Two firings on Tuesday stemming from public statements by actors on the Israel-Hamas conflict have brought into sharper focus the challenges Hollywood faces over one of the most divisive geopolitical issues in years.
Susan Sarandon has been dropped by her agency UTA after statements allegedly made at a pro-Palestinian rally in New York last weekend.
Video footage on TikTok posted one day ago shows the activist and star of Thelma & Louise and Dead Man Walking telling a crowd, “Hold Palestine in your heart, pray for the people of Palestine… again thank you to the Jewish community who’s come out to have our backs.” Screen was unable to verify when Sarandon made these remarks.
Sarandon reposted social media statements by a number of people expressing pro-Palestinian sentiments including Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Walters. The British musician has been accused of antisemitism in the past and has denied the allegations, saying he is opposed to all forms of fascism, injustice and bigotry.
Meanwhile Scream star Melissa Barrera was fired by franchise producer Spyglass Media Group from the upcoming Scream VII following posts on social media, one of which likened Gaza to a concentration camp and used the words “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” with regard to the Israeli military’s retaliatory attacks following the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.
Spyglass issued a statement following early reports of the firing in which it said, “Spyglass’ stance is unequivocally clear: We have zero tolerance for antisemitism or the incitement of hate in any form, including false references to genocide, ethnic cleansing, Holocaust distortion or anything that flagrantly crosses the line into hate speech.”
Barrera starred as Sam Carpenter in the Scream reboot of 2022 and spring release Scream VI, which grossed more than $100m in North America and close to $170m worldwide.
No statement was forthcoming from Barrera at time of writing. Fans had signed an online petition to reinstate the actress in her role. The petition reached 477 signatures on Tuesday evening. The petition signed off with the line, “Sign this petition today if you believe in standing up against corporate bullying and protecting our beloved actors’ rights to express their opinions freely.”
Tuesday’s developments come after CAA film department co-chief Maha Dakhil reposted a social media statement last month that said “You’re currently learning who supports genocide” in response to Israel’s retaliatory attacks. Dakhil is no longer in her leadership role but still a CAA agent.
According to a report in Variety, the Dakhil case has drawn contrasting responses from CAA agents, with some expressing sympathy over her treatment while others believe she should have been fired. The article goes on to say that Tom Cruise turned up to the agency’s Los Angeles headquarters to show support for his agent Dakhil.
Over at UTA, some agents reportedly believe client and author Ta-Nehisi Coates should be dropped after he led an open letter last month calling for the international community to back an end to the “catastrophe unfolding in Gaza” and seek a just political solution to Palestine.
The Writers Guild of America (WGA) came under fire from The Screenwriters Guild of Israel for not publicly condemning the Hamas attacks on October 7. Two weeks later WGA West president Meredith Stiehm told members that there would be no statement because consensus was “out of reach” among membership.
Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt also called out the WGA last month and told Variety: “There’s just no excuse for not condemning Hamas and demanding the release of the hostages. Hollywood was quick to declare Black Lives Matter, as they should, and Time’s Up, as they should, and myriad other important causes.
He continued, “There’s plenty of room for criticism of Israel or to voice concerns about the ongoing war in Gaza, but that doesn’t provide celebrities and industry reps with an open license to wage unfair accusations against Israel, such as accusing it of ‘apartheid’ or ‘genocide’ or, worse, to celebrate the actions of Hamas terrorists.”
On Tuesday it emerged that Israel had agreed to a truce with Hamas to secure the release of 50 Israeli hostages in Gaza over a four-day pause in fighting.
According to the BBC some 1,200 people were killed and more than 200 hostages takes by Hamas on October 7. According to the BBC, more than 200 hostages were taken by Hamas on October 7. More than 1,200 people were killed in Israel’s retaliatory strikes.