What are the Hollywood strikes, and which A-listers are at the forefront?

Jameela Jamil and Zoe Lister-Jones pose on the picket line outside of Warner Bros Studio in Burbank, California.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Hollywood strikes are a landmark moment - marking the first time that actors and writers have gone on strike at the same time for over 60 years.

SAG-AFTRA (the Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) and WGA (the Writers Guild of America) are joining forces, striking together to call for better pay and working conditions. 

The WGA called their strike in May, with the SAG-AFTRA strikes following in July. And given the volume of people who have taken action, the impact has been major, quite literally bringing the industry to a halt. The production schedule has been disrupted, businesses are in financial decline and the Hollywood calendar is now having to be rescheduled - even September's Emmy Awards have been postponed. 

Actress Lupita Nyong'o takes part in the SAG-AFTRA strikes

(Image credit: Getty Images)

This is not the first time that Hollywood has united in strike action, but it is sure to be one of the most talked-about. This is in part thanks to the Barbenheimer buzz, with the A-list casts of both films walking off the red carpet in solidarity with strikers last month. And now with Hollywood actors and writers uniting in the streets on the picket lines, the demonstrations are being talked about more than ever before.

What are the Hollywood strikes about?

The SAG-AFTRA strike began in July, calling for better pay and working conditions for actors, picketing the film and television production companies over contract provisions - particularly regarding artificial intelligence and residual payments, based on streaming service viewership.

According to CBS News, 50% of SAG-AFTRA members make less than $26,000 (£20k) a year from acting - something that barely qualifies them for guild health insurance. In response, actors of all pay brackets are standing together in protest to call for better compensation. 

Actress Cynthia Nixon takes part in the SAG-AFTRA strikes

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While the SAG-AFTRA strike began last month, the WGA strike has been in action for three months, with its members picketing since May. 

The WGA strike began over a labour dispute on a new contract between the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, with an agreement still yet to be made. 

The WGA is calling for an increase in funding and job security for writers, as well as protection from artificial intelligence, by limiting its use in the writing process.

Which A-listers are striking?

A-listers have been at the forefront of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, with the casts of Barbie and Oppenheimer quite literally walking off the red carpets at their premieres - something that certainly got the world talking. 

In the weeks since, countless celebrities have been spotted picketing in Los Angeles and demonstrating in London, standing in solidarity with the rest of the film industry. Among them were A-list names, from Jessica Chastain and Olivia Wilde, to America Ferrera, Jameela Jamil and Susan Sarandon, all joining forces to call for change.

Actors Colin Farrell and Tory Kittles demonstrate on the picket line

(Image credit: Getty Images)

“I’m one of the lucky ones," actress Jessica Chastain explained in a video posted to Twitter. "I’m aware that my career provides me with a good living, gives me health insurance, helps me take care of my family. There are many members of SAG/AFTRA who are fighting to make a living wage. It is our responsibility to stand alongside them. We are united and we demand fair contracts.”

“We’re not talking about us," added actor Zac Braff, who was picketing outside Netflix, via Associated Press. "We’re talking about so many people that haven’t been as lucky as we are. I heard a stat recently that only 12 percent of SAG-AFTRA makes the $26,000 that’s the minimum to qualify for health insurance every year. So we’re here for people like that.”

“We’re in incredibly fortunate positions as working actors having been on shows that found tremendous success in one way or another,” said actress Mandy Moore, whilst picketing. “But many actors in our position for years before us were able to live off of residuals or at least pay their bills.”

“There’s so much on the line,” said actress Kristen Wiig, via Fox 11 Los Angeles, as she picketed outside the Amazon Studios. “We’ve got a long way to go, but we’re standing strong.”

We will continue to update this story.

Jenny Proudfoot
Features Editor

Jenny Proudfoot is an award-winning journalist, specialising in lifestyle, culture, entertainment, international development and politics. She has worked at Marie Claire UK for seven years, rising from intern to Features Editor and is now the most published Marie Claire writer of all time. She was made a 30 under 30 award-winner last year and named a rising star in journalism by the Professional Publishers Association.