Brian Cox and Simon Pegg among British stars rallying in support of Hollywood strike:

Actors including Brian Cox, Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis have told Sky News of their fears about AI as they rallied in support of the Hollywood strike.

Dozens of British stars turned out to London’s Leicester Square on Friday for the demonstration, which was organised by British acting union Equity in solidarity with performers in the US.

It comes after 160,000 members of SAG-AFTRA in the US walked out last week in protest over pay and conditions – including concerns over the growing use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the industry.

The action has brought Hollywood to a virtual standstill, forcing many film and TV productions to shut down, and marks the first time in more than 60 years that both actors and writers have gone on strike.

Members of the Writers Guild of America union launched a separate walkout two months ago.

Equity actors cannot legally take part in the strikes in the UK – but can if they are working in the US and are also SAG-AFTRA members. However, the walkouts have already had a knock-on effect on productions in Britain.

Succession star Brian Cox said the issues involved were of concern for performers around the world.

He told Sky News: “This is a major strike that’s happening in the States and we need to support them.

“We’ll be under siege next, we’re already under siege, particularly with artificial intelligence, and it’s something that has to be stopped and nipped in the bud.”

The crowd during a protest by members of the British actors union Equity in Leicester Square, London, in solidarity with striking Hollywood members of the Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (Sag-Aftra). Picture date: Friday July 21, 2023.

Image: The crowd in Leicester Square, London

Mr Cox also called for greater regulation of the industry in the UK – or as he put it: “Legislation that says ‘AI f*** off'”.

The Crown star Imelda Staunton said pay was also a major issue for struggling performers in the industry, but said technological advancements had added to anxiety across the profession.

“The issues that are being raised about streaming and AI are all issues that really need addressing.

“This is a global problem, this isn’t America or England, it’s all over,” she told Sky News.

Read more:

US actors’ strike: What does it mean for the film and TV industry?

Succession star Brian Cox says Hollywood strike could last until end of 2023

Other stars at the rally included Rob Delaney, Jim Carter, Naomie Harris and Penelope Wilton.

Some protesters carried signs reading: “Leave AI to Sci-fi,” “Write to Strike” and “This Barbie’s last residual was $0.02”.

Shaun of the Dead writer and star Simon Pegg, who is a member of both SAG-AFTRA and Equity, described the industrial action as a “tipping point” after years of concern over pay and the impact of streaming services such as Netflix.

Actor Andy Serkis poses for a picture as he joins demonstrators at the Equity rally in Leicester Square, in solidarity with the SAG-AFTRA strikes, London, Britain, July 21, 2023. REUTERS/Hollie Adams

Image: Actor Andy Serkis said he was hopeful the strike would end in victory for workers

He told Sky News: “AI is worrying too, because we’re looking at being replaced in some ways.

“And they want to scan the faces of background artists and then use their image in perpetuity, which is incredibly unreasonable, because they could use them for anything.

“We have to be compensated and we have to have some say in how it’s used.

“I don’t want to turn up in an advert for something I disagree with, some fossil fuel company, because I’m fundamentally opposed to them. I want to be able to hang on to my image, and voice, and know where it’s going.”

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Uncharted territory for Hollywood

Hayley Atwell, who stars in the new release Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, said the industry needed a “course correct” as bosses had failed to keep up with rapid technological advancements.

“We have the existential threat of AI taking human jobs, that means that it’s a more precarious situation than ever before,” she told Sky News.

“This is a time to adapt to that and regulate it, so that people who are creating content can continue to do so and make a fair living wage from it.”

She added: “We’re striking and it’s absolutely the right thing to do. I’m 100% in support of it. [But] it’s awful because it’s a last resort for everyone. We don’t want to strike but we’ve been stonewalled.”

Lord of the Rings star Andy Serkis, who described himself as “one of the most scanned actors on the planet”, said he was hopeful strikers in the US – and actors across the world – would eventually win their fight.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Zoe Saldana backs actors’ strike

He told Sky News: “I think there’s unquestionably going to be a victory for SAG, for the Writer’s Guild, for Equity, it’s going to come out positive. They are going to hold on this time.”

Serkis also said he had grave concerns over the future of AI, adding: “Artists are becoming severely undervalued. We think actors going on strike is a bit of a joke, [but] when the pandemic was happening, what was everyone doing for two years inside? They were watching shows…

“It’s a very important job. It’s a service and you just want to be paid a reasonable wage.”

Industry body the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents major film and TV studios in the US, says it has offered better terms and conditions, while it also accused SAG-AFTRA of walking away from negotiations.

The union has rejected the claims and said its members would remain on strike indefinitely until concessions were made.

The impasse has prompted fears the dispute could drag on and delay the release of major films and TV programmes later this year, while also causing disruption to major industry events such as the 75th Emmy TV awards, which is scheduled to be held in September.

You might also like...