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Streep, Clooney and other stars donate millions to actors strike fund

A-list celebrities have been lining up to make substantial financial donations to an emergency fund supporting fellow actors and writers on strike in Hollywood.

Actors including Meryl Streep, George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Nicole Kidman and Ryan Reynolds have each made donations of $1 million or more, according to a statement from the SAG-AFTRA Foundation on Wednesday.

“I remember my days as a waiter, cleaner, typist, even my time on the unemployment line,” said Streep, a winner of multiple Oscars. “In this strike action, I am lucky to be able to support those who will struggle in a long action to sustain against Goliath. We will stand strong together.”

Actors and writers have been taking part in the largest labor action since 1960, grinding much of the entertainment industry to a halt. However, on Friday the Writers Guild of America (WGA), one of the unions spearheading the strike, said it will meet for the first time at the bargaining table with Hollywood studio representatives, providing a step toward resolution.

Hollywood writers to meet with studios for first time since striking

Since May, thousands of unionized TV and film writers have walked off their jobs because of concerns about earnings and royalty payments, worker protections and the encroachment of artificial intelligence in a rapidly changing landscape. The strike expanded dramatically in July, when tens of thousands of performers in the Screen Actors Guild joined it and shut down nearly all remaining Hollywood productions.

The SAG-AFTRA Foundation said its Emergency Financial Assistance Program will provide support to eligible performers experiencing financial crises and hardship. Foundation President Courtney B. Vance said the nonprofit has raised over $15 million in the last three weeks for the program, and he commended Clooney and Streep for “rallying others to give generously.”

The nonprofit is processing 30 times its usual number of applications for emergency aid, Vance said, citing 400 applications received in the last week. Financial support from “some of Hollywood’s top-earning stars” is helping those “facing tremendous economic hardship” as a result of the strike, he added.

More than 11,000 television and movie writers went on strike in May in the first such industry-wide strike in 15 years. (Video: Reuters)

Clooney and his wife, Amal Clooney, donated more than $1 million to the fund.

“I’m proud to be able to support the SAG-AFTRA Foundation and my fellow actors who may be struggling in this historic moment,” he said. “It’s time for our generation to give something back.”

The union is “ready to get back to the table and make a fair deal with the AMPTP,” Clooney said, referring to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents major studios.

Why are Hollywood actors and writers on strike? Here are the issues.

The funds raised will go toward grants to help with living expenses, including rent and mortgage payments, groceries, utilities and medical expenses.

So far, the strikes have halted popular late-night talk shows, the Netflix hit “Stranger Things” and an HBO “Games of Thrones” spinoff series titled “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms: The Hedge Knight.”

“The entertainment industry is in crisis,” Vance said in a statement. “It’s a massive challenge, but we’re determined to meet this moment.”

He likened the situation to the coronavirus pandemic, when theaters and cinemas closed down and many people employed in the performing arts lost work or lived paycheck-to-paycheck as a result of shutdowns. But he added that the foundation serves as a “safety net” for the acting community.

Vance also singled out actor Dwayne Johnson, also known as “the Rock,” for his “historic seven-figure donation,” the largest single donation ever received from one individual at one time, according to the foundation.

He appealed to other celebrities to “remember how tough it was coming up” and to support fellow performers. “We still aren’t done,” Vance added.

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