Before actors and performers hit the picket lines on Friday, Tom Cruise joined a SAG-AFTRA negotiating session last month to support the union’s proposals for more protections against artificial intelligence and better pay and safeguards for stunt workers.
Cruise appeared at the June meeting through a Zoom call after the guild decided his expertise would aid their talks with film and television studios for a new contract, The Times has confirmed. No other actors of Cruise’s stature had joined negotiations in such a capacity, according to the Hollywood Reporter, which was first to report Cruise’s Zoom lobbying.
But even the star power of the “Mission: Impossible” actor, who famously does his own stunts, couldn’t get the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers to budge on their bids. After about five weeks of negotiating, talks with the studios fell apart as the guild’s contract expired last week, leading SAG-AFTRA to call on its members to strike.
On Tuesday, Day 3 of the strike, SAG-AFTRA released its contract proposals, along with what the union said were the studios’ responses. The guild accused the studios of “repeated stonewalling and delays,” adding that “they intentionally dragged their feet.”
Within its proposals, the union had requested general wage increases as well as a plan for actors to get a share of the revenue from streaming hits. Also within its proposals were issues Cruise lobbied for, such as protections for “human-created work,” which would require consent and compensation from an actor before AI is used in replicating a performer’s voice or likeness, or when a “digital replica” is created.
The “Top Gun: Maverick” actor had also supported SAG-AFTRA’s requests for better pay for stunt coordinators, asking the studios to no longer exclude them from residuals from network reruns and high-budget streaming shows, along with a request for stunt coordinators to receive overtime or rest between work days “to address abusively long hours on set.”
The guild had also proposed that off-camera stunt performers also get residuals. AMPTP rejected this request and presented counteroffers for stunt workers and on AI that the guild said had “failed to address many vital concerns.”
On Tuesday, the studios countered what they called an attempt to “deliberately distort” what their responses were at the bargaining table. AMPTP said 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, including expressly with respect to AI.”
“For SAG-AFTRA to assert that we have not been responsive to the needs of its membership is disingenuous at best,” AMPTP said in a statement.
With SAG-AFTRA joining members of the Writer’s Guild of America in the first such joint strike in more than 60 years, the Hollywood industry had come to a halt. Movie productions, including Cruise’s eighth “Mission: Impossible” film, have been paused.
Along with lobbying for his union, Cruise also asked SAG-AFTRA to allow actors to still promote their films even during the strike, according to the Hollywood Reporter. He reportedly spoke of the precarious state of movie theaters, which are struggling to rebound after the COVID-19 pandemic, and that promoting films also benefits actors.
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A representative for Cruise did not immediately respond to The Times’ requests for comment.
Throughout the press tour for “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One,” Cruise has been vocal about the importance of movie theaters. After the box office success of “Top Gun: Maverick” in 2022, Steven Spielberg praised 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 soft landing added to a growing list of big-budget movies that have fallen short of opening-weekend expectations, including Warner Bros.’ “The Flash” and Disney’s “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.”
Days before SAF-AFTRA called its strike, Cruise had crashed a showing of his “Mission: Impossible” film in Miami.
“Wow, this is a big screen. I love this,” Cruise excitedly told the unsuspecting audience at an AMC theater at a South Miami mall, according to the Miami Herald, while he was standing alongside longtime collaborator and director of the film, Christopher McQuarrie. “This is what it’s made for, it’s made for you to watch this movie. It’s beautiful.”
Times staff writers Anousha Sakoui and Christi Carras contributed to this report.