A group of A-list actors is adding pressure on SAG-AFTRA leadership to find a way to resolve the actors strike, which has now lasted 97 days.
George Clooney, Tyler Perry, Scarlett Johansson, and others held a Zoom meeting on Tuesday afternoon with Fran Drescher, the president of SAG-AFTRA, and Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the union’s executive director.
Though the tone has been described as “supportive,” the actors did not call the meeting merely to express support. According to several sources, the A-listers represent significant discontent within the guild that talks have broken down, and are looking for a path to restart negotiations and end the strike.
Perry employs hundreds of people at his studio in Atlanta, and has been concerned for weeks that he cannot resume production.
The group, which also includes Emma Stone and Ben Affleck, was said by one source to have given a “presentation” to Drescher and Crabtree-Ireland. The leaders listened and were expected to meet with the SAG-AFTRA Negotiating Committee on Wednesday afternoon before delivering a response.
Representatives for the actors either did not respond to requests for comment or declined to comment on the substance of the meeting. SAG-AFTRA also did not address what was said in the meeting.
“We meet with members of all profiles every day and we won’t be commenting on those private conversations,” the union said in a statement.
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers suspended talks on Oct. 11, after declaring that the two sides are too far apart and that continued negotiations at that point would not be productive.
The key obstacle in negotiations is SAG-AFTRA’s demand for a new form of streaming residual, which would come on top the residuals that actors already earn on streaming shows.
SAG-AFTRA wants $500 million a year, which would come in the form of a per-subscriber fee assessed on each of the streaming platforms. That money would be distributed to actors by a jointly administered trust, presumably based on viewership data for each streaming show.
Drescher has made it clear throughout negotiations that the issue is her top priority, but the studio CEOs have rejected it as economically “untenable.”
The A-list group was said to be interested in coming up with a way to resolve that issue that would be acceptable to all sides.
Clooney in particular is no stranger to Screen Actors Guild politics. In December 2008, he was among a large group of A-listers who urged SAG members to vote against a strike authorization, citing the weak economy as a factor making it an inopportune time to shut down the industry. The union, which had yet to merge with AFTRA, ultimately withdrew the strike authorization vote.
The actors union has been far more united this cycle, though there have been occasional signs of internal tensions.
Drescher has vowed from the beginning of negotiations to reach a “seminal” deal for actors. In late June, she and Crabtree-Ireland recorded a video in which she expressed optimism about the talks and said they were “extremely productive.”
That prompted an open letter from yet another group of A-listers, including Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence, urging leadership to take a hard line in negotiations, and saying that “members may be ready to make sacrifices that leadership is not.”
After extending the talks, SAG-AFTRA went on strike on July 14. The strike has now surpassed the length of the 1980 strike, which lasted 95 days.
Matt Donnelly, Kate Aurthur, Angelique Jackson and Tatiana Siegel contributed to this story.