movie, noted that she was already on strike as a member of the WGA.
“I’m on the edge of my seat hoping that SAG will follow suit and stand up in support of the writers, and just really hope we can get this sorted,” Waller-Bridge said in an interview with Reuters at an “Indiana Jones” premiere in London.
SAG-AFTRA already voted to give its leaders the authority to call a work stoppage if talks break down before their contract expires on Friday night.
“I think we need the actors to go on strike so that it all could get worked out,” filmmaker and actor Judd Apatow told Reuters. “All these issues affect everybody.”
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which negotiates on behalf of the studios, had no comment on the ongoing talks with SAG-AFTRA.
With the writers, the AMPTP said it had offered “generous” pay increases but could not agree to all of the writers’ demands. The studios and the WGA have not held talks since the writers’ strike began on May 2.
The WGA walkout is hitting caterers, prop suppliers and other small businesses that generate a large portion of their income from Hollywood productions. The last writers’ strike in 2007 and 2008 cost the California economy an estimated $2.1 billion.
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Hanna Rantala and Sarah Mills in London; Editing by Mary Milliken and Rosalba O’Brien)