In his latest film, Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One, there’s a big bad, played well by Esai Morales. But the biggest menace isn’t even human. It’s AI. Called “The Entity,” it’s an ever-evolving threat that can easily turn on its human creators, and could destabilize, if not destroy, the entire world, especially if it falls into the wrong (human) hands. It’s a fear Cruise shares onscreen and off.
As per The Hollywood Reporter, last month, before the actors union SAG-AFTRA joined the WGA on the picket lines, Cruise met with both studio and union reps over a Zoom call. He took particular interest in at least two of the guild’s concerns. One was the scarily fast evolution of Artificial Intelligence, and fear that studio execs would turn to AI to either diminish the amount of work they needed from actors (and writers), if not outright replace them. Cruise implored studio heads to take actors’ concerns about AI very, very seriously.
Indeed, soon after the actors union took to the picket lines, chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland revealed that the studios offered a “groundbreaking” proposal, in which they wished to offer background performers, aka extras, a single day’s pay to have their image scanned, then have their likeness used in perpetuity, with no consent nor further compensation. Imagine what else execs have planned, especially as the technology evolves further.
Cruise’s other big concern involved stunt performers, in which he also has a vested interest.
There was another issue that was less on the side of the studios and more about movie theaters, of which Cruise, like his ex-wife Nicole Kidman, is a passionate defender. He asked SAG-AFTRA to allow actors to promote films during the strike, as doing press and television is a reliable way to spread awareness of a film’s existence and get butts in seats. Given that certain Oppenheimer actors walked off the film’s premiere when the strike was announced mid-show, that request doesn’t appear to have been granted.