Artificial intelligence

Brian Cox and Simon Pegg among British stars mobilizing in support of Hollywood strike: ‘AI is taking our jobs’ | UK News

Dozens of actors and performers took to London’s Leicester Square in solidarity with their colleagues in the United States, who came out to protest pay and conditions in the industry.

By Daniel Binns, journalist

Friday, July 21, 2023 5:29 p.m., United Kingdom

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

Dozens of British stars made their way to London’s Leicester Square on Friday for the protest, organized by British actors’ union Equity in solidarity with performers in the United States.

It comes after 160,000 SAG-AFTRA members in the US quit last week to protest pay and conditions – including concerns about the increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI) in industry.

The action has virtually paralyzed Hollywood, forcing many film and TV productions to shut down, and marks the first time in more than 60 years that 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 participate in strikes in the UK – but can if they work in the US and are also members of SAG-AFTRA. However, walkouts have has already had a ripple effect on productions in Britain.

Succession star Brian Cox said the issues at stake are of concern to artists around the world.

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He told Sky News: “This is a major strike going on in the United States and we have to support them.

“We will then be besieged, we are already besieged, especially with artificial intelligenceand this is something that needs to be stopped and nipped in the bud.”

Crowds 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’”.

Crown star Imelda Staunton said pay was also a major issue for struggling artists in the industry, but said advances in technology had added to anxiety in the profession.

“The issues that are being raised about streaming and AI are all issues that really need to be addressed.

“It’s a global problem, it’s not America or England, it’s over,” she told Sky News.

Learn more:
American actors’ strike: what does it mean for the film and TV industry?
Succession star Brian Cox says Hollywood strike could last until the end of 2023

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

Some protesters carried signs reading: “Leave AI to science fiction”, “Write to hit” and “The last residue of this Barbie was $0.02”.

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

Actor Andy Serkis said he hoped the strike would end in a victory for workers

He told Sky News: “The AI ​​is also worrying because we are looking at being replaced in some ways.

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

“We need to be compensated and we need to have a say in how it is used.

“I don’t want to appear in an ad for something I don’t agree with, a fossil fuel company, because I’m fundamentally opposed to them. I want to be able to keep my image and my voice, and know where it’s going.”

Uncharted territory for Hollywood

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

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

“Now is the time to adapt to this and regulate it, so that the people who create content can continue to do so and earn a decent living from it.”

She added: “We are on strike and it is absolutely the right thing to do. I support it 100 per cent. [But] it’s awful because it’s a last resort for everyone. We don’t want to strike, but we’ve been blocked.”

Lord of the Rings star Andy Serkis, who has described himself as “one of the most scanned actors on the planet”, said he hoped strikers in the United States – and actors around the world – would eventually win their fight.

Zoe Saldana supports the actors’ strike

He told Sky News: “I think there will definitely be a win for SAG, for the Writer’s Guild, for Equity, it’s going to come out positive. They’re going to hold it together this time.”

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

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

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Industry body, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents major film and television studios in the United States, says it has offered better terms, while accusing SAG-AFTRA of walking away from negotiations.

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

The standoff has raised fears the dispute could drag on and delay the release of major movies and TV shows later this year, while disrupting major industry events such as the 75th TV Emmy Awards, which are due to be held in September.

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