Cast of Oppenheimer walk out of UK premiere as Hollywood actors announce strike

Writers in Hollywood have been joined in voting for strike action by actors, as ITV News Correspondent Robert Moore reports

Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt and Matt Damon were among the stars who staged a walk-out from the London premiere of Oppenheimer to "write their picket signs" ahead of the Sag-Aftra strike announcement on Thursday evening.

The news is likely to affect upcoming award shows, premieres, events and film festivals around the world after the US actors union declared its first major members strike in more than 40 years.

The premiere of Christopher Nolan's historical epic was brought forward by an hour ahead of a Sag-Aftra press conference in Los Angeles, which later declared the union had agreed to strike.

Christopher Nolan thanked the hard work of his stars before stating 'they're off to write their picket signs'. Credit: PA

The anticipated announcement cast a shadow over the London film premiere at the Odeon Luxe, in Leicester Square, with the film's major stars, including Florence Pugh, Robert Downey Jr, Sir Kenneth Branagh and Rami Malek leaving before the screening of the film.

Speaking on stage at the premiere ahead of the strike announcement, filmmaker Nolan said: "I have to acknowledge the work of our incredible cast, led by Cillian Murphy.

"The list is enormous - Robert Downey Jr, Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Florence Pugh, Kenneth Branagh, Rami Malek and so many more. You've seen them here earlier on the red carpet.

"Unfortunately, they are 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 their union."

Cast members of Oppenheimer attending the London premiere of the film. Credit: PA

Arriving on the red carpet ahead of the screening, British actress Blunt warned that the cast would be leaving "in unity" if the strike was announced.

She told US outlet Deadline: "I think right now we are just sorting of… I hope everyone makes a fair deal and we are here to just celebrate this movie.

"And if they call it, we'll be leaving together as a cast in unity with everyone."

Hollywood actors will join screenwriters in historic industry-stopping strike as contract talks collapse. Credit: AP

When asked if she is "upping sticks", she replied: "We're going to have to. We are going to have to. We will see what happens, but right now it's a joy to be together."

The strike news comes after the union and Hollywood studios failed to reach an agreement after more than four weeks of negotiations, with actors wanting better pay and increased safeguarding around artificial intelligence (AI) rights among their demands.

It is now anticipated the strike will affect upcoming events, including the Toronto and Venice film festivals, and the 75th Emmys.

Cillian Murphy was among the stars who walked out after actors union Sag-Aftra announced its strike. Credit: PA

The strike is the first for actors from film and television shows since 1980, and is the first time two major Hollywood unions have been on strike at the same time since 1960, when Ronald Reagan was the actors' guild president.

Before the talks began on June 7, the 65,000 actors who cast ballots voted overwhelmingly union leaders to send them into a strike, as the Writers Guild of America did when their deal expired more than two months ago.

When the initial deadline approached in late June, more than 1,000 members of the union, including Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence and Bob Odenkirk, added their names to a letter signaling to leaders their willingness to strike.

Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence are among actors who said they will strike. Credit: AP

A statement from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPT) said: "We are deeply disappointed that Sag-Aftra has decided to walk away from negotiations.

"This is the union's choice, not ours. In doing so, it has dismissed our offer of historic pay and residual increases, substantially higher caps on pension and health contributions, audition protections, shortened series option periods, a ground-breaking AI proposal that protects actors’ digital likenesses, and more.

"Rather than continuing to negotiate, Sag-Aftra has put us on a course that will deepen the financial hardship for thousands who depend on the industry for their livelihoods."

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