How Do You Run a Film Festival Without Any (Hollywood) Stars? That’s the Question in Venice

Despite the fact that SAG-AFTRA has granted festival promotion waivers to star-studded films such as “Ferrari” and “Dogman,” performers may still choose not to participate in order to show solidarity with strikers: While your coworkers are out on the picket line, there’s no need to embarrass yourself by partying it up in Venice.

Will anyone go to a film festival if it happens to take place in the middle of a strike? What could have been a question of pure philosophy has become a stark reality for the 80th Biennale, which, despite the ongoing strikes by SAG-AFTRA and WGA, is still aiming to pack its red carpet with A-list celebrities. What could have been a question of pure philosophy has become a severe reality for the 80th Biennale.

SAG-AFTRA has granted interim agreement waivers to a number of highly anticipated films that will be screening at this year’s Venice Film Festival. These films include Michael Mann’s Ferrari, which stars Adam Driver and Penélope Cruz, and Luc Besson’s Dogman, which stars Caleb Landry Jones. These waivers will allow associated artists to participate in promotion and publicity at the festival. In addition, the actors union issued an explicit call to action to its members last week, encouraging them to promote approved productions as a means of providing support for the independent film sector. “Struck productions,” sometimes known as movies produced by streaming services or major studios, are ineligible to receive interim agreement waivers from labor unions.

Whether or not the performer accepts the waiver, however, it is still unknown if they will show up for the event. Even if they were given permission by the union to pose for photos on the Lido, many of the industry’s most prominent performers might choose, instead, to show support for their coworkers who have chosen to go on strike rather than take the risk of creating a negative public perception by doing so. According to the observations of one festival publicist, “Glamming it up at Venice while your colleagues are on the picket line is not a good look.”

The up-and-coming Italian actress Anna Manuelli, who plays the lead role in the competition film Finally Dawn directed by Saverio Costanzo, will be in attendance at the festival in Venice. However, the more well-known Hollywood actors Lily James and Willem Dafoe will not be present. In the Land of Saints and Sinners, an Irish action thriller written and directed by Robert Lorenz, will have to make due without the red carpet pull of lead actor Liam Neeson.

In private conversations, a great number of producers and sales agents have voiced their concern that the union waiver system has been handled in a haphazard manner, and that no explanation has been provided as to why one project was granted an interim agreement while another was turned down. As a result of this, even as the Venice Film Festival gets underway, it is not yet known whether or not a number of notable talents will walk the red carpet.

In this year’s edition of the Venice Film Festival, the world premiere of Bradley Cooper’s newest film, Maestro, will not take place on the famous red carpet. Cooper could have technically attended the Lido as the film’s director; however, given that he also plays the role of composer Leonard Bernstein in the historical drama, he decided to demonstrate his support for striking actors by remaining at home rather than attending the event. A SAG-AFTRA backlash might be triggered by any advertising of a studio- or streamer-backed movie, such as the picture Maestro, which is also available on Netflix.

This may even be the situation with Ferrari, which was able to get a promotional waiver since its U.S. distributor, Neon, is an independent firm that is not affiliated with AMPTP. It is anticipated that Driver, who portrays the legendary race car driver Enzo Ferrari, will be in attendance in Venice, as will Cruz, who portrays Ferrari’s wife, Laura. Nevertheless, Amazon, which is a member of AMPTP, will be distributing the biography in a number of countries all over the world. Will it be perceived as scabbing on the part of the actors if they promote the film during the festival?

Venice will be a festival devoid of stars in terms of AMPTP-supported titles. Yorgos Lanthimos will be conducting press for his competition entry, Poor Things, which will be released in the United States by Disney’s Searchlight Pictures. However, the film’s A-list cast, which includes Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo, and Margaret Qualley, will not be there for the U.S. release. Instead, Searchlight is making available for press junkets lower-level department leaders than those in management positions.

In a similar manner, Netflix is bringing in top-tier talent for the production of David Fincher’s The Killer. Among these are Oscar-winning cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt, composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, and Maestro’s cinematographer Matthew Libatique and costume designer Mark Bridges. One independent publicist remarked, “It’s going to be red carpets packed with film editors, make-up artists, and VFX specialists,” adding humorously, “not sure if that will draw the paparazzi.”

The mantle of Venice celebrity glam will be assumed by those films that are truly independent as well as those international features that showcase great talents from countries other than the United States. The premiere of The Promised Land, a period drama set in Scandinavia, is expected to draw large crowds due to the presence of Danish heartthrob Mads Mikkelsen. Eurostars Fanny Ardant and Joaquim de Almeida are anticipated to appear in the film The Palace directed by Roman Polanski. Tony Leung, a legendary figure from Hong Kong, is scheduled to be in attendance in order to accept an award for lifetime accomplishment. Along with Landry Jones and Jojo T. Gibbs, who also appear in Dogman, director Luc Besson will be making the rounds at various Lido events. On the occasion of Venice’s 80th anniversary, the city did not receive exactly the star-studded spectacle it had hoped for. But I imagine that it will be enough to keep Lido fans howling.

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