Disney CEO reaches out to striking Hollywood creatives with ‘deep respect’

By Danielle Broadway and Dawn Chmielewski

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Walt Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger on Wednesday said he was committed to finding a solution to the Hollywood writer and actor strikes, citing his “deep respect” for creative professionals, as he signaled a turn from comments that inflamed tensions last month.

Iger last month told striking actors that their demands were “not realistic.”

The Hollywood writers’ strike entered its 100th day on Wednesday with contract talks stalled and people on the picket lines protesting what they say is a disregard for their demands. The actors strike started less than a month ago.

The growth of artificial intelligence has been a key issue for union members, who fear that it could replace their creative input.

“Nothing is more important to this company than its relationships with the creative,” Iger said on a call discussing Disney’s quarterly results on Wednesday.

“I have deep respect and appreciation for all those who are vital to the extraordinary creative engine that drives this company and our industry,” he said.

Iger, who returned to Disney as CEO last year, did not say how he would help bring the strikes to an end.

In July, Iger angered members of both unions by saying that the demands of the SAG-AFTRA actors union for a labor contract with higher pay and limits on use of artificial intelligence were “not realistic.”

Emmy-winning “Breaking Bad” actor Bryan Cranston about a week later took aim at Iger in remarks to striking actors, saying: “We don’t expect you to understand who we are, but we ask you to hear us. And beyond that, to listen to us when we tell you, we will not be having our jobs taken away and given to robots.”

Under Iger, Disney has created a task force to study artificial intelligence and how it can be applied across the company, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Danielle Broadway and Dawn Chmielewski; Editing by Mary Milliken and Leslie Adler)