Hollywood actors were “tricked” by studios into extending strike negotiations by two weeks as the companies wanted more time to promote their summer blockbuster movies, union president Fran Drescher told AFP on Thursday. .
The Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) last month pushed back the initial deadline for the strike, hoping to reach an agreement with the likes of Netflix and Disney over demands for better wages and more protection against artificial intelligence. .
The extension made no progress in talks, which ended on Wednesday night, with the union representing some 160,000 artists calling for a strike by midnight Thursday (7:00 GMT Friday).
“We, in good faith, gave them an extension, hoping that they could make deep inquiries, and we would really have something to discuss,” Drescher, the star and co-creator of the 1990s series “The Nanny,” told AFP. “.
“But they tricked us. They stayed behind closed doors, they canceled our meetings, wasting time,” he said. “It was probably all to give them more space to promote their summer movies, because nothing significant came out of it.”
During that two-week period, blockbuster movies including Warner’s “Barbie,” Universal’s “Oppenheimer” and Paramount’s “Mission: Impossible: Deadly Judgment Part 1” have seen major releases around the world.
SAG-AFTRA rules prevent actors from promoting their movies and shows during a strike.
Had the shutdown started earlier, stars like Tom Cruise, Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling would have had to skip glitzy red carpet events, a key tool used by studios to garner publicity and hopefully higher box office receipts.
Red carpets scheduled for the next few weeks are either being canceled, like Paramount’s “Special Ops: Lioness,” or scaled back, like Disney’s “Haunted Mansion.”
“Actually, I was surprised. But I think I may have been naive, because this was my first big deal,” said Drescher, elected SAG-AFTRA head in 2021.
“I really thought we could come to a consensus. That they could see how this new business model has been dramatically imposed on the entire industry,” he said, referring to the changes brought about by “streaming.”
One of the main complaints of the actors refers to the reduction of the payments known as residuals.
The substantial sums that artists received when hit shows or movies they starred in were broadcast on television have all but disappeared, as internet broadcasters now refuse to disclose audience figures.
These internet audiovisual service companies pay a flat rate for all the programs available on their platforms, which can mean a small return for global success.
“It’s crazy to me, that they don’t want to sit down and say, ‘We need to engage them in this in an honorable and respectful way, so they can live with this significant change,'” Drescher said. “The truth is, they didn’t.”
Despite his frustration with the studies, Drescher insisted that the “SAG-AFTRA door is open to continue negotiations.”
“The strike is not the end, it is just the next step. We would love to continue negotiating. But the ball is in your court,” he concluded.