5 December 2023
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WASHINGTON: In the wake of the SAG-AFTRA strike, Hollywood actor John Cusack slammed the studios and the Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers (AMPTP) for their greed as well as their over reliance on artificial intelligence (AI) to get rid of many writers in order to cut costs.

Sharing the video of union president Fran Drescher’s speech on Twitter, the actor told a story of how, despite its success and cult status, he wasn’t properly compensated for ‘Say Anything’, the film that helped make him a star.

The film features the iconic scene of Cusack holding a boombox above his head outside her bedroom window to let her know he’s still in love with her.

The movie wasn’t a big earner at the time, taking in $20 million at the box-office at the time, but was a critical darling and has had a strong legacy.

In his posting, John Cusack reveals he has received no percentage of the film’s box office gross. In fact, he was told by the studio that the movie actually lost $44 million – a claim he’s skeptical about. “The greed is almost a legendary comic trope,” he wrote.

“One fun fact – when I was a youngin- I did a film (with a boom box) and somehow I got points – net not gross. Never expected to see any money – but the film became quite famous – so about 10 years ago – I looked again at the financial statements they were obligated to report – and to my shock – they claimed they had LOST 44 million dollars on the film.”

He added, “I thought wow, I almost bankrupted Fox! (not really). The film cost about 13 million to make – and money spent to release was minimal at the time – 30 years in – that film lost millions every year ! A neat accounting trick don’t ya think?”

In another tweet, Cusack condemned the AMPTP’s reported terms on the use of AI as it pertains to background actors.

“Studios wanna have extras work one day, scan them – own their likeness forever – and eliminate them from the business,” Cusack wrote, adding: “Do you think they will stop with extras? That’s what AI is – a giant Copyright identity theft.”

Cusack went on to say the studios are running a “criminal enterprise” and will claim in 10 years they had no idea background actors would be eliminated by AI.

“We are the victims here. We are being victimized by a very greedy entity,” Drescher said about SAG-AFTRA. “I cannot believe it, quite frankly: How far apart we are on so many things. How [the studios] plead poverty, that they’re losing money left and right when giving hundreds of millions of dollars to their CEOs. It is disgusting. Shame on them.”

SAG-AFTRA members are joining the Writers Guild of America in striking for fair compensation, making it a “double strike,” which hasn’t happened in Hollywood since 1960.

The WGA has been on strike since May 2. SAG-AFTRA picketing officially begins July 14. Fair compensation and streaming residuals are some of the big topics in the strike, as is the rise of artificial intellgience.

Abdul Gh Lone