Big Venice Premieres in Suspense Over SAG-AFTRA Interim Agreements

Dozens of Hollywood players are staring anxiously at empty Louis Vuitton trunks this week, wondering if A-list stars and select filmmakers will get the greenlight from SAG-AFTRA to attend the rapidly approaching Venice Film Festival.

The union’s interim agreements have been a focal point over the past weeks of the contentious strike, as the deals allow some productions to resume and select finished films to engage in publicity. Venice kicks off Aug. 30, and the only two projects granted an interim agreement to promote so far are Michael Mann’s “Ferrari” and Luc Besson’s “Dogman.” It remains unclear if those casts – led by Adam Driver and Penelope Cruz, and “Oppenheimer” star Christopher Denham and Caleb Landry Jones, respectively – will turn up at the Palazzo del Cinema.

Leadership at SAG-AFTRA previously said they’ve received hundreds of applications for the interim agreements, leaving many a marketing executive and talent rep scrambling for answers. With production mostly paused amid the strikes, and companies tightening their belts, arranging last minute travel plans is challenging. As one rep put it, attending the Italian festival “ain’t cheap.” SAG-AFTRA did not respond to a request for comment on the matter.

Though it’s unclear which titles applied for the agreements, there are several films in the official Venice selection that have starry casts, positive early buzz or both. Sofia Coppola’s “Priscilla” is the most notable, starring Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi as iconic rock couple Priscilla and Elvis Presley. The film’s distributor A24 has received interim agreements to shoot new movies, but has yet to receive one for the stars of “Priscilla” to hop on a gondola in Venice.

Same goes for Michael Franco’s “Memory,” a romantic drama centered around dementia which stars Jessica Chastain, Peter Sarsgaard, Merritt Wever and Elsie Fisher. Ava DuVernay is also bringing the narrative feature “Origin,” based on the acclaimed book “Caste.” That stars Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, Niecy Nash-Betts, Jon Bernthal and Vera Farmiga. There’s also one of the most secretive but anticipated titles, “Aggro Dr1ft,” Harmony Korine’s latest film starring superstar musician Travis Scott. All these titles are for sale and, as Variety reported earlier this week, will need to find buyers that agree to SAG-AFTRA’s new contract demands.

Plenty of other projects headed to Venice are prestigious and packed with stars, but already have distribution from the companies SAG-AFTRA and the WGA are currently battling. That includes Netflix’s “Maestro” from Bradley Cooper and Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest “Poor Things,” led by Emma Stone.

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