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Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla receives SAG-AFTRA Interim Agreement so stars can appear at Venice

This year’s Venice Film Festival – which opens a week today – is going to look a little different from usual. The ongoing strikes in Hollywood are starting to cause serious problems: actors and writers who are part of the major American unions Writers’ Guild of America (WGA), The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) are not only unable to engage with current projects, but they also cannot take part in any kind of promotion for films or TV shows which they have previously worked on.

What that means is that although most of the festival’s competing films, which includes Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things, Michael Mann’s Ferrari, Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla and Bradley Cooper’s Maestro, will still be presented at the festival, many of the film’s leading actors will not be attending the screenings.

Given that quite a lot of the buzz around Venice is whipped up by the glitz and glamour of the celebrities who attend, it means there’s likely to be a very different mood at this year’s festival.

However, it has now been reported that Coppola’s Priscilla – a biopic of Priscilla Presley – has reached an interim agreement with SAG-AFTRA, which means that Jacob Elordi and Cailee Spaeny, who play Elvis and Priscilla, will be able to attend the screening and complete press interviews for the film.

Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi as Priscilla and Elvis Presley (Priscilla, Official Teaser HD, A24)
Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi as Priscilla and Elvis Presley (Priscilla, Official Teaser HD, A24)

In mid-August, SAG-AFTRA changed its interim agreement policy so that it would not offer interim agreements to projects in the US that were already being covered in some way by the WGA strike strategy.

According to Deadline, the agreement between SAG-AFRA and Priscilla has been made because the film was shot in Canada, and was produced under the name of Canadian company TCB Productions Canada – even though Coppola is reportedly a member of the WGA.

“We have been advised by the WGA that this modification will assist them in executing their strike strategy, and we believe it does not undermine the utility and effectiveness of ours. It is a win-win change,” said a statement from the SAG-AFTRA Negotiating Committee. The new agreement therefore did not apply to projects outside of the US.

TCB Productions Canada is affiliated with American independent film studio A24, but several of A24’s projects, including Priscilla, Mother Mary, starring Anne Hathaway and Michaela Coel, and Death of a Unicorn, starring Paul Rudd and Jenna Ortega, have been given permission to start shooting, reportedly because A24 is not tied to Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the trade association against which the unions are striking.

Apple TV+’s Tehran, an Israeli spy thriller, and Angel Studios’ The Chosen have also been permitted to continue production alongside more than 200 other independent films and TV shows.

Edoardo De Angelis’ Italian drama Comandante will now open Venice Film Festival after Luca Guadagnino’s Challengers was withdrawn by MGM because of the strikes. Despite this change, the festival’s artistic director, Alberto Barbera, has said that the strikes’ effects on the film gala have been “modest”.

Ava DuVernay’s Origin, David Fincher’s The Killer and Luc Besson’s Dogman will all also be competing for this year’s The Golden Lion.

The UK release date of Priscilla is still to be confirmed. MUBI has acquired distribution rights for the film in the UK