This weekend saw Disney’s upcoming film “Haunted Mansion” become the first to stage a premiere without its cast, who were all absent as part of SAG-AFTRA’s strike which began this past Friday.
With stars like Tiffany Haddish, Owen Wilson, Lakeith Stanfield, Jamie Lee Curtis and Danny DeVito now among the 160,000 actors union members pulling out from film and TV productions as well as any events promoting those productions, Disney repurposed the premiere as a fan event at the Anaheim resort, with Disneyland cast members dressed as Mickey and Minnie Mouse as well as famous villains like Maleficent and Cruella De Vil appearing on the red carpet outside the famed theme park ride that inspired the film.
It is not clear whether these cast members are unionized with the American Guild of Variety Artists, which represents stage performers at Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood among others. TheWrap has reached out to the AGVA for comment and will update with any reply.
One person involved with the film who was on the red carpet was the film’s director, Justin Simien, who voiced his support for his stars and for SAG-AFTRA and WGA members who are now together on the picket lines demanding stronger AI protections and higher residual pay for streaming shows and movies. He also criticized Disney CEO Bob Iger, who said in a CNBC interview this past week that the unions’ demands were “not realistic.”
“Let me tell you about unrealistic: Me being a filmmaker is unrealistic,” Simien told Variety. “Coming from Houston, Texas, gay, Black? That’s unrealistic. And what made me believe I could do that and so many other things is watching these movies with these beautiful protagonists that had these unrealistic dreams, and seeing the journey that it took to get there.
“So many artists believe in that dream and contribute to these movies and the products, and are here because of these products,” he added. “I would love to talk to him about the reality that we all face as artists to make the impossible happen every day.”
While “Haunted Mansion” is the first film to premiere without its stars because of the SAG-AFTRA strike, Cillian Murphy and the cast of Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” left during its premiere in Paris as reports surfaced that SAG-AFTRA was preparing to announce its strike. Nolan voiced his support for the union as he announced to attendees that his cast had left, and later said in a BBC News interview that he would not begin work on his next film until the strike was resolved.
“This is not about me, this is not about the stars of my film,” he said, “This is about jobbing actors, this is about staff writers on television programs trying to raise a family, trying to keep food on the table.”
“Haunted Mansion” hits theaters on July 28.