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Hollywood heavyweights lead strike rally in Times Square

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HOLLYWOOD A-listers including Emmy winner Bryan Cranston and a group of Oscar winners on Tuesday led a large rally of striking actors and writers in New York’s Times Square, as the stalemate with studios and streamers dragged on.

Academy Award winners Brendan Fraser, Jessica Chastain, and F. Murray Abraham were among the stars joining the mass of demonstrators. Steve Buscemi and Christian Slater were also among the protesters.

Movie and television production has effectively shut down in the United States since thousands of members of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) guild walked off the job on July 14, joining writers who have been on strike for weeks.

Bryan Cranston leads a large rally of striking actors and writers demanding for better pay and job security. AFP

Both guilds are demanding better pay and job security, as well as safeguards against the threat posed by artificial intelligence as they pursue the first industry-wide walkout in 63 years.

“We will not be having our jobs taken away and given to robots,” Breaking Bad star Cranston told attendees, referring to fears about AI being used to recreate an actor’s likeness.

Surrounded by Times Square’s giant screens, which often advertise the latest movies and streaming series, Cranston delivered a message to Disney boss Bob Iger, the target of the actors’ ire.

“We will not have you take away our right to work and earn a decent living and, lastly and most importantly, we will not allow you to take our dignity,” he bellowed, wearing a SAG-AFTRA t-shirt and raising his fists.

Abraham, best known for winning an Academy Award for his starring role in the 1984 movie Amadeus, said unionism was “good for America.”

“We’re fighting for integrity, respect, and honor,” said the 83-year-old, who recently featured in television hit series The White Lotus.

SAG-AFTRA represents actors from mega-stars to day-players who take small roles in television series. It represents about 160,000 people, including stuntmen and dancers.

The industrial action not only prohibits actors from filming but also from promoting their productions in person or on social media.

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