IT WAS supposed to be the glamorous first showing of one of this year’s most anticipated films, but the UK premiere of Oppenheimer has quickly been thrown into disarray after the film’s star-studded cast suddenly vanished from the premiere. Director Christopher Nolan filled in some of the blanks, leaving fans shell-shocked before the films first bombs had started falling. 

It was a premiere like any other. Red carpet? Check. Paparazzi? Check. Swathes of adoring fans fawning over their biggest heroes? Double check. But the proceedings took an unexpected turn when Oppenheimer’s cast, which includes Hollywood heavyweights Cillian Murphy, Florence Pugh, Matt Damon and Emily Blunt, suddenly scarpered shortly before the film’s viewing was scheduled to begin. 

Related: The first reactions to ‘Oppenheimer’ will not dampen your excitement

Exuding proud dad vibes, Christopher Nolan explained his colleagues’ sudden absence to the crowd at London’s Leicester Square. “Unfortunately, they’re off to write their picket signs for what we believe to be an imminent strike by SAG, joining one of my guilds, the Writers Guild, in the struggle for fair wages for working members of the unions, and we support them.”  

The “SAG” Nolan refers to is not what happens to your pants when you forget to wear a belt, but rather the Screen Actors Guild, which, along with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), represents over 160,000 performers – from A-listers in the biggest blockbusters to extra’s on day-time TV.   

The SAG strike is bad news for the movie industry. Effective immediately, actors cannot promote the movies they appear in as we enter the peak time of year for movie-goers: Winter blockbuster season – better known as the summer blockbuster season by our fortunate northern hemisphere friends. Movie and TV production will also grind to a halt. The strike could be over by tomorrow, or, in a more likely scenario, it will stretch out for at least a few months. The last actor’s union strike was in 1980 and lasted over three months.  

What did the actors say about the walk out?  

Oppenheimer’s cast was not keeping the walk out a secret. Multiple actors warned interviewers of the impending act on the red carpet, including Matt Damon, who told reporters “Once the strike is officially called, we’re going to walk, obviously in solidarity. That’s why we moved this up because we know the second it’s called, we’re going home.” 

Emily Blunt shared a similar foreboding message on the red carpet, but clarified that the walk out was not an attack on Oppenheimer or Christopher Nolan, “We’re here to just celebrate this movie and if they call it, we will be leaving together as a cast in unity with everyone,” she said. 

What happens now? 

The official SAG-AFTRA strike will begin on Thursday at midnight (Los Angeles time). This means actors will be joining writers either in spirit or in person on the picket lines from Friday morning.  

Writers have already been on strike since May, and Friday will mark the first time both guilds have been on strike in more than 60 years. With such a heavy disruption expected over the next few months, movie and TV production will likely slow right down — apologies for the desperate fans eagerly awaiting the final season of their favourite show. 

Does the SAG strike mean there will be no new movies?  

The SAG strike will impact movies and shows that are still in production or haven’t yet started filming, as actors who are members of the guild are unable to work. This means that popular series’ and highly anticipated films could see lengthy delays — and even face cancellation altogether. 

In the meantime, you can expect animation, reality tv and foreign films to become prime viewing over the next couple months, as many of the actors in those works aren’t members of the Screen Actors Guild.  

Will Oppenheimer still be released? 

In short, yes. The strikes will only impact movies and tv shows that either haven’t started production or are still in the works. Content that has already finished production will continue to be released. Oppenheimer will release in Australia as scheduled on the 20th of July.