Venice Film Festival Lineup Largely Unscathed by Hollywood Strikes

Movies from Bradley Cooper, Sofia Coppola and Ava DuVernay will debut at this year’s event, despite the industry shutdown.

By Alex Marshall

Reporting from London

The Hollywood strikes have halted production on major movies, pushed back release dates and stopped actors appearing on red carpets. But on Tuesday, the organizers of the Venice Film Festival said this year’s event would be relatively unscathed by the turmoil, and announced a star-studded lineup.

Alberto Barbera, the festival’s artistic director, said in a news conference that the impact of the strike was “modest,” despite the loss of Venice’s planned opener, Luca Guadagnino’s “Challengers,” a tennis drama starring Zendaya. Last week, MGM pushed the movie’s release date to next year in light of the actors’ union strike.

Otherwise, Barbera said, the planned lineup for the event, scheduled to run Aug. 30 to Sep. 9, was unchanged. Bradley Cooper’s “Maestro,” a biopic of the composer Leonard Bernstein, and Sofia Coppola’s “Priscilla,” about Elvis Presley’s wife, will be among the 23 movies competing for the Golden Lion, the festival’s main prize.

They will compete alongside Ava DuVernay’s “Origin,” inspired by the nonfiction book “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents”; Yorgos Lanthimos’s “Poor Things,” a sci-fi film featuring Emma Stone; Michael Mann’s motor racing drama “Ferrari,” which stars Adam Driver and Penélope Cruz; and David Fincher’s “The Killer,” about a conflicted assassin, starring Michael Fassbender and Tilda Swinton.

How many American stars will appear on the red carpet, though, is unclear. Under the terms of the actors’ strike, union members are prohibited from doing promotional work including interviews, photo calls and attending premieres. On Tuesday, Barbera said “a few stars will not be with us,” but added that he hoped to welcome many actors on the red carpet who had worked in independent films showing at the festival.

SAG-AFTRA, the actors’ union, allows independent films to secure interim agreements, exempting them from the ban on promotional work. These movies cannot have ties to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which is locked in negotiations with the guild over issues including actor pay and protections.

A host of other major movies are slated to appear at Venice out of competition. Those include Richard Linklater’s “Hit Man,” about an assassin; Harmony Korine’s “Aggro Dr1ft,” featuring the rapper Travis Scott; and Wes Anderson’s 40-minute film “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar.”

The festival will also premiere Woody Allen’s French-language “Coup de Chance,” and Roman Polanski’s dark comedy “The Palace.” These selections illustrate continental Europe and Hollywood’s differing recent approaches to work by filmmakers accused of sexual assault.

Allen’s movies have faced a backlash in North America since the #MeToo movement brought renewed attention to Dylan Farrow’s allegations of sexual abuse against the director. In 2018, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences expelled Polanski from its membership, because he is a fugitive from the United States, having fled the country in 1978 while awaiting sentencing for statutory rape.

The Venice Film Festival has, in recent years, gained a reputation for debuting Oscar winners. In 2016, it premiered Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land,” and three years later showcased Todd Phillips’s “Joker.” Last year, its titles included “Tár,” starring Cate Blanchett, Martin McDonagh’s “The Banshees of Inisherin” and Darren Aronofsky’s “The Whale.”

Alex Marshall is a European culture reporter, based in London. More about Alex Marshall

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