"Oppenheimer" Cast Leave Premiere Before Screening Due To SAG-AFTRA Strike

The film's director, Christopher Nolan, praised his cast's decision to walk out: "They are off to write their picket signs for what we believe to be an imminent strike by SAG."

By Gina Florio2 min read
Getty/Eamonn M. McCormack

The excitement and anticipation palpable at the London premiere of Christopher Nolan's much-awaited film, Oppenheimer, took an unexpected turn when the star-studded cast exited prematurely to support their colleagues in a possible Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) strike, which will be the first strike since 1980. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike has been going on since May 2nd.

"Oppenheimer" Cast Leave Premiere Before Screening Due to SAG-AFTRA Strike

Nolan praised the remarkable ensemble cast on stage, with noteworthy names such as Cillian Murphy, Robert Downey Jr., Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Florence Pugh, Kenneth Branagh, and Rami Malek. He disclosed that these stellar talents, fresh off the red carpet, were now preparing their picket signs in support of their union.

The Hollywood figures arrived at the Odeon Luxe theater, making their way into a reception through the lobby. Industry insiders watched as Pugh and Blunt departed the scene before Nolan took the stage, a move echoed by the rest of the cast, who voiced their unwavering support for the strike action. He lauded his actors' commitment to fighting for fair wages in the film industry.

"You’ve seen [the cast] here earlier on the red carpet," he said. "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.”

Post-exit, the cast members reportedly headed to a dinner in the bustling West End. Nolan and his creative team also exited for a dinner rendezvous with some Universal executives. Adherence to SAG-AFTRA regulations prompted the split, as the guild members could not accept studio hospitality during a strike.

Blunt had hinted in a red carpet interview with Deadline at the cast's unified stand if the guild’s leadership authorized a walkout. Despite the undercurrent of tension, she emphasized the joy of celebrating their new film together, but she was also clear that they would have to leave in solidarity with their fellow actors if a strike was called.

“I think right now we are just sort of — I hope everyone makes a fair deal and we are here to celebrate this movie. And if they call [a strike], we’ll be leaving together as cast in unity with everyone. … We are gonna have to. We are gonna have to. We will see what happens. Right now it’s the joy to be together," said.

Oppenheimer features an intriguing ensemble, with Murphy in the lead role. The film has garnered significant attention due to its subject matter and its outstanding cast, heightening anticipation for its release. The film is a biographical drama about J. Robert Oppenheimer, a theoretical physicist who became known as the "father of the atomic bomb." The film chronicles his life and career, focusing on his role as the lead scientist of the Manhattan Project during World War II. It delves into the ethical dilemmas he faced in creating a weapon of mass destruction, his fraught relationships with colleagues, and his subsequent struggles with regret and ostracization during the Cold War era. Directed by Nolan, who is behind blockbusters like Dunkirk and The Dark Knight, the film provides an intense, personal exploration of one of the most significant figures of the 20th century.

SAG-AFTRA's leadership is slated to deliberate on their subsequent moves at a news conference set to commence at noon PT. This collective action underlines a significant moment in the Hollywood industry as actors band together in solidarity, potentially influencing the outcome of wage negotiations in the film industry. The solidarity and unity displayed by the Oppenheimer cast at the London premiere underscore the ongoing struggle for fair wages and work conditions. As the world eagerly awaits the release of "Oppenheimer," this significant act by its cast serves as a reminder of the issues facing the industry behind the scenes.

While many people are praising the cast members' decision to walk out on strike, there are plenty of people online who feel as though this is just another move to gain attention in the press. "Anything to look relevant," someone tweeted in response to the news. Regardless of the actors' motives behind this stunt, it seems as though the writers' strike isn't ending anytime soon, which means the actors' strike may be going on for a while too.

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