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Hollywood Suspended: Joaquin Phoenix, Jeff Bridges, and J.J. Abrams Face Industry’s Labor Unrest Head On


The Old Man
Jeff Bridges in The Old Man/FX

Not only has the weather been a little gloomy in Los Angeles this week, but it’s been raining work stoppages, in case you haven’t been paying attention this week.

On Wednesday, the Josh Holloway-led Max series Duster, which hails from Warner Bros. Television, Bad Robot, and executive producer J.J. Abrams, shut down for a second day this week after IATSE and teamsters refused to cross picket lines in support of WGA members. It was just the latest Max series to be forced to shut down after picket lines disrupted the production of The Penguin starring Colin Farrell.

Meanwhile, Deadline reports that FX was forced to suspend production on Season 2 of its Jeff Bridges series The Old Man. Produced by 20th Television, the series had planned to shoot five episodes, as that’s how many scripts had been completed prior to the strike, though Episode 5 needed enough rewrites that the producers decided to alert the crew after wrapping production on Episode 4. The spy show will resume filming after the strike.

Even children’s television wasn’t immune to Hollywood’s labor unrest this week, as the Nickelodeon series The Really Loud House was forced to suspend production due to picketing. Season 2 had been in production in Albuquerque, according to Deadline, and it’s unclear when production will resume.

Mary Magdalene
Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara in Mary Magdalene/IFC Films

And things could get even worse on the production side, as foretold by the case of The Island, a new Pawel Pawlikowski movie starring Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara. Per Deadline, that film was about to start production in Spain, with cameras ready to roll, when its bond company (Film Finances Inc.) told producers that it couldn’t insure the production due to the threat of a potential SAG-AFTRA strike on July 1.

With a strike fairly likely, the bond company would be on the hook for overages and other costs incurred by an indefinite delay that could stretch for months. Insurance is obviously a requirement for that kind of production, so the producers were left with no choice but to send everyone home. The project, which would’ve found Phoenix and Mara playing a couple who turn their backs on civilization to live alone on a deserted island, is now on hold until further notice pending the strike.

The very real threat of a SAG strike could spell doom for independent production over the coming weeks and months — a shame, since SAG wouldn’t be striking against indie producers, but against the greedy studios that don’t need to rely on bonding companies.

The stars of Good Fortune/Lionsgate/NBC

Studios are, of course, still feeling the force of picket line disruptions, with Lionsgate pulling the plug on Aziz Ansari‘s comedy Good Fortune — the director’s second consecutive film with Seth Rogen to be shut down halfway through production.

SAG-AFTRA has already called for a strike authorization vote well ahead of its negotiations with the AMPTP, which don’t start until June 7. If its members vote “yes,” as an overwhelming majority are expected to, then the guild will have the strike card in its back pocket, with its current contract due to expire on June 30.

Stay tuned, as the doom and gloom ain’t over yet, though hopefully, it will lead to a brighter future for everyone across the board — not just writers, directors, and actors.

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