In the past recent weeks, Hollywood has been abuzz with the news of SAG-AFTRA members hitting the picket lines. Amidst the striking performers and actors, renowned celebrity Tom Cruise was seen taking a proactive role in a SAG-AFTRA negotiation session. The actor’s involvement was primarily to advocate for the union’s proposals that sought enhanced protections against artificial intelligence and improved wages and safety measures for stunt workers.
Cruise’s Virtual Involvement and Support
Cruise made his appearance at the June meeting via a Zoom call, after the guild deemed his expertise would strengthen their negotiations with film and television studios for a fresh contract. This strategic move was exceptional since no other actors of Cruise’s stature had actively participated in the negotiations.
Despite Cruise’s significant influence in the industry, who is famed for performing his own stunts, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) remained unmoved in their stance. After nearly five weeks of negotiations, dialogues with the studios collapsed, leading SAG-AFTRA to call its members to strike.
SAG-AFTRA’s Proposals and AMPTP’s Response
During the third day of the strike, SAG-AFTRA publicized its contract proposals, along with what it claimed to be the studios’ responses. The union accused the studios of “intentional delays and repeated stonewalling.”
The union’s proposals included general wage increases and a plan for actors to receive a portion of the revenue from popular streaming hits. Cruise supported these proposals, especially those seeking protections for “human-created work.” These protections would necessitate an actor’s consent and adequate compensation before their voice or likeness is replicated using AI, or when a “digital replica” is created.
Cruise’s Advocacy for Stunt Coordinators and Performers
The “Mission: Impossible” star was also in favor of SAG-AFTRA’s demands for better pay for stunt coordinators. He urged studios to stop excluding them from residuals from network reruns and high-budget streaming shows. Additionally, the actor supported the demand for stunt coordinators to receive overtime or rest between work days to counteract the excessively long working hours on set.
SAG-AFTRA also proposed that off-camera stunt performers should receive residuals. However, AMPTP rejected this proposal and presented counteroffers for stunt workers and AI, which the guild claimed did not address many crucial concerns.
In response to these allegations, the studios countered what they termed as an attempt to “intentionally distort” their responses at the negotiation table. AMPTP claimed it had offered “more than $1 billion in wage increases, pension & health contributions, and residual increases and includes first-of-their-kind protections over its three-year term, especially concerning AI.”
AMPTP issued a statement, asserting that SAG-AFTRA’s claim that the studios have not been responsive to the needs of its members is misleading at best.
Impact on Hollywood
With SAG-AFTRA joining the Writer’s Guild of America in the first such joint strike in over six decades, the Hollywood industry came to a standstill. Film productions, including Cruise’s eighth “Mission: Impossible” film, were put on hold.
Cruise’s Stand on Film Promotion During the Strike
Apart from lobbying for his union, Cruise also requested SAG-AFTRA to allow actors to continue promoting their films even during the strike. He reportedly spoke about the precarious state of movie theaters, which are struggling to recover post-COVID-19 pandemic, and asserted that promoting films ultimately benefits actors.
Cruise’s Advocacy for Movie Theaters
Throughout the press tour for “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One,” Cruise emphasized the significance of movie theaters. Following the box office success of “Top Gun: Maverick” in 2022, Steven Spielberg lauded Cruise for having “saved Hollywood’s ass.”
“Dead Reckoning Part One” debuted in the United States last week, leading the domestic box office by grossing $80 million, but the film fell short of expected numbers for its opening weekend. The film’s moderate performance contributed to a growing list of big-budget movies that have not met opening-weekend expectations, including Warner Bros.’ “The Flash” and Disney’s “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.”
Cruise’s Surprise Appearance
Just days before SAF-AFTRA announced its strike, Cruise made a surprise appearance at a showing of his “Mission: Impossible” film in Miami.
“Wow, this is a big screen. I love this,” Cruise enthusiastically told the unsuspecting audience at an AMC theater at a South Miami mall, according to the Miami Herald, while he was standing alongside Christopher McQuarrie, the film’s director, and his longtime collaborator. “This is what it’s made for, it’s made for you to watch this movie. It’s beautiful.”
The Hollywood industry is closely monitoring the ongoing strike and the negotiations. Cruise’s involvement in the SAG-AFTRA negotiations and his advocacy for better AI and stunt workers’ rights shows his commitment to ensuring fair and just treatment for actors and performers. His plea to allow actors to continue promoting their films during the strike also highlights his concern about the declining state of movie theaters, which underscores the importance of collective support and resilience in these challenging times.