Sean Penn was unequivocal about where his loyalties lie when asked his thoughts on the ongoing Hollywood writers’ strike at the Cannes Film Festival press conference for Black fliesthe visceral paramedic action drama in which he stars opposite Ty Sheridan and Michael Pitt.
“The industry has turned writers and directors upside down for a long time,” the actor said when asked by a journalist to weigh in on the WGA strike. “Of course I fully support the situation with the writers.”
“Many new concepts are being launched, including the use of AI,” he continued. “It strikes me as human obscenity to push back that from producers.”
Penn then joked that the Producers Guild of America should be renamed “the bankers guild.”
“The first thing we need to do in these conversations is change the Producers Guild and name them how they behave, which is the Bankers Guild,” he said. “It’s hard for so many writers and people in the industry who can’t work.”
The discussion of labor disputes in Hollywood was a sort of distraction from the subject at the press conference – namely French filmmaker Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire’s Black flies, a darkly riveting portrayal of New York first responders, receiving a five-minute standing ovation after its Cannes premiere the night before. But the topic of supporting workers also fit many of the film’s themes.
Adapted from Shannon Burke’s 2008 novel of the same name, Black flies follows troubled rookie paramedic Ollie Cross (Sheridan) who works night shifts as a first responder on the streets of Brooklyn as he struggles to study for medical school exams in his spare time. Penn plays a grizzled veteran paramedic who takes Ollie under his wing as they race through town facing all kinds of medical and social crises. In its compelling and hyper-realistic depiction of the physically grueling and emotionally grueling work of first responders, the film doubles as an indictment of America’s inequality and failing social security systems.