Cast of Oppenheimer walk out of UK premiere ahead of actors’ strike announcement

Rami Malek, Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Florence Pugh and Cillian Murphy attend the UK premiere of Oppenheimer (Ian West/PA)
Rami Malek, Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Florence Pugh and Cillian Murphy attend the UK premiere of Oppenheimer (Ian West/PA)

Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt and Matt Damon were among the stars who staged a walk-out from the London premiere of Oppenheimer to “write their picket signs” ahead of the Sag-Aftra strike announcement on Thursday evening.

The premiere of Christopher Nolan’s historical epic was brought forward by an hour ahead of a Sag-Aftra press conference in Los Angeles, which later declared the US union had agreed to strike.

The anticipated announcement cast a shadow over the London film premiere at the Odeon Luxe in Leicester Square, with the film’s major stars including Florence Pugh, Robert Downey Jr, Sir Kenneth Branagh and Rami Malek leaving before the screening of the film.

UK premiere of Oppenheimer – London
Trond Fausa Aurvag, David Dastmalchian, Kenneth Branagh, Matt Damon, Josh Hartnett, Tom Conti, Emily Blunt, Cillian Murphy, Florence Pugh, Robert Downey Jr, Rami Malek, Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas, Mate Haumann and Charles Roven attend the UK premiere of Oppenheimer, at the Odeon Luxe, Leicester Square in London (Ian West/PA)

Speaking on stage at the premiere ahead of the strike announcement, filmmaker Nolan said: “I have to acknowledge the work of our incredible cast, led by Cillian Murphy.

“The list is enormous — Robert Downey Jr, Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Florence Pugh, Kenneth Branagh, Rami Malek and so many more. You’ve seen them here earlier on the red carpet.

“Unfortunately, they are off to write their picket signs for what we believe to be an imminent strike by SAG, joining one of my guilds, the Writers Guild, in the struggle for fair wages for working members of their union.”

Arriving on the red carpet ahead of the screening, British actress Blunt warned that the cast would be leaving “in unity” if the strike was announced.

She told US outlet Deadline: “I think right now we are just sorting of … I hope everyone makes a fair deal and we are here to just celebrate this movie.

“And if they call it, we’ll be leaving together as a cast in unity with everyone.”

When asked if she is “upping sticks”, she replied: “We’re going to have to. We are going to have to. We will see what happens, but right now it’s a joy to be together.”

The strike news comes after the US union and Hollywood studios failed to reach an agreement after more than four weeks of negotiations, with actors wanting better pay and increased safeguarding around AI rights among their demands.

It is now anticipated the strike will affect upcoming award shows, premieres, events and film festivals around the world, including the Toronto and Venice film festivals, and the 75th Emmys.